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Eddie Kazak

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat


Date and Place of Birth: July 18, 1920 Steubenville, OH
Date and Place of Death:    December 15, 1999 Austin, TX
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Third Base
Rank: Private First Class
Military Unit:  US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Eddie Kazak was born Edward T. Tkaczuk in Steubenville, Ohio, on July 18, 1920. He grew up in Muse, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining community near Pittsburgh, where he excelled in baseball and soccer and graduated from Cecil Township High School in 1938.

Kazak played sandlot baseball as an infielder and worked the mines with future Phillies' catcher Andy Seminick until signing a contract to play with Valdosta in the Class D Georgia-Florida League in 1940. He batted .292 in 130 games for Valdosta and was signed by the Cardinals' organization for 1941. He hit .378 with 114 RBIs for the Georgia-Florida League's pennant-winning Albany team that year and was with Houston in 1942, batting .257 in 118 games.

On October 1, 1942, Kazak entered military service. "I started out in the Air Corps," recalled Kazak in 1949. "Then I was a paratrooper and wound up in the infantry. I spent three years in the Army, half of the time in hospitals in England and California."

Originally stationed at Brooks Field, Texas, Kazak left the United States for Europe with an infantry division in 1944. In France, following the D-Day invasion, Private First-Class Kazak sustained a severe bayonet wound to his left arm in close quarters combat. The wound required 19 stitches. In September 1944, in the vicinity of Brest, northwestern France, his right elbow was shattered by shrapnel and three of the fingers on his throwing hand were paralyzed. He returned to the United States and was hospitalized in California. "At Palm Springs, the doctors operated on my right elbow and took out a bone half the size of my thumb," he recalled. "That was about one year after I was hurt. Now I have plastic in the elbow."

When he was discharged in December 1945, he was told by doctors to forget about baseball.

Despite suffering shooting pains in his arm every time he threw a ball, Kazak reported to the International League’s Rochester Red Wings spring training camp in 1946. He was unable to earn a place on the team but played for Columbus in the South Atlantic League, where he got off to a fantastic start on April 23, hitting two home runs a double and a single in five plate appearances, and stealing home to help the Cards beat Savannah, 10 to 3. He finished the year hitting .298 with 14 home runs.

“The arm began to come back with exercise,” Kazak recalled to The Sporting News, “and it has been getting better every year since.

Kazak opened the 1947 season with Rochester but spent most of the year with Omaha in the Class A Western League, where he hit .326 in 93 games and hit 20 home runs. Kazak shifted from second base to third base in 1948 and spent the year with Rochester, batting .309 in 142 games and being groomed as Whitey Kurowski's replacement on the Cardinals. He made his major league debut on September 29, and appeared in six games for the Cardinals, batting .273, before the season was over.

In 1949, Kazak played 92 games for the Cardinals and batted .304. He was the only rookie to play in that year's all-star game where he was 2-for-2.

In May 1952, the Cardinals traded Kazak to Cincinnati. He played just 13 games for the Reds, getting one hit in 15 at-bats to signify the end of his major league playing career. He played for Buffalo in the International League in 1953 and joined the San Diego Padres in 1955, becoming somewhat of a Pacific Coast League legend. Kazak was 40 years old when he played his last professional game with Austin in the Texas League in 1960.

Eddie Kazak passed away in Austin, Texas, on December 15, 1999. He was 79 years old. He is buried at Assumption Cemetery in Austin.

Date Added December 19, 2017

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