The 1979 Philadelphia Phillies entered the season as legitimate World Series contenders. A team that had won three consecutive NL East crowns went out and added its first-ever major free agent, Pete Rose, to help get them over a postseason hump that had seen the club eliminated in the NLCS each of those three years.
Unfortunately those Phillies were undone by one of those things that you just cannot plan for, a series of crippling injuries. A number of those injuries came to the mostly veteran pitching staff. Still, the staff managed to get through using only 17 total arms, only 11 of those for any real length of time.
One of those who saw little time on the mound that year is their ‘Phillies 50’ series representative, right-hander Jack Kucek, who appeared in four games in relief, all following a September trade.
Kucek had been drafted twice by the Chicago White Sox, first out of an Ohio high school in 1971 and then again in the second round of the 1974 MLB Amateur Draft out of Miami (Ohio) University.
That same summer of his draft selection, Kucek reached Major League Baseball, appearing in nine games with the Chisox during August and September. There he was teammates with a 32-year-old Dick Allen, who was wrapping up his third straight AL All-Star season in the Windy City.
For the next five years, Kucek made cameos in Chicago each season. In 1978 he even broke into the rotation during the month of September during which time he tossed three consecutive complete games. But he could never show enough to stick for a full year in the big-leagues.
Just as the 1979 season was getting underway the Phillies obtained him in a trade for a plater to be named, which would turn out to be infielder Jim Morrison, who would appear in a dozen MLB seasons with five different clubs.
Kuceck had control problems while pitching at Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Phillies organization during that 1979 campaign, but the team decided to promote him anyway when rosters expanded in September.
The Phillies disappointing fate was already sealed by that point. A 24-10 start to their season kept them with a share of first place in the division as late as May 27. But from May 23 through August 29 they went just 39-54 to fall completely out of the race. The free-fall cost seventh-year manager Danny Ozark his job, replaced by farm director Dallas Green.
During his four games pitched during that final month, Kucek produced a pair of good outings with a pair of bad. Overall he allowed four earned runs on six hits across five innings with a pair of strikeouts and four walks.
In his lone decision, Kucek earned the Win. It was a 6-5 victory over the division champion Pittsburgh Pirates when he tossed an inning of shutout relief on September 19, 1979 in the second game of a doubleheader at Veterans Stadium.
On December 18, 1979 the Phillies gave the 26-year-old his release. He would sign on with the Toronto Blue Jays, then in just their fourth year of existence, and would see his most career MLB action with the Jays in 1980. That year he appeared in 23 games, including making a dozen starts.
Unfortunately for Kucek, that would be his final year in the big-leagues. He made 30 appearances in the Toronto minor league system with Triple-A Syracuse in 1981 but never was called up, choosing to retire after that season.
At age 67, Kucek remains involved with the game of baseball. He now works as a pitching coach with Complete Sports Academy in Austintown, just a short drive from his birthplace in Warren, Ohio.