"I ain't an athlete, lady ... I'm a baseball player." - John Kruk, on being asked why he smokes and drinks even though he plays a sport professionally.
John Martin Kruk, like Babe Ruth, doesn't look like your average baseball player. And that's where the similarities end. Kruk was never the power hitter Ruth was, but his charisma brought an important, intangible aspect to the clubhouse. A leader on the field and off, The Krukker, as he was often called, became an instrumental player during the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies' improbable run for the World Series. Revered by fans and despised by his enemies, those who wanted to make fun of Kruk quickly pointed out the obvious. Once, during a game in Wrigley Field, the Chicago crowd started a chant of "Fee fi fo fum, John Kruk is a big fat bum." A lifetime .300 hitter, Kruk played for 10 years before torn knee ligaments forced him to retire from the game he loved, even if he didn't look the part.
The Krukker's career started on June 8, 1981, when he was drafted by the San Diego Padres. It took John Kruk nearly five years to work his way up San Diego's farm system to the majors. He made his debut at the beginning of the 1986 season. The Padres would wallow in mediocrity even though they had some good players. Besides the up-and-coming John Kruk, they picked up Benito Santiago in 1987 and need I mention a one-man hit brigade called Tony Gwynn? In 1989 the Pads looked like they might be involved in a pennant race, and so they traded The Krukker and Randy Ready to the Phillies for third baseman Chris James. Kruk was dealt as he was hitting a measly .241, when compared to his usual .300. James did not help the Pads win the pennant, as they finished second in their division and did not make the playoffs.
John Kruk quickly found his place in the Phillies organization. Along with Lenny Dykstra and Darren Daulton, Kruk took charge in the clubhouse, proving himself as a leader amongst his teammates. More importantly, Kruk's bat had returned to normal. He'd hit .300 for the rest of his Philadelphia career. The Phils seemed to be improving over the years, except for their 1992 season where they finished dead last. The team coalesced over the off season and took the summer of '93 by the horns. After jumping out to a great start, the Phils coasted into the National League's Eastern Conference title. In the Championship Series, the Phils were the underdogs against a great pitching Atlanta Braves team. The Phils played like the underdogs for the first three games of the series, winning only one game. However, things changed in the last three games, where the Phils swept the Braves, winning the National League Pennant! This was the fifth pennant for the Phillies organization. The year did not end there, however. The Phils still had to fight a hot hitting Toronto Blue Jays team.
The Blue Jays quickly amassed a 2-1 lead. Game four flopped back and forth before the Blue Jays stole the win with a 15-14 victory. The Phils battled back in game five, riding a Curt Schilling shutout for the victory. It looked like the Phils would come away with the victory in Game 6, up 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th before Joe Carter blasted a three run dinger off of Mitch Williams for the World Series winning walk-off tater. Throughout the series, Kurk batted superbly well, hitting nearly .350 with an on-base percentage of .500!
While Kruk was coming off the greatest season he'd have as a pro, he received some disturbingly bad news on March 9, 1994. Just a month before the start of the season, The Krukker was diagnosed with testicular cancer. While John Kruk would not miss much time from this disease, he tore some of his cartilage in his right knee shortly after returning to the majors. John only played for half of the season, a mere 75 games. Even though he was not seeing the normal amount of at bats, Kruk still hit well, which is impressive considering all that he went through this season.
A vital part of the Phillies organization for five years, the Phils decided to let John Kruk's contract run out. On October 15, 1994, The Krukker was deemed a free agent. After wallowing in free agent limbo for a few months, Kruk signed with the Chicago White Sox on May 18th. Still hitting in the .300's, Kruk would not be able to complete the season because of his knees. Half crippled, John Kruk got his last hit off of the Baltimore Orioles' Scott Erickson on July 30, 1995.
