Kucek says athletes’ attitudes have changedPublished: 4/19/16 @ 12:08
By Greg Gulas
When Goose Gossage is your roommate, you can’t help but gain a greater appreciation for America’s favorite pastime.
That’s why Newton Falls native Jack Kucek is so quick to come to the defense of his former Chicago White Sox teammate, deflecting harsh criticism inflicted by those who rush to judge Gossage’s recent comments regarding baseball’s modern day player.
Addressing the Curbstone Coaches on Monday, Kucek said no player competed as hard as Gossage when a game was on the line.
“This is the ‘I, I and me, me’ generation in professional sports,” said Kucek, who spent seven years in Major League Baseball with the White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. “Their approach to the game is just much different than when I played.
“Can you imagine Nolan Ryan, the architect of seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts, pumping his fist after every punch out?” Kucek said. “Goose was referring to having respect for the game and not showing others up, an unwritten rule that everyone abided by back then but a rule that seems to have fallen by the wayside by this generation of athlete in every major professional sport.”
Kucek said that his scholastic coaches — Andy Pike, Bob Force and Gene Zorn — set the bar and became the leaders by which he would judge any future manager or coach.
“I am thankful for having grown up in such a tradition-rich sports area,” Kucek said. “I am more thankful to have had coaches that cared enough to want to teach you right from wrong, not only on the field but in life as well.
“Coach Pike, Coach Force and Coach Zorn were on the cutting edge back then, never tolerating anything remotely close to bullying,” Kucek said.
Kucek will remember his 1974 MLB debut not because it was the day that President Richard M. Nixon resigned his office. On that day, Kucek struck out Canton native and New York Yankee Thurman Munson with the bases loaded.
He served up Hall of Fame slugger George Brett’s 100th and 101st base hit.
His work ethic and involvement today as president of Canfield Baseball Club can be traced to his parents’ caring ways during his formative years.
“My parents were involved in Little League when I was growing up with my mother [Anne] helping to run the league, and my father [Joe] taking part in the building of the fields on which we would eventually play,” Kucek said. “Much of what I do today and my involvement in the Canfield Baseball League is a direct result of my parents’ giving ways and the influence of my coaches and managers at all levels of play.”
Kucek said Dick Allen was a special teammate and “five-tool” talent who was often misunderstood by the media,
He said he feels that manager Chuck Tanner was one of the very best when it came to understanding the game and the rules that he applied to his players.
“They said that Chuck Tanner had a different set of rules for every player and that might very well be true,” Kucek said. “A reporter once asked Chuck why he let Dick Allen arrive at the park later than the other players. Chuck, with a straight face, replied that ‘I am going to now change that rule to include any player that bats .300, hits 40 home runs and knocks in 100 runs so they can have the same right.’”