October 15, 2019

When John Kruk Was Quiet, Slender, and Attacked by a Grandma

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

John Kruk was a skinny kid out of Keyser, West Virginia in the summer of 1981, but he had already attracted the attention of several scouts.

“A great guy . . . a natural athlete,” remembers Preston Douglas, the head coach that season of the New Market Rebels, the collegiate summer team with whom Kruk played. The Rebels were, and still are, part of Virginia’s Valley Baseball League. Also on the Rebels’ roster was a left-hander by the name of Tom Browning.

Then, as now, Valley League players stay with host families, and Kruk, who would play for 10 seasons in the majors primarily with San Diego and Philadelphia, stayed with Elizabeth Tidler. She was Bruce Alger’s grandmother, and Alger, then 28, was serving as New Market’s General Manager. He has served the Rebels continuously in one capacity or another for 46 years and is once again the Rebels’ General Manager as well as its President.

“Back then, Johnny was half the size he is now, but he was quiet,” recalls Alger. “He was quiet and shy, and just built like a young stud. I mean no fat on him at all, but quiet. My grandmother got him to talk a little bit, especially when she got the broomstick after him.

“Before he got there, she just had new carpet put in the living room, and Johnny liked to chew tobacco. He even brought his spittoon along. He and my grandmother always watched soap operas in the afternoon, and she came walking into the room behind him one day, and he didn’t know that she was there. He missed the spittoon so, she didn’t do a thing but go out on the back porch and get the broom and come in give him a couple of whacks with it,” laughs Alger.

Success often has modest beginnings.

Kruk didn’t play the whole season in New Market as he was drafted on June 9th. He played a couple of more games, then signed with San Diego, leaving a hole in the Rebels lineup. Preston Douglas promptly filled it with another left-handed hitting outfielder by the name of Dan Pasqua, who would set a Valley League record with 18 home runs in a little over half a season.

Despite the future major league talent on the Rebels roster, they would not win the championship that year, falling to a Winchester Royals team that had one of the most magical seasons ever witnessed by baseball fans in the Shenandoah Valley.

For a complete account of the summer league season of three future major leaguers and the team that defeated them, download Their Glorious Summer, a FREE download available by clicking here. Since it’s free, you don’t even have to sign in. If you don’t have an e-reader, you may download a Kindle app for your computer by clicking  here. Their Glorious Summer is a 7,000 word article that details the story of the battle for the President’s Cup between the Rebels and the Royals. Set as it was against the backdrop of the 1981 major league players’ strike, Their Glorious Summer epitomizes that mix of glory and poignancy that produces such passion in those who love the game.

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