Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Kazak’

Buff Biographies: Eddie Kazak

July 29, 2013

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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!

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

March 30, 2010

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.