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Whitey Kurowski

Whitey Kurowski

BR Bullpen

Position(s):
3B, OF, SS, 2B
Born:
April 19, 1918
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
193 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-23-1941 with SLN

A stocky, thick-legged infielder with surprising speed, Kurowski overcame childhood osteomyelitis (which made his right arm shorter than his left) to become one of the finest third basemen of the 1940s. Kurowski led the NL three times in putouts, twice in fielding average, and once each in assists and double plays. He displayed power, hitting 20 or more home runs in three different seasons. His ninth-inning homer off Yankee pitcher Red Ruffing in Game Five of the 1942 World Series broke a 2-2 tie to clinch the championship for the Cardinals.

Kurowski reached career highs of 27 HR and 104 RBI in 1947, his last season playing regularly, and batted over .300 three times (1945-47). An arm injury in 1948 and an elbow injury in 1949 combined to end his career.


Biography:
George John Kurowski (April 19, 1918 - December 9, 1999) was a third baseman in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the St. Louis Cardinals (1941-49). Kurowski batted and threw right-handed. He debuted on September 23, 1941, and played his final game on October 1, 1949. In a nine-season career, Kurowski posted a .286 batting average with 106 home runs and 529 RBI in 916 games played. Kurowski's childhood nickname "Whitey" came from his already white hair.

A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Kurowski overcame several personal problems. Kurowski overcame childhood osteomyelitis, which made him miss a part of a bone on his right forearm. Before he started his baseball career, his older brother died in a mine accident, and his father died from a heart attack during spring training in 1942. His most productive season came in 1947, when he posted career-highs in average (.310), home runs (27), RBI (104), runs (108), doubles (27), slugging % (.544) and on-base % (.420).

An All-Star during five consecutive seasons (1943-47), Kurowski exceeded the 20 home run mark three times to set a major league record for a third baseman (1944-45, 1947), and hit over .300 three times (1945-47). He also led the National League three times in putouts, twice in fielding %, and once in double plays. In four World Series appearances, Kurowski hit .253 (21-for-83) with one home run and nine RBI in 23 games, as the Cardinals were World Champions in 1942, 1944 and 1946. His only home run in the Series, in 1942, off Red Ruffing, broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning of Game Five to clinch the title for St. Louis over the New York Yankees. He also appeared five times in the MVP ballot, in 1942 and from 1944 through 1947.

In 1949, Kurowski developed arm and elbow problems and his playing career ended. After retiring, Kurowski became a minor league manager in the St. Louis Cardinals chain from 1950 to 1962. He also managed the Buffalo Bisons for the New York Mets in 1964, the Cleveland Indians with the Reading Indians in 1965, and for the Washington Senators from 1970 to 1971 with the Denver Bears in 1970 and Burlington Senators in 1970 and 1971. Overall his teams were 983-916 in 15 years.  He gained induction into the National Polish-American Hall of Fame in 1988.

In an article in 1976 in Esquire magazine, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter," consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Kurowski was the third baseman on Stein's Polish team.

Kurowski died in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, at age 81.

Sources:

Baseball Library, BR Bullpen and Wikipedia

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