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Harvey Kuenn

Harvey Kuenn

Position(s):
SS, LF, OF, 1B, 3B, CF, RF
Born:
December 4, 1930
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
187 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-06-1952 with DET
Allstar Selections:
1953 ROOK

Harvey Kuenn
The 1953 American League Rookie of the Year, Harvey Kuenn wasone of the best hitters in the American League in he 1950s. The Wisconsin-native hit .300 in eight of his first nine seasons, and won the 1959 batting title with a .353 mark. Just before the 1960 season was set to begin, the Tigers shocked the baseball world by trading Kuenn straight-up to the Cleveland Indians for Rocky Colavito. The deal was the only time the defending batting champ was swapped for the defending home run king. Kuenn hit .308 in his season with the Tribe, before he was traded to the Giants for much-needed pitching. he settled in on the west coast, spending parts of five seasons with the Giants, including the pennant-winning year of '62. He finished his 15-year career with the Phillies in 1966, ending with a .303 lifetime batting average. His batting acumen served him well in his next career as a hitting coach and manager. Taking over the Brewers six weeks into the 1982 season, he guided the offensive juggernaut to their only pennant. His heavy-hitting team, which lost an exciting World Series in seven games, was dubbed "Harvey's Wallbangers." He skippered the team for one more season, posting 87 wins, but poor health led to his retirement.

Early life and career

Kuenn was born in West Allis, Wisconsin, but raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Lutheran High School. He once kicked a 53-yard field goal for Lutheran in a football game, which is tied for the eighth-longest field goal in Wisconsin high school football history. He played collegiate baseball at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he was a member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity. Signed by Detroit as an amateur free agent in 1952, Kuenn was named the starting shortstop after joining the team late in the season. In his first full season in 1953, he hit .308 with 94 runs and led the major leagues with 209 hits, setting a major league rookie record with 167 singles. He received the American League Rookie of the Year and TSN Rookie of the Year awards. Also in that season, he received the first of his ten consecutive selections to the All-Star Game.

A line drive hitter who hit to all fields, Kuenn showed consistency in the next two seasons, compiling almost identical numbers: .306 with 81 runs and 201 hits in 1954; .306 with 101 runs and 190 hits in 1955. He raised his average to .332 in 1956, surpassed only by Mickey Mantle (.353) and Ted Williams (.345) in the batting race. A year later, he slumped badly to .277. But he rebounded in 1958 with .319, ending third in the league behind Williams (.328) and Pete Runnels (.322), and surpassing Al Kaline, Vic Power, Bob Cerv, Mantle, Rocky Colavito, Minnie Miñoso and Nellie Fox. In that season, he switched to the outfield, where he played all three positions over the remainder of his career.

Later playing career

After winning the American League batting crown in 1959 with a .353 average, Kuenn was traded to Cleveland for Rocky Colavito, who had won the home run title with 42 homers (the trade that is often referred to by Cleveland fans as "the curse of Rocky Colavito"). With the Indians, Kuenn hit .308 in the 1960 season. He finished his career in the National League playing for the Giants, Cubs and Phillies, retiring at the end of the 1966 season.

In a 15-season playing career, Kuenn was a .303 hitter with 87 home runs and 671 RBI in 1833 games. He led the AL in hits and doubles four times each, and finished with 2,092 hits.

Kuenn had the dubious distinction of making the final out in two of Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters—in 1963 and 1965. In the former, the final out was on a ground ball back to none other than Koufax. In the latter, he struck out for the final out in Koufax's perfect game, the last no-hitter pitched against the Chicago Cubs to date.

Kuenn was actually activated by the Brewers for the last two weeks of 1971, in order for him to qualify for pension purposes. He did not play in an actual game, however.

Milwaukee Brewers career

Kuenn became a Milwaukee Brewers coach in 1972 and served as an interim manager in 1975. He suffered a series of medical complications beginning in the mid-1970s, including heart and stomach surgeries, and in February 1980, he had his right leg amputated just below the knee after a blood clot cut circulation. He returned to coaching only six months after the operation.

In 1982, Kuenn overcame the adversity when he managed the Milwaukee Brewers to their only World Series appearance to date after taking over the team in mid-season. He was selected by the Associated Press as the AL Manager of the Year, after taking the Brewers in June from a 23-24 start to the AL East title with a 95-67 record. Milwaukee then won the AL pennant after rallying from a 2-0 deficit and beating the California Angels in the best-of-five American League Championship Series. They ultimately lost the 1982 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Kuenn was noted during that season for his constant use of chewing tobacco in the dugout, a practice that has since been banned by Major League Baseball and most other levels of the game.

Kuenn was fired as manager after the Brewers finished fifth in the AL East with an otherwise respectable 87-75 record in 1983. He compiled a 160-118 managerial record. During his tenure, the hard-hitting Brewers were known as Harvey's Wallbangers. At the time, their roster included Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Ted Simmons, Gorman Thomas, and future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. After being replaced, he worked as a major league scouting consultant for the Brewers.

Death

Kuenn died at his home in Peoria, Arizona, in 1988. The Brewers wore a patch with his initials during the 1988 season to commemorate him. That same year, he was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2002, his name was added to the Brewers' honorarium with a plaque in the concourse circling Miller Park.

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