John Kruk was a true character. While he might have been known as a great pure hitter, and receive comparisons to Tony Gwynn and other great hitters, if he had remained healthy, he was still known throughout the league. A big mouth that oozed charisma, Kruk appeared as one of Wesley Snipes' teammates in The Fan. He also opened a bar in West Virginia called "Third Base." When asked why he named the bar in such a manner, he responded, "Third base is the last stop before you go home." However, this is not the only wise thing John Kruk has said. When asked what changes he would make for baseball, Kruk refrained from saying anything about reinstating Pete Rose, any comments about the questionable DH rule or free agency. In fact, Kruk passed by every hot button baseball issue and stated that he'd have "No mascots on the field ... Shoot anything that looked like it escaped from Sesame Street." Surely, one can almost visualize the Krukker at his grill, beer in hand, toasting The Phanatic, but not with his beer.
His movie experience brought Kruk back in front of the screen, but this time it was the small screen and not the silver screen. Besides numerous appearances on David Letterman's late night program, Kruk was a host for a while on Fox Sports' Best Damn Sports Show Period! Nowadays he's an anchor on ESPN. Shortly after losing the World Series, Kruk was immortalized on Saturday Night Live with a portrayal by none other than Chris Farley.
Number: 29 (With the Phils)
Position: First Base, Outfield
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 204 lbs
1995 ESPY: Performance in Entertainment
Other Career Notables:
On August 22, 1991 John Kruk was hit by his first pitch during his major league career. He was plunked by Randy Tomlin during his 2,682nd career at bat, smashing the record held by Herm Winningham (Winningham had gone 1,799 at bats without being plunked). When asked about the HBP, Kruk responded to the reporter, "It didn't feel good."
On September 5, 1993 John Kruk received his 100th base on balls for the season. This makes Kruk the third Phillie with 100+ walks for the 93 season. This, in turn, made the Phillies the first National League team with 3 100+ walk players in one season.
Upon his retirement, John Kruk received only one Hall of Fame vote, causing him to no longer be eligible for Hall of Fame status.
Career Batting Statistics:
Year Tm Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG TB
1986 SDP NL 122 278 33 86 16 2 4 38 2 4 45 58 .309 .403 .424 118
1987 SDP NL 138 447 72 140 14 2 20 91 18 10 73 93 .313 .406 .488 218
1988 SDP NL 120 378 54 91 17 1 9 44 5 3 80 68 .241 .369 .362 137
1989 SDP NL 31 76 7 14 0 0 3 6 0 0 17 14 .184 .333 .303 23
PHI NL 81 281 46 93 13 6 5 38 3 0 27 39 .331 .386 .473 133
TOT NL 112 357 53 107 13 6 8 44 3 0 44 53 .300 .374 .437 156
1990 PHI NL 142 443 52 129 25 8 7 67 10 5 69 70 .291 .386 .431 191
1991 PHI NL 152 538 84 158 27 6 21 92 7 0 67 100 .294 .367 .483 260
1992 PHI NL 144 507 86 164 30 4 10 70 3 5 92 88 .323 .423 .458 232
1993 PHI NL 150 535 100 169 33 5 14 85 6 2 111 87 .316 .430 .475 254
1994 PHI NL 75 255 35 77 17 0 5 38 4 1 42 51 .302 .395 .427 109
1995 CHW AL 45 159 13 49 7 0 2 23 0 1 26 33 .308 .399 .390 62
Totals: 1200 3897 582 1170 199 34 100 592 58 31 649 701 .300 .397 .446 1737
Year Round Tm Opp WLser G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1993 NLCS PHI ATL W 6 24 4 6 2 1 1 5 4 5 .250 .357 .542
WS PHI TOR L 6 23 4 8 1 0 0 4 7 7 .348 .500 .391
Postseason Totals: 1-1 12 47 8 14 3 1 1 9 11 12 .298 .431 .468
John Kruk Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com - http://www.baseball-reference.com/k/krukjo01.shtml#TRANS
John's Shmoo Archive - http://sophia.smith.edu/~jeue/John/archive.html
Shrine to John Kruk - http://www.bigfool.com/kruk/index.html
John Kruk - BaseballLibrary.com - www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ ballplayers/K/Kruk_John.stm
ESPN Classic - All Time Stats - John Kruk - http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/alltime/playercard?playerId=7611
Philadelphia Phillies History - http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/phi/history/phi_history_timeline.jsp?period=11