|Name:||John Francis Kralick||Position:||Starting Pitcher|
|Accolades:||1964 All-Star||DOB:||June 1, 1935|
|Best Season (1963)||13||9||.591||2.92||28||27||197.1||187||64||19||41||116||5.3||3.18||1.16|
Jack Kralick was just a one time All-Star, accumulated only 18.3 bWAR in his career (Addie Joss surpassed that in three seasons from (1907 to 1909) and never appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot, but the Youngstown, Ohio native was a huge part of the last great Indians rotation before the current group headed by Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.
Kralick was originally signed by the White Sox in 1955 out of high school, but was released after three minor league seasons, never pitching higher than the B league. After his release, however, he was picked up by the Washington Senators and almost immediately made his Major League debut in 1959. While used as a spot reliever in his first season, he was entered into the rotation in 1960 and had a terrific season with a 3.04 ERA in 151 innings. The Senators became the Twins the next year, but Kralick continued his success as a full time member of the rotation with solid numbers in 1962 and to start the 1963 seasons.
From 1961 to 1962, the Twins changed from a 70 win team to a 90 win team and they were contending for the AL Pennant again in 1963 when they decided to make a one for one trade with the Indians to bolster their rotation, sending Kralick to Cleveland for Jim Perry. While this would end up being a bad trade for the Indians as Perry pitched a decade with the Twins, won a Cy Young and went to a few All-Star Games, that doesn’t completely eliminate what Kralick did during his limited time with the Indians.
The trade occurred early enough in the season that Kralick was able to pitch in 28 more games for the Indians in 1963, posting a 2.92 ERA in nearly 200 innings. He continued that run through the first half of 1964 with a 2.60 ERA through 117.2 innings by the All-Star break, earning him his first and only career All-Star selection (he didn’t play in the game). While he didn’t pitch as well in the second half, he still had a great season, making 29 starts and posting a 3.21 ERA in 190.2 innings.
This would be his final season with at least 100 innings, ending five straight seasons where he threw at least 150 innings. The 1964 season wasn’t his best (he was worth 6.1 WAR with Minnesota in 1961 and 4.2 in Cleveland in 1963), but it was the season he finally gained some recognition for being a really solid rotation option for five straight years.
For the Indians in particular, he ushered in a new era of success for the starting rotation. After Frank Lane decimated the franchise in the late 1950’s, it took quite some work to fix things and Kralick, along with Mudcat Grant and Pedro Ramos in 1963 were the first changes to work in creating another dominant rotation after the Hall of Fame laden four who ran the AL in the early half of the 1950’s. In 1964, Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant joined that rotation as regulars with Sonny Siebert eventually coming in as well. The foursome of McDowell, Tiant, Siebert and Kralick certainly appeared in 1964 to be primed to enter the Indians into another era of pitching as great as Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia.
While some of this happened (Tiant, Siebert and McDowell were all huge successes from 1964 through 1968 and McDowell through 1971), Kralick wasn’t a part of it. His decent came quickly in 1965 as he missed almost all of April, then was only able to go 1.1, 1 and 0 innings in three of his first four starts. While there were some successful starts as the season progressed and more positive signs out of the bullpen, he finished the year with a 4.92 ERA, walking 21 to just 34 K’s. This was the worst K/9 of his career as well as the worst K/BB ratio since his rookie season and he allowed 11.1 H/9 to compound his lack of bats missed. At 30, Kralick’s career as a starter was over.
This had to be the first time the Indians were disappointed by the trade as he was at least Perry’s equal through 1964. In 1965, however, Perry was one of the best pitchers in baseball and he was even better in 1966. While Kralick was in the bullpen in 1966, posting a 3.82 ERA in 27 appearances (four spot starts), Perry made 25 starts and struck out 122, his highest K total to date. Perry would improve upon that, however, having his best seasons from 1968 through 1970 then continuing on to pitch through 1975 including another return to Cleveland in 1974.
Kralick, on the other side, pitched just two games in relief in 1967 before being sold to the Mets. He never pitched in New York as a car accident cost him the rest of his season and he retired at the end of the year. Once a bright star given a second chance, Kralick was out of baseball by the age of 32, having played just seven full seasons.
Following his playing career, Kralick left the baseball world entirely and eventually moved to Mexico. He was still living there when he died in 2012 at 77 years old.