Happy Birthday, Al Kvasnak!

Al Kvasnak was a blond haired, hazel eyed – but bespectacled – outfielder who got a quick shot with the Washington Senators in 1942, getting a pair of hits in eleven at bats in his five games.

Born Alexander Kvasnyak to Czechoslovakian immigrants Alexander Kvasnyak and Anna Lastomirsky in Sagamore, PA on 11 January 1921 – Alex was one of four children. Kvasnak was a star forward on the basketball team, centerfielder on the baseball team, and valedictorian for Sagamore High School. After high school, he played for the Atlantic Refining Company baseball school and was signed by Washington after graduating high school in 1938. Senators scout Joe Cambria heard that Boston was interested in the young outfielder, but was not quite old enough to sign. So, Cambria lured his father. “I started looking around to see what the kid needed,” said Cambria. “I found that his father was a barber and that he was hoping to purchase a new barber chair. So I bought the chair and presented it to him, and the father signed the Washington contract for the boy, who was a minor. The boy was satisfied.”

Initially dispatched to Newport (TN) in the Appalachian League, he earned notice with a game-winning grand slam and a slew of stolen bases (he hit .341 with a league record 50 stolen bases). By early 1942, he was headed to spring training with the Senators. After being told he was headed to Charlotte, manager Bucky Harris changed his mind and kept Kvasnak around as an extra outfielder. He made his debut as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning against the Yankees on 15 April 1942, swatting a single off Spud Chandler – but was tossed out trying to take third when George Case singled to short left. (The photo below shows Kvasnak getting tagged out by Jerry Priddy.)  He lasted about five weeks with the team, and then was farmed out to Charlotte to get more playing time.

alex kvasnak

In 1943, he was the leadoff hitter for the Chattanooga Lookouts when he was shipped off to Fort Meade, MD in May, 1943 to prepare for war. Buzz Walker, a writer for the Chattanooga Times was kind enough to send a long letter to the Indiana (PA) Gazette. Walker wrote that Alex was modest to a fault, “You never know (he) is around unless you happen to ask him a question. Then, he sweeps you right off your feet with the wealth of baseball information he has at his tongue’s end.” Describing the ballplayer, he noted his love of the game, strong work ethic, and said he’d make a fine manager for someone. Walker added, Kvasnak “…had greatness written all over him. He could do just about anything with a baseball that anybody else could do, and on top of that he could handle himself in the outfield or on the basepaths with all the speed of the much vaunted gazelle.”

After two and a half years in service of his country, Kvasnak returned to centerfield in Charlotte. He was an all-star in that first season , hitting the all-star break at .366. He played well for most of the rest of the 1940s in Richmond, San Jose, and Tampa, but never advanced back toward the majors. By 1949, his career was in decline – by 1950, he was done, though he played semi-pro ball a few years later and settled in the Kitchener, Ont. area for a while where he coached baseball and women’s basketeball.

Having retired to California, Kvasnak passed on to the next league on 26 September 2002.

Sources:

PA Veteran Application Files, WWII
World War II Draft Card

“Sagamore Wins Secondin CAAL Tourney; Play Friday”, Indiana Gazette, 04 March 1937, Page 13.

Agnello, Merle. “Sportseer”, Indiana Gazette, 05 September 1940, Page 8.

Agnello, Merle. “Sportseer”, Indiana Gazette, 10 July 1941, Page 28.

“Leaves For Mexico City”, Indiana Gazette, 17 February 1942, Page 7.

“Nats Farm 6 Players”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 04 April 1942, Page 22.

“Nats Keep Kvasnak”, Miami News, 07 April 1942, Page 13.

Box Score, New York Daily News, 16 April 1942, Page 50.

Ward, Charles P. “Ward to the Wise”, Detroit Free Press, 24 April 1942, Pages 19, 21.

“Kvasnak Starring for Chattanooga ‘Lookouts'”, Indiana Gazette, 14 May 1943, Page 25.

“Tourists To Face An Array of Power In All-Star Tilt”, Ashville Citizen-Times, 13 July 1946, Page 5.

“Rivals of Argyles Have Record as Comeback Players”, Montreal Gazette, 11 April 1956, Page 26.

Baseball_Reference.com

 

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