Ted Kluszewski - When Sleeveless was in Vogue
December 14, 2009
by William Szczepanek
Ted Kluszewski played in the majors for 15 seasons between 1947 and 1961. He is remembered best for his sleeveless uniforms. His uniform was said to be so restrictive that he asked the Cincinnati Reds to shorten the sleeves. They wouldn't, so he took it upon himself to take a pair of scissors to the sleeves and remove them. It is probably not coincidental that in 1957 the Reds designed uniforms without sleeves for all their players. The players wore red t-shirts under the cut-off top. Kluszewski went a step further and cut off the sleeves of the t-shirt. In doing so he established a brand image for himself. The Reds have had variations of these uniform style since then. The 1940 Cubs were actually the first team to have a vest-like top.
Ted Kluszewski was one of many power hitters of the fifties. He led the league in home runs and RBIs in 1954 with 49 and 141 respectively. He was a member of the All Star team from 1953 through 1956. Though muscular and slow he led National League first basemen in fielding from 1951 through 1955. Able to hit for both power and average he led the league in hits in 1955 with 192 and had a career .298 batting average. He averaged 43 homers and 116 RBIs from '53 to '56. In 1955 he set the National League record for scoring in 17 consecutive games.
Ted never lifted weights or took steroids. He didn't have defined muscles like many of today's players, though most ballplayers back then didn't lift weights. He was just big. A slipped disk in 1956 caused a cut in his power numbers from then on, but he continued to hit for average. He was traded to the White Sox in 1959 and was instrumental in getting the team to the World Series. In the World Series he set the record for a six-game set of 10 runs-batted-in. He hit three homers and batted .391 for the Series. The record of 12 RBIs in a Series is set by Bobby Richardson for 7 games the following year in 1960. In 1956 he combined with Gus Bell, Frank Robinson and Wally Post, to lead the Cincinnati sluggers with 221 HRs, which tied the existing team record of the 1947 Giants.
He had a swing that was more like that of a singles hitter. In 1956, Robert Creamer described Klu at the plate in a Sports Illustrated article: “He swings his bat with none of Ted Williams' grace, or Stan Musial's precision, or Mickey Mantle's explosive coordination. He holds the bat no more than half way back, it seems, more like a man with a fly swatter who is willing to land heavily on the fly if it comes within reach but who isn't about to get excited over the chase. When the pitch approaches the plate, he brings the bat down in a short, level swing ... and meets the ball. That's about all. There's not much wrist action and comparatively little follow-through. It's all arms. But the overwhelming power resident in those arms cows the ball, reverses its direction and sends it flying toward the distant fences.”
You can check out Kluszewski's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.