Baseball is still a great game, but I have always wished I could experience different eras, particularly the 1950’s and 1960’s. With players like Willie, Mickey, and the Duke, that time period is one that is fondly remembered today by fans. It was before the game exploded with million dollar salaries, ego, and scandal. For many, those years also represent their childhood, making them all the more precious.
Marty Kutyna got to play professional baseball during the supposed golden years of Major League baseball. Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, the right handed pitcher toiled in the minors for nearly seven years before making his Big League debut towards the end of the 1959 season with the Kansas City Athletics. Before his call-up, Kutyna was on the move quite a bit. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1957, and then to the Athletics in 1959. The trade to the Reds was notable because he was exchanged for promising young outfielder Curt Flood, who went on to have a long and memorable career in St. Louis.
Kutyna pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen from 1959 to 1962 with the Athletics and the Washington Senators. In particular, his 1961 season with Washington was notable for its durability. Although he made just 6 starts among his 50 games, he threw a total of 143 innings, an amount unheard of in today’s game for a player with his role. At the time, he was one of the few relief specialists in the game, but still had a workload that rivals some starters in today’s game.
One of the batters who Kutyna handled with ease throughout his career was Rocky Colavito. The slugging outfielder went just 1 for 18 against Kutyna during his career, with 4 strikeouts. Overall, Kutyna was 14-16, with a 3.88 ERA in 159 career games. More information on his career statistics can be found at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/kutynma01.shtml.
Although his playing career ended before his 30th birthday, Marty Kutyna retains a lot of great memories from his playing career. He saw and experienced a lot during his time in the Majors that still stand out for him. While interviewing him, he told me about one of the most unusual home runs I have ever heard of, which you can see from reading the transcript below.
Marty Kutyna Interview:
If you could do anything about your career differently, what would that be?: I would not change anything in my baseball career. There were eight teams in each division and making the Big Leagues was tough. Then, two years later, it went to nine teams in each division.
What was the strangest play you ever say on a baseball diamond?: When I was in the Pacific Coast League and with Portland, we had an infielder named Jack Bloomfield. Jack got up to bat, singled and went to first base, The pitcher threw over to first base to pick him off, but threw low into the dirt and Jack slid back head first and the first baseman could not find the ball. Jack got up and ran around the bases, second, third, and then home. When he got to the dugout he opened his short and the ball fell out because the ball went up his sleeve when he dove back to first base.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: My favorite manager was Eddie Lopat when I was in the International League in Richmond, Virginia. He taught me to throw a great curveball.
My pitching coach in 1959 with the Portland Beavers, the Pacific Coast League, was Larry Jansen. He pitched for the New York Giants in 1954. That year he got me to the Big Leagues.
The best Major League manager was Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators in 1961. In the game against the White Sox, I came to bat and our team was one run down and we had the bases loaded and one out. Vernon came out to me at the on deck circle and said, ‘I’m going to use a pinch hitter.’ I said, ‘please let me hit,’ and he replied, ‘go ahead.’ Billy Pierce was the pitcher for the White Sox. He threw me a fastball down the middle and it was a strike. The next pitch he threw me was a hanging curveball, which I singled over the shortstop’s head, and we scored two runs and won the game.
What was the best part of being a Major League Player, other than maybe the pay?: The salary at that time was very bad, and I was earning $13,000 for my last season. At that time, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle made about $100,000 a year. The rest of the players were way under that salary. Nothing like the millionaire players of today! They call these guys superstars, but it takes the little man to help the team reach their goal. It takes nine men to win a game, and not only one man.
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