Jan 22, 2015

Former Italian / American Player / Bubble Gum Blowing Champion: Kurt Bevecqua (1971-1985)

Kurt Anthony Bevacqua was born on January 23, 1947 in Miami Beach, Florida. The six foot right handed infielder, attended Miami-Dade North Community College originally getting drafted in the 32nd round of the 1966 draft by the New York Mets but he did not sign. He was then drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round the following season.

Bevacqua hade some good years in the minors from 1969 at A ball through 1971 at the AAA levels. He made it to the big leagues that year with the Cleveland Indians.

He would play a 15 year career as a utility infielder in Cleveland (1971-1972) with the Kansas City Royals (1973-1974), Pittsburgh Pirates (1974/ 1980-1981), Milwaukee Brewers (1975-1976), Texas Rangers (1977-1978) & San Diego Padres (1979-1980 / 1982-1985).

In Cleveland he earned the nickname "Dirty Kurt" due to the fact that the scrappy player was always donning a dirty uniform because of his gritty play. He was originally brought in to the 1975 Brewers team to back up Don Money at third base, since Money was suffering from back problems. During a May loss to his former team mates the Kansas City Royals, he got into an altercation with rookie George Brett that started a bench clearing brawl.

In 1977 he was chosen as the fourth player with the newly formed Seattle Mariners. He had a great Spring Training batting near .500 but was cut from the team prior to the season, as they went with Craig Reynolds at short stop instead. Bevacqua was furious & ended up signing with Texas as the season began. He hit .333 in Texas with 5 HRs & 28 RBIs in 39 games making just one error all year.

Most of Bevacqua’s famous moments didn’t actually happen in the statistical department. Most famously he lives on forever to baseball card fans as the 1975 Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing Champion, in a card issued in the 1976 Topps set.

A season long bubblegum blowing contest was held by Bazooka / Topps & the Baseball World of Joe Garagiola. The finals were held before Game #3 of the 1975 World Series between the Reds & Red Sox on the Baseball World of Joe Garagiola. The AL Champ Bevacqua beat out NL Champion Johnny Oates.

In Spring Training 1981 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates Bevaqua was involved in a major brawl with the Detroit Tigers. Pitcher Howard Bailey hit future Mets coach Bill Robinson in the face with a pitch & Bevacqua retaliated by starting the huge fight.

Then in August of 1984 as a member of the San Diego Padres, there was giant brawl involving the Atlanta Braves which Umpire John McSherry called the ugliest thing he’s ever seen. The scene got even uglier when Bevaqua was hit in the head with a can of beer & ran into the stands to fight a fan who he thought threw it.

In June of 1982 the Dodgers Tom Neidenfuer hit the Padres Joe Lefebvre, with a pitch after serving up a HR to Broderick Perkins. Niedenfuer was fined $500 by the league. The next day Bevaqua told the press the guy who should be fined is that “fat little Italian who ordered it” referring to manager Tommy Lasorda.

Lasorda claimed he never told a pitcher to throw at a hitter & certainly wouldn’t do it to a .130 hitter like f----in' Bevaqua. He continued to insult him using obscene language in a wild uproar.
He said back when he was pitching, he would send a limo to pick up a guy like Bevaqua so he knew he was in the line up that day & could kick his butt. The battle raged on between the two in the media. Lasordas rage can be seen on a youtube video.

During the 1984 season Bevaqua only batted .200 with one HR & nine RBIs in 59 games for the NL Champion San Diego Padres. He went 0-2 in the NLCS as a pinch hitter against the Chicago Cubs but was a hero in the World Series.

Manager Dick Williams used Bevaqua as a designated hitter in the Series, and he became the teams leading hitter. He batted .412 (7-17) with two doubles, hitting two of the teams three World Series HRs.

In Game #2 at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, he hit a three run HR in the bottom of the 5th inning off Detroit’s Dan Petry, leading the Padres to their only win of the Series.

Bevacqua finished his 15 year playing career in 1985 batting .236 lifetime with 499 hits 27 HRs 90 doubles 11 triples a .305 on base % & 275 RBIs in 970 games played.

Retirement: After his 1984 World Series performance he is known as somewhat of a celebrity in San Diego. He has helped St. Madeleine Sophies Center Heart charity program there.

He also appeared in the TV show King of the Hill as a softball ringer.

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