How hard is hitting? You ever walk into a pitch-black room full of furniture that you've never been in before and try to walk through it without bumping into anything? Well, it's harder than that.
- Ted Kluszewski
Ted Kluszewski was born in Argo, Ill., in 1924, and he made his Major League debut with the Reds in 1947. His mammoth arms made an immediate impact on the Reds. When he was first called up to the big leagues, he couldn't get his arms through the sleeves of his jersey. One story contends that after failing to get his arms into bigger and bigger jerseys, he simply cut off the sleeves at the top to get his arms through. The owners liked the look so much that they ordered all-new sleeveless uniforms to be worn by all of the players.
Not surprisingly, Kluszewski was known for his home run hitting ability, and he earned the nickname "Big Klu." The fan favorite established a Reds record for home runs in a season by hitting 40 in 1953 and bettered that with 49 in 1954. His 1954 single-season home run total has been eclipsed only once -- George Foster belted 52 in 1977. Big Klu also led the National League in home runs and RBIs (141) in 1954 but finished second to Willie Mays in the year's Most Valuable Player voting. In 1955, Big Klu and Wally Post went deep 47 and 40 times, respectively, setting a Reds record for most home runs in a season by two players. From 1949-56, Kluszewski batted over .300 in seven of those eight seasons, and the first baseman tallied more than 100 RBIs in five of those eight seasons.
He is referenced in the movie Rain Man when Dustin Hoffman's character says, "Ted Kluszewski, Big Klu, first base ... of course, he was traded for Dee Fondy in 1957 ... lifetime batting average .298 ... Big Klu," while shuffling through his collection of baseball cards. Hall of Famer Leo Durocher was once asked to name the five strongest players in baseball. When asked why Kluszewski was left off his list, Durocher replied, "Kluszewski? I'm talking about human beings!"
Ted Kluszewski was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1962, and his No. 18 was retired by the Reds in 1998. A statue of Big Klu can be seen standing in the on-deck circle at Crosley Terrace near the main entrance to Great American Ball Park.