Tought I'd share an article I got in last friday's Brantford (Ont.) Expositor, by mister Ted Beare, about a Montréal born pitcher named Joe Krakauskas I knew only by name.



Krakauskas should be hall of famer
Ted Beare

The identity of four new inductees to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame was revealed this week, and guess what: None of them answers to the name Joe Krakauskas. So, what else is new? The eligible voters have been ignoring this guy for so many years it seems as though they've forgotten him.

While some players who couldn't have tied Krakauskas' shoelaces have been inducted over the years, the hall continues to overlook a man who pitched for seven years in the American League, won 26 games and was among the league leaders in strikeouts.

This isn't to discredit the men who are in the hall. They undoubtedly were exceptional athletes or administrators who helped to develop the game of baseball in Canada. More power to them. They belong. But so does Krakauskas.

Take this year's inductees, for example. One of them is Billy Harris, a veteran minor leaguer who pitched two games for the Dodgers. He must have been a good one to get as far as he did. Just making it to the major leagues is a feat in itself. But two games? Give Harris his due, okay, but how do you compare him to a man who played in 149 games and at one time was the ace of the Washington Senators' pitching staff?

Krakauskas, who played one season of senior baseball in Brantford, was born in Montreal in 1915 and grew up in Hamilton, where, in junior company, he overpowered the opposition with his fastball.

Larry Pennell remembers seeing Krakauskas pitch against the Brantford Alerts in the 1934 Ontario junior finals."He was so fast, nobody could hit him," Pennell recalls. "But Brantford beat him by bunting. Big Joe couldn't field the bunts. And Hamilton didn't have a catcher who could handle him. Batters would get on base because the catcher couldn't hang on to the third strike."

The Alerts beat Krakauskas and the Hamilton club again the next season, to win back-to-back provincial championships. The following season the Red Sox brought Krakauskas to Brantford.

His rise to the majors was meteoric. He was only 22 years old when he broke in wit Washington in 1937. Jimmy Foxx, one of the greatest hitters of the era, said Krakauskas threw harder than any pitcher he had ever faced.

In 1939 Krakauskas was named the ace of the Senators' staff and, despite the fact that the Senators were woefully weak (commentators used to say "Washington, first in war and last in the American League") he won 11 games and finished sixth among all AL pitchers in strikeouts.

After four seasons in Washington, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians He pitched for the Indians in 1941-42, then war put his baseball career on hold, as it did for many major leaguers. Krakauskas joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and went overseas in '43 as a radio mechanic with a night-fighter squadron in England. He rejoined the Indians in 1946 but never recovered his old form, winning only two games while losing five and appearing in 29 games. He returned to Canada and died in Hamilton on July 8, 1960, at the age of 45.

Krakauskas is the answer to two trivia questions: Who was the last pitcher to get Lou Gehrig out and who was the pitcher to yield the final hit in Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak?

In a game between the Yankees and Indians on April 30, 1939, Gehrig -weakened by an illness that would prove fatal - failed to get a hit in four times at bat against Krakauskas, causing his batting average to drop to .143. Gehrig accompanied the Yankees to Detroit the following day but took himself out of the lineup - never to return. His consecutive-games streak thus ended at 2,130 - a record that stood until Cal Ripken broke it in 1995.

DiMaggio got a hit off Krakauskas in his final time at bat in a game on July 16, 1941, running his streak to 56 games, then went hitless the following day.

Those trivia items don't qualify Krakauskas for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, of course. But his record does. It should be a no-brainer the next time the electors cast their ballots. But don't hold your breath.