A little Kittle history
Ron Kittle spent 10 big league seasons as a prolific power hitter, and even today – at 53 years old – that power is still evident in a firm grip and muscular shoulders.
But as Kittle toured the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, the former outfielder with the White Sox, Yankees, Indians and Orioles was more focused on the game off the field than anything he did on the baseball diamond.
Kittle, who hit 176 big league homers from 1982-91, was in Cooperstown on business when he stopped by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for his first behind-the-scenes visit. Kittle had been to the home of baseball previously, including a 1988 trip as a member of the Cleveland Indians for the Hall of Fame Game at Doubleday Field.
“There was no score, and I came up to pinch hit late in the game,” Kittle said. “I told (Cubs catcher) Jody Davis that I was going to hit a home run to end this thing, and I did. But Ryne Sandberg came up in the bottom of the ninth and homered – On a check swing! – to tie the game.”
The game was called after nine innings with the score tied at 1, leaving both Kittle and Sandberg with a memorable moment. But it was not Kittle’s first brush with a Hall of Famer. Passing by a photo of Sandy Koufax in the Hall’s archive on Wednesday, Kittle recounted his days as a Dodgers’ minor leaguer.
“I came into the Dodgers’ organization with Mike Scioscia as a catcher,” said Kittle, who was signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1977. “Down in Spring Training, they had strings across the batter’s box to teach pitchers control, and this guy got on the mound and started throwing to me and putting it right where he wanted. After he finished, someone said: ‘Don’t you know who that was? That was Sandy Koufax.’ I’ll never forget that.”
On Wednesday, Kittle took home more memories after learning about the Hall of Fame’s commitment to preserve baseball history.
“I love hearing stories about things that go on behind the scenes,” Kittle said. “And to see all this is incredible.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.