Angels owner Gene Autry responded to the death of Ted Kluszewski on March 29, 1988, by recalling Klu hitting two home runs and driving in five runs when the Los Angeles Angels, an American League expansion team playing its first game, defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 7-2, on April 11, 1961, at Memorial Stadium.
Autry said: “I can still see Big Klu hitting those two home runs. I’m terribly sorry to hear about this. I was very fond of Klu. I used to go out to dinner with Klu and his wife.
“You know, we had the biggest and littlest on that team. We had guys like Klu and Steve Bilko and Bob Cerv, who weighed a ton together. Then we had little Albie Pearson. It was just a couple years ago that Klu came to one of our old-timers’ games, and we reminisced about all this.”
Klu had done the same two-homer, 5-RBI showing in game 1 of the 1959 World Series for the White Sox, leading them to an 11-0 routing of the Dodgers at Comiskey Park. Looking back, Klu said:
“I would say that first game was my biggest thrill in baseball. It was the first Series game I’d ever been in. And I was playing. And you run out onto the field and you suddenly realize that this is the only game in the country and millions of people are watching. And I got a big thrill out of it.
“In fact, even if I had had a bad Series, it still would’ve been the greatest moment of my life.”
Kluszewski was famous for cutting off the sleeves of his uniform to give his arms room. He explained how that came to happen like this: “At first, I did that because the sleeves were restricting me from swinging. They could never make a uniform for me that would give me enough room. The new double-knits give. But the old flannel ones didn’t. I’d get hung up.
“So I asked them to shorten the sleeves on my uniforms, but they gave me a lot of flak. So one day, In just took a pair of scissors out and cut ’em off.”
A newspaper explained that “Kluszewski was a four-time All-Star while with the Reds, who discovered him at Indiana, where he played baseball as well as football. The Reds had their spring training at the university from 1943 to 1945 because of wartime travel restrictions. Kluszewski attracted the Reds’ attention, it is said, because he was hitting line drives that broke through a wooden outfield fence.”
Pete Rose said: “There are a lot of coaches who have received more notoriety than Klu, but I don’t think anyone’s had more success. He was my batting coach and Bench’s batting coach.
“He was just a prince. I never heard a bad word said about him. He was a nice man, a gentle giant.”
Bob Greene, the Chicago Tribune columnist, added this remembrance from his childhood:
I would fake being sick on opening day, and on a black-and-white television set I would watch the Redlegs. I fancied myself as a budding second baseman, so I studied the moves of Johnny Temple, but my favorite Redleg — everybody’s favorite Redleg — was Ted Kluszewski. “Big Klu” was a first baseman and a power hitter, but the most astonishing things about him were his arms. You never have seen arms like Ted Kluszewski’s arms. They were like sequoia trees. Kluszewski used to cut the sleeves off his uniform shirts because his arms simply were too big for sleeves.
Because Kluszewski worked in Ohio, he never became the national icon that a Mickey Mantle or a Pee Wee Reese did. Near the end of his career he played for the Chicago White Sox and did a magnificent job for them in the 1959 World Series.