Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Final Card: Harvey Kuenn

Harvey Kuenn [pronounced "Keen"] (#372) was a shortstop and outfielder from 1952 to 1966, primarily for the Tigers and Giants.

He joined the Tigers in September 1952, and took over the starting shortstop job. The next season, he was the American League rookie of the year, and led the league in hits and at-bats in his first 2 full seasons, while playing in every game.

Harvey was the Tigers regular shortstop until switching to the outfield in 1958, where he would play for the rest of his career (except for some games at 3rd base during his time with the Giants).

Except for 1957, he was among the league leaders in batting average for all his years with the Tigers, and won the AL batting crown in 1959. After the 1959 season, he was traded to the Indians for Rocky Colavito, who had won the AL homerun title that same year. (It's odd that a league leader would be traded; stranger still that two would be traded for each other!)

After only 1 season with the Indians (in which he hit .308), Kuenn was traded to the Giants for pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland.
[I don't understand this trade at all. From looking at stats, Antonelli appeared to be on a downward slide, and although Kirkland was a 20-plus homerun hitter, the Indians two other starting outfielders (Tito Francona and Jimmy Piersall) were in the same power range, but hit for higher average than Kirkland. It seems like giving up Kuenn's .308 average for Kirkland's mild power (already duplicated by Piersall & Francona) makes the trade seem like a bad move for Cleveland. Maybe someone with knowledge of the Indians or Giants at that time can make sense of it.]

In his first season with the Giants, Kuenn shared left field with Orlando Cepeda. The next season, he was the regular leftfielder, as Cepeda was moved to first base. In 1963, Willie McCovey took over as the starting left fielder, so Kuenn joined the backup outfield mix (along with Matty and Jesus Alou), backing up McCovey in left and Felipe Alou in right.

Before the 1964 season, Felipe Alou was traded to the Braves, but younger brother Jesus took over in right field, leaving Kuenn and Matty Alou to back up the corner outfield positions. In late May 1965, he was traded to the Cubs, where he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and backup leftfielder. In mid-April 1966, he was sold to the Phillies, where he finished out the season.

Kuenn also managed the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982 and 1983, including their World Series appearance vs. the Cardinals in 1982.

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