December 28 – Happy Birthday Steve Kuczek

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Steve Kuczek on left with his brother Eddie during Steve’s freshman season at Colgate in 1946.

If you were Amsterdam High School Varsity baseball coach Jack Tracy during the 1930s and 40s and it came time to say your bedtime prayers, when you got to the “God Bless” portion you added the names Joe and Agnes Kuczek to your nightly requests to the Supreme Being. Why? Because for about twelve straight years one or more of the couple’s six sons starred for Tracy’s Amsterdam High School baseball teams. The oldest two, John and Ben played for Tracy in the mid to late thirties. The youngest pair, Mac and Bernie suited up for him during and after WWII.

Though all four were outstanding athletes it was the middle two Kuczek boys, Eddie and today’s Birthday Celebrant Steve who went the furthest with the sport. They both played for Tracy on the 1940 and ’41 teams that lost just a single game during those two seasons. Eddie played second and Steve played short. Eddie led the ’41 team with a stellar .629 batting average while Steve finished in second hitting .536. Eddie ended up attending Colgate where his collegiate baseball career was disrupted by service in World War II. He had been offered a contract by the Yankees in January of 1942, right after the attack on Pearl Harbor but he went to college instead and never played a minor league game.

Steve Kuczek is today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant. He was born in Amsterdam, NY on December 28, 1924. His dad worked as a machine repairman in the Mohawk Carpet mills. After completing his superlative high school baseball career in 1942, he went right into the Army. Discharged after the war, he took advantage of the GI Bill and like his brother Eddie, went to college at Colgate University and played baseball for Raider coach Eppy Barnes, captaining the team in 1949. That summer he got a tryout with the Braves who signed the then 24-year-old infielder and assigned him at first to their Class A Eastern League team in Hartford. That club’s roster was loaded with infielders and when it became clear Kuczek was not going to get playing time, the Braves sent him to their B-level farm team in Pawtucket. The Amsterdam native took over the starting shortstop position and led the team to a league Pennant. On September 8, 1949, the Braves called up Kuczek to the big leagues…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam-born one-time Major Leaguer in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

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