Eddie Kazak, 3B, ’42-’51 Houston Buffs.

Eddie Kazak, 3B, '42, '51 Buffs

He came here young and left here old. In between his two years of service as a third baseman for the 1942 and 1951 Houston Buffs, Eddie Kazak (6’0″, 175 lbs., BR/TR) of Steubenville, Ohio carved out a pretty fair mostly minor league career for himself in the St. Louis Cardinal system. Born July 18, 1920, Kazak began his first tour with the ’42 Buffs at age 21; he was 32 with three seasons of major league experience at St. Louis behind him by the time he returned to the Lone Star State.

I remember Eddie Kazak as a far superior hitter and fielder at third base than Tommy Glaviano, our column subject yesterday. He was slashing, line drive hitting without a lot of home run power, but the kind of guy that Buff fans trusted in those pinch moments when Kazak came to bat.

Eddie Kazak hit .304 with 13 homers and a slugging average of .474 in 104 games for the ’51 Buffs. His offensive numbers earned him a late season call up to the parents Cardinals. In 1942, Eddie batted only .257 with 5 HR for the Buffs. In 17 seasons as a minor leaguer (1940-42, 1946-60), Eddie Kazak batted pretty darn well. He registered a batting average of .307 with 153 home runs and  slugging average of .445. His best minor league season came after his last gasp as an MLB prospect when he batted .344 with 104 RBI, 19 HR, and a slugging average of .532 for the 1954 Beaumont Exporters as a farm club property of the Chicago Cubs.

Kazak’s major league numbers offensively were adequate to less than inspiring. In five seasons and 238 games (all but the last 13 games were spent with the Cardinals; the final quiet MLB hurrah for Eddie came as a Cincinnati Red), Eddie Kazak batted .273 with 11 HR 71 RBI, and a slug(gish)ging average of .383.

In 1949, Eddie helped compound the Cardinal frustration in their search for an adequate replacement for Whitey Kurowski at third base by chipping in 19 errors in 258 total chances at the hot corner. Tommy Glaviano, the other former Buff Cardinal third base suspect/prospect contributed another 19 errors in 267 total chances that same 1949 season. Cardinal ownership and the fans were tearing their hearts out in frustration – and Ken Boyer, who wasn’t even on the radar screen in 1949, wouldn’t get there as a solution until 1955.

Eddie Kazak was a fun-loving buddy of first baseman Jerry Witte while the two played together on the 1951 Buffs Texas League championship club and it’s easy to see why. They shared a Polish Catholic background and they both grew up in blue-collar families in northern cities. Witte hailed from the St. Louis area. Both men liked working with their hands and both loved hunting.

“We didn’t have much time to hunt and it was the off-season for hunting when we played for the Buffs,” Jerry Witte used to say, “but we made life pretty miserable for the turtles of Sims Bayou near Kazak’s place.” The two Buffs used to quell their appetites for shooting by taking aim with a .22 caliber rifle at turtle heads that surfaced on the Sims Bayou in the Houston’s East End. Back in the day, most people around here didn’t see this little recreation as cruelty to animals. In fact, for two Polish guys who liked to hunt, it was just “something to do.”

Eddie Kazak remained in Texas after his baseball career concluded. He died in Austin, Texas on December 15, 1999 at the age of 79.

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2 Responses to “Eddie Kazak, 3B, ’42-’51 Houston Buffs.”

  1. tom murrah Says:

    Great stuff…as you might expect, I’ve got the same two cards you
    pictured of Eddie Kazak. Found one of Joe Presko AND….if you
    really need a Les Fusselman, we should just make a trade. Or, even simpler, you could “win it” at a future SABR meeting.

    Thought I would have a chance to see my “research player” named
    David Purcey when the Blue Jays came to town. But, he was just
    sent down to Las Vegas to work on becoming a reliever for Toronto.
    So, that potential opportunity did not materialize.

  2. badminton Says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write
    again soon!

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