Two pictures of inspiration for Chris Sabo.
Why we like him: Long before the days of Chris Sabo, Kent Tukulve, and all of our other bespectacled heroes, there was Eddie Kasko. Kasko was a do-it-all utility infielder whose career spanned 10 seasons with stops in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Houston (that's the immortal Colt .45s, not the Astros), and Boston. He was the typical middle infielder of the era, posting a career batting average of .264 with just 22 home runs. He was also an All Star selection in 1961.
Looking at the stats sheet really makes me wish I had gotten to see Kasko play. He never hit .300, though he did come pretty close in 1960, but he always seemed to find a way to put the ball in play. For his career, he struck out 353 times in over 3,500 at-bats and walked just 265 times. He was a pretty good contact hitter for a guy who wore cola-bottle glasses.
Kasko played in one World Series in 1961, a losing five-game effort against the Yankees, and he batted .318 and led the Reds with 7 hits. After the 1963 season, Kasko was traded to the Colt 45s who then traded him to the Red Sox for the '66 season. After his only season in Boston, Kasko retired at age 34 and began his career in management, taking over the Red Sox AAA teams and eventually becoming manager of the Red Sox in 1970. During his four-year tenure as manager in Boston, he discovered that Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans were more than capable everyday players, converted Bill "Spaceman" Lee from bullpen also-ran to a starter, and helped make Luis Tiant one of the most memorable and dominant pitchers of the 1970s.
While he did produce a fairly impressive career in the majors, Eddie Kasko's legacy is probably that of a man with a keen eye for spotting an emerging talent. He served as a scout for the Red Sox after his managerial days were over, and he eventually became Boston's scouting director and VP of baseball development where he served until 1994 when he retired. He was enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2010 for his scouting and development contributions. Not too shabby.
Ladies and gentlemen, Eddie Kasko, Ballplayer.