Buff Biographies: Eddie Kazak

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Eddie Kazak, 3B 1951 Houston Buffs

Eddie Kazak, 3B
1951 Houston Buffs

Eddie Kazak (6’0″, 175 lb.) (BR/TR) was a wiry-muscular third baseman who played for the Houston Buffs in both 1942 (.257, 5 HR) and 1951 (.304, 13 HR).

EdwardT. Tkaczuk (Eddie Kazak) was born in Steubenville, Ohio on July 18, 1920, three years after a fellow named Dino Paul Crocetti also was born in the same Ohio steel mill town. Crocetti would grow to fame as singer/actor. It’s unlikely that Dean Martin and Eddie Kazak ever met (by any names) as kids. Eddie’s family moved early on to  the small coal-mining town of Muse, Pennsylvania where he grew up.

Eddie Kazak enjoyed a 16-season career in the minors (1940-42, 1946-48, 1951-60), coming out of same with a career minor league batting average of .307 with 153 career home runs.

As a paratrooper in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Kazak suffered a bayonet wound to his left arm and shrapnel damage to his right elbow in a landing that followed the invasion of Normandy in 1944.  Kazak spent the next 18 months in a hospitals, enduring numerous surgeries, including one to replace the missing bone in his left elbow with a plastic patch. His doctors told Kazak to forget about baseball upon his release from the army and medical care, but Eddie couldn’t do it. In spite of shooting pains in his right arm every time he threw a ball, Kazak attempted a comeback in 1946.

When Eddie couldn’t break into a spot with the AAA Rochester Red WIns in 1946, he moved down to A Columbus Cardinals of the South Atlantic League for an absolutely amazing first game at second base. In a 10-3 win over Savannah on April 23, 1946, Eddie Kazak signaled his come back with 2 home runs, a double, and a single in five times and bat, throwing a steal of home for good measure. Nobody AKWS bout Eddie’s ability or will to play the game after that night. – With results like that, the guy could play with pain, even if his superman production couldn’t happen most of the time.

In human terms, Kazak’s best minor league season was 1954, when he hit .344 with 1992 hits and 19 HR for Beaumont of the Texas League. That same year, hot third base prospect Ken Boyer of Houston had comparable totals that included a .319 BA, 202 total hits, and 21 total HR.

In his best major league season, Eddie batted .304 with 6 HR in 92 games for the 1949 St. Louis Cardinals. In his 5 MLB seasons (1948-52), Kazak played in only 208 games, never reach 100 games in any single season.  All years but 1952 were spent with the Cardinals, but that last season was split between the Cards and the Cincinnati Reds. Eddie was just one of those who ate up AA pitching, but struggled some against the MLB arms. His MLB career marks included a respectable .273 BA and 11 career homers.

Seeing one your favorite former Buffs on a real MLB baseball card always felt so good back in the day.

Seeing one your favorite former Buffs on a real MLB baseball card always felt so good back in the day.

Eddie Kazak was a slashing line-drive hitter with pretty good base-path speed and athletic ability as a defensive third baseman. He was also an Allen Russell kind of guy. Russell was the Buffs President during Kazak’s 1951 second tour with the club and he was also a major owner at Beaumont in 1954. Kazak finished his professional career with 3 games at Austin in 1960, and that was another club touched by Russell late in the 1950s. Russell liked players with strong working class ethics and that definitely took in the Planet Earth space occupied by Eddie Kazak.

Kazak settled in the Austin area following the conclusion of his baseball playing career. He died in Austin on December 15, 1999 at the age of 79.

Former 1951 teammate Jerry Witte and Eddie Kazak hit it off as buddies due to their shared Polish ethnic background.  (Witte was half-German and Half-Polish, but he hardly recognized the former in preference for the other.)

“You know how two Polish ball players stay out of trouble when they have time on their hands in Houston?” Witte used to ask. “Me and Kazak would get a line and a pole and go fishing down on the banks of the (Sims) bayou near where we lived. We’d also take a .22 rifle and shoot at turtles when we got the chance. They could be pretty tasty too.”

I still can’t believe that they cooked and ate any turtle that came out of any bayou in Houston, but sometimes it’s just better to listen rather than over-think the camaraderie stories of ball players from the Post-World War Two era.

Eddie Kazak in Line Drive Form!

Eddie Kazak in Line Drive Form!

R.I.P., Eddie Kazak! ~ R.I.P, Jerry Witte! ~ Hope you guys are having fun on the banks of those heavenly golden shore bayous these days!

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2 Responses to “Buff Biographies: Eddie Kazak”

  1. Darrell Pittman Says:

    Found the following snippet on Kazak at this link http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/52521882/: “Some of the weakest All-Star resumes are held by guys whose careers were interrupted by World War II. Eddie Kazak was a paratrooper who suffered a bayonet wound and had his right elbow torn apart by shrapnel at Normandy. After 18 months of meatball surgery and rehabilitation, he somehow regained enough of his batting stroke to work his way through the minors and reach the Cardinals in 1948. He earned an All-Star appearance with a .304 batting average in 1949, then slowly slipped back to the minors. “

  2. Darrell Pittman Says:

    A little more about his war service… http://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/kazak_eddie.htm

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