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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Interview Part 2: Ted Kubiak, Major Leaguer

Mahoning Valley manager Ted Kubiak meets fellow former major leaguer and NYPL manager Ed Romero before an August 2014 game at Tri-City. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Loved Baseball | Part 2: Major Leaguer
Part 3: His Gut

Ted Kubiak had always been an everyday player in the minors. When he made the majors, though, he wasn't. He was a utility player.

He was with the major league club the whole year in 1967, but he only got into 53 games. In 1968, he got into even fewer games, 48.

"It was tough sitting on the bench," Kubiak recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently. "I began to lose what I thought was my edge defensively."

He did what he could during pregame, or whenever he could, but he wasn't a regular.

Then he got traded for 1970.

"When I finally got traded to Milwaukee and got to play everyday," Kubiak recalled, noting he only missed a couple games that year, "I proved to myself that I was a major league player. I was nothing spectacular, but I could play in the big leagues."

Kubiak spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, NY, before his Scrappers took on the Valley Cats in a New York-Penn League contest.
Scrappers manager and third base coach Ted Kubiak holds up the stop sign for runner Francisco Mejia in an August 2014 game at Tri-City. (G21D Photo)
Kubiak told of his time growing up in New Jersey, then working to make the major leagues as a pro. As a pro, he told of playing for the three-time world champion Athletics teams as a utility player, but also proving he could be a regular with the Brewers.

Then he told of getting back into the game a decade after he left it, doing so as a manager in the minors. He's been with the Indians since 1994, managing in the NYPL nine of those seasons.

Kubiak debuted in the majors with the Kansas City Athletics, then moved with the team to Oakland. In his first year, in that utility role, Kubiak played three infield positions, shortstop, second and third. He then alternated between second base and shortstop much of the rest of his career.

In 1969, the year before his move to Milwaukee, Kubiak got into 92 games for the A's. In Milwaukee, though, he got into 158. He hit .252 there, with four home runs and 41 RBI.

After time with the Cardinals in the second half of 1971 and the Rangers in the first half of 1972, Kubiak returned to the Athletics.

Back in his utility role, Kubiak helped the club to the 1972 World Series and Oakland's first World Championship, beating Cincinnati. Kubiak appeared in four games, getting three at bats and one hit.
Scrappers manager and third base coach Ted Kubiak with runner D'vone McClure after McClure reached third in an August 2014 game at Tri-City. (G21D Photo)
Kubiak and the Athletics returned to the World Series in 1973 and did the same thing, this time against the Mets. Kubiak again got into four games, with three at bats and one hit.

"I always felt that I was an important part of the club," Kubiak said. "It's not from an egotistical standpoint, but from I think a reality standpoint."

Kubiak said members of the team would say that they didn't have the best players. Maybe they had the best pitching.

"But we certainly played the game better than anybody," he said. "We didn't make a lot of mistakes and we won a lot of close games."

What those teams had, he said, was a winning attitude. Each member of the team had that intensity to win, Kubiak recalled.

That team also happened to come together when it did. "I don't think you could ever put a team together on purpose," Kubiak said. "I think it just kind of happens."

After winning that first year, Kubiak recalled the team took an important approach to the second year. They began it as if nothing had happened.

"We went into every game just like we had to win this game," Kubiak said. "I don't think anybody ever got big-headed about it. I don't think anybody ever gloated about the championships."
Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak walking back to the dugout after exchanging lineups at Tri-City in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Kubiak stayed with the Athletics into the 1975 season. He did not get into the 1974 World Series, but played 99 games during the year.

He moved to the Padres in a May 1975 trade, playing 87 games the rest of the year with them. In 1976, he got into 98 games for San Diego in what would be his final year.

It was his final year, not necessarily because he couldn't play anymore. It had more to do with the behind-the-scenes workings of major league baseball.

He also didn't return to the game for a decade.

"When I quit playing, I was angry," Kubiak said. "I was mad. I was tired of fighting owners for money, losing my ability, and I didn't want anything to do with the  game."

And he didn't have anything to do with the game again until 1989. That came after his wife suggested it was time he get back in. And it was.

He sent out two letters, one to the Giants and one to the Athletics. After a couple interviews with the Athletics, he was back with Oakland as a manager in the minors.

It was also a job, he admitted, that he thought then might have him in over his head.

Part 1: Loved Baseball | Part 2: Major Leaguer
Part 3: His Gut
Go to Part 3: Ted Kubiak, His Gut

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