Kluszewski is one of the few baseball players ever to hit at least 40
home runs in three consecutive years. He connected for 40 in 1953, 49 in
1954 and 47 in 1955.
Kluszewski's manager for four years
(1954-57) thought Klu was one of the few players with a chance to break
Babe Ruth's home-run record of 60 in a season.
"He'd break it," Birdie Tebbetts said in a
1955 Saturday Evening Post article, "if he played with the Giants
in the Polo Grounds." The fence at the old park in Manhattan was less
than 300 feet down the right field line.
But just at his peak, when many big years
appeared ahead, Kluszewski, 32, was victimized by back problems. His
home-run output in 1957 dropped to six, 29
less than the 35 he hit in 1956.
The Reds traded Klu in 1958, and he
finished up his career with the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961.
Although he was a great power hitter,
Kluszewski never struck out in great totals like some of his
contemporaries. An average year resulted in about 30.
When he hit 49 homers in 1954, that total was 15 more: 15 more homers
strikeouts. A more remarkable figure is
his major league strikeout high: only 40.
Kluszewski won't make baseball's Hall of
Fame. But for five years in his prime, he was about as good as any
player who is in that Valhalla.