By and large, I have always been a person who has lived his life without regrets. In talking with my son, who is in his second year at West Point, about my pending retirement, he asked me if I had any regrets. While I am sure he was talking about what has transpired in over 20 years of active service, I said yes…selling most of my Ted Kluszewski stuff.
I have always collected things that parallel what I was researching. There was a time back in early 2001 that I was set to begin a biography on Ted Kluszewski. I had developed a fairly detailed outline and had even discussed the project over the phone with Ted’s widow Eleanor. I had made contact with Jody McMillian, wife of Reds shortstop Roy McMillian, and talked with her about a number of issues such as the interaction between her family and the Kluszewskis. I was leaving the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth for the Pentagon for a “staff job” that I was sure would give me time to research and write. This was July of 2001. In less than 60 days this project and many other things I had hoped and planned to do where put on hold in the early morning hours of September 11th…No regrets as I was lucky enough to come home from the Pentagon that morning.
By this time I had been collecting Kluszewski memorabilia for a while and would continue to do so for a couple of more years. Most of those can still be seen today at:
I reference this site as I have sold off all but a few items. As I said earlier, my collecting has always focused on what I was researching and my attention shifted to flannel jerseys, and to a larger extent, trying to chronicle who manufactured the uniforms for the various major league teams of the 20th Century. To finance this effort, I sold off my Reds collection and the Klu stuff. No regrets (O.K. a few or I would not be writing this) as this project opened the door to a much larger audience of individuals and opportunities like supporting research being sponsored by the Baseball Hall of Fame and my eventual involvement with SCDA and the subsequent founding of MEARS. Time marches on.
All of this has got me to rethink the idea of doing a biography on Big Klu…If it matters or ever gets off the ground, I have already settled on a title:
Short Sleeves and The Long Ball:
A Symbol of Baseball for a Generation.
The next logical question is after selling almost all of my “Cool Klu Stuff”, why write this book?
While it may sound corny, it represents something in my life I started but have not finished. Other more tangible reasons include:
Ted was one of the most popular players from the 1950’s. The phrase “cult like following” has been applied to his appeal.
Truth be told, it is a very interesting story on a number of levels when you consider things like he was bruising football star at the University of Indiana, yet was not eligible for military service in World War II because of a childhood injury/medical condition. This same war that defined “the Greatest Generation” brought the Cincinnati Reds to the Indiana campus for spring training because of war-time travel restrictions. Klu was discovered by the Reds during this time frame.
While Klu was reluctant to leave school, the $15,000 bonus the Reds where offering made marriage to Eleanor a reality. The relationship between Ted and Eleanor is interesting as well when you consider the impact she had on him and his career. One year for Christmas, Ted gave his bride a movie camera. She took it to spring training and filmed Ted at the plate as he was crushing the ball. Later that season, when he was in a bit of a slump, instead of trying to figure out what he was doing wrong, Eleanor suggested he watch the films of himself when he was doing things right. The 1954 season saw Ted lead both leagues with 49 home runs and 141 runs batted in. In addition he hit .326.
The use of film by Klu was ahead of its time and time would bear out its value when Ted became the hitting instructor for the Cincinnati Reds in 1970. Klu applied the same principle with the hitters he worked with…focus on what you are doing right and not doing wrong and understand this by the study of film. There is a wonderful picture of Big Klu on page 182 of The Relentless Reds watching film on one of the huge old Betta Recorders.
Of course Klu is probably best remembered for taking matters into his own hands (or scissors) by trimming his sleeves to accommodate his massive blacksmith sized arms. But what folks may not realize is that powerful man also:
– Was agile enough the lead National League First Basemen in fielding percentage from 1951through 1955.
– Was disciplined enough never to have struck out more than 40 times a season.
– Made the most of his only World Series appearance with the GO-GO SOX in 1959 with 10 RBI’s in a six game series, 3 home runs (2 in Game 1) and hit .391 for the series. All of this from a guy who was thought to have had his better days behind him as he had been cast off by both the Reds and the Pirates.
– Ran a baseball Camp in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
– Was instrumental in pulling players apart in the 1973 NLCS Pete Rose-Bud Harrelson fight.
– Had a very successful restaurant, Ted Kluszewski’s Steak House in Cincinnati.
– Was an extremely gracious and prolific autograph signer.
– Is mentioned in the first line of the chorus to Terry Cashman’s 1981 “Talkin Baseball.
– Is a member of Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame
– Is a member of the Polish-American Hall of Fame
As far as the things I have held onto besides these thoughts, they include:
-1971 Home Flannel, size 50 (worn in 1970 World Series)
– A wonderful two-toned Adirondack model 129A bat I believe to be from the 1956 All Star Game in Washington.
– A Game used fielders glove circa 1950 (MacGregor-Goldsmith XB model with a faded “KLU” on the thumb.
– A travel bag from his playing days with the Reds. I later found a wire photo in his players file at Cooperstown with Ted leaving the Pirates club house on his way to the White Sox carrying this same bag.
– Assorted baseball cards and paper items.
Although all of this has nothing to do with and is clearly not part of the answer my son was looking for when he asked me about regrets. It did reminded me that the key to having no regrets is following through with the things you start…maybe it’s time I get started on this book.
MEARS Auth, LLC
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