It is amazing where a Major League Baseball career –- even a brief one –- can take a player.
I recently crossed paths (again) with former White Sox pitcher Jerry Kutzler, who turns 52 today.
The right-hander out of Waukegan is a well-liked and respected middle school physical education teacher in my town of residence, Kenosha, Wis.
Just a heckuva nice guy, too.
Kutzler’s contact with the White Sox lasted all of 38 days in that electric season of 1990.
It may be one of the most memorable 38-day careers in club annals.
*Kutzler’s big-league ride began April 23, 1990 when he was summoned from Triple-A Vancouver to start the Sox annual exhibition game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
In front of 37,135, Kutzler got the win, yielding one run on three hits in five innings. Kutzler faced Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Andre Dawson and reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton once each and retired them all.
*Kutzler officially joined the Sox April 27 and made his big-league debut the next day. Pitching to Carlton Fisk, Kutzler went five innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking four and fanning two.
Thanks to a leadoff homer by Sammy Sosa, Kutzler got the victory in becoming the last pitcher in the history of Old Comiskey Park to win his first big-league start.
By the way, the only homer Kutzler surrendered in that game was to Toronto’s George Bell, who would be dealt by the Cubs to the Sox for Sosa two years later.
*In his next start, Kutzler confronted the Royals in Kansas City. Facing a lineup that included Bo Jackson and George Brett, Kutzler got a no decision before 21,876 at Kaufman Stadium.
*Five days later, Kutzler got a rematch with the Blue Jays but this one came in Toronto. Chucking to Fisk before a Skydome crowd of 43,128, Kutzler received a no decision after giving up three earned runs in four innings.
*A week later at Comiskey Park, Kutzler turned in his best outing. After surviving an RBI triple by Cal Ripken Jr. in the first, Kutzler settled down and pitched six-plus solid innings.
Following the triple, Kutzler allowed just three more Orioles to reach base before departing in the seventh. With relief help from Scott Radinsky and Bobby Thigpen, Kutzler improved to 2-0 in helping to put the Sox nine games over the.500 mark for the first time since their “Winning Ugly” campaign of 1983.
The save was Thigpen’s second for Kutzler and 10th of the season. Thigpen would go on to log a big-league record 57 saves that season.
*Five days later, Kutzler got the opportunity to pitch in “The House that Ruth Built” – Yankee Stadium.
The first batter Kutzler faced in baseball’s most historic venue was none other than Deion Sanders. Also in the Yankee lineup that day were Don Mattingly and Steve Sax.
Despite a season-high six strikeouts, Kutzler could not get a decision in the Sox win. He left after surrendering four earned runs in four innings.
*In his next start, Kutzler got the chance to pitch in another vintage park in Tiger Stadium. In his only start with Ron Karkovice behind the plate, Kutzler lasted just three innings. He was pulled after giving up four runs on six hits.
In the second inning, Kutzler gave up a homer to Cecil Fielder.
It was the 18th of 51 homers Fielder would club that year in becoming the first big-leaguer to reach 50 homers in a season since 1977.
*Kutzler’s next start came against the Minnesota Twins at Comiskey Park.
Before 13,124, Kutzler absorbed the loss in the Sox 3-2 setback to a Twins’ lineup that would win the World Series a year later. Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek did in Kutzler with RBI in the first inning.
His final inning was the fourth. After giving up singles to Brian Harper and Fred Manrique, Kutzler was pulled in favor of Ken Patterson.
Despite toiling in the minors until 1996, the start against the Twins would be Kutzler’s last in the big leagues.
It wasn’t a bad 36 days for Kutzler despite the end and the fact that he would never make the bigs again.
He finished with a winning record (2-1) and got to twirl in Comiskey Park, Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium and the Skydome while playing with and facing some of the greats not only of his era but of all-time.
I’d take it.