Kenneth John Reitz (born June 24, 1951 in San Francisco, California) is a former third baseman in Major League Baseball. A right-handed hitter, Reitz played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1972–75, 1977–80), San Francisco Giants (1976), Chicago Cubs (1981) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1982).
He was nicknamed the "Zamboni" for his skill at scooping up ground balls on the artificial turf of Busch Memorial Stadium. Selected in the 31st round in 1969 as the 730th player, Reitz, in his rookie season of 1973, replaced Joe Torre as the Cardinals' starting third baseman. In both 1973 and 1974, he led all National League third basemen in fielding percentage. In 1975 he won a Gold Glove Award at the position, breaking Doug Rader's streak of five consecutive Gold Gloves. It would be the last Gold Glove by a National League third baseman prior to Mike Schmidt's nine-year run of the Award. In 1977 he set a National League record by committing only nine errors; he bettered that record by committing only eight in 1980. In this latter year, he also made his only All-Star appearance, where he started at third base in place of an injured Schmidt.
Reitz was not known for his base running speed. This is reflected in one dubious Major League record. Reitz holds the record for most career plate appearances (5079) among non-catchers who finished their careers with fewer walks than times he grounded into a double play.
In his career, Reitz batted .260 with 68 home runs and 548 RBIs in 1344 games played. But in 1980, Reitz created something of a stir by starting the season at a prodigiously torrid pace at the plate, batting over .400 until the middle of May. His average cooled during the summer but he still finished a respectable .270. Other than the brief run at the batting title in 1980, Reitz was a consistent hitter, especially after some initial improvement in his rookie and sophomore seasons. After batting .235 during his rookie season he batted below .250 only once over the next seven seasons. In each of his first five full seasons he increased his run batted in production: 42 in 1973, 54 in 1974, 63 in 1975, 66 in 1976 (his only season with his hometown Giants) and 79 in 1977. Reitz also established a career-high in home runs in 1977 with 17—the same number he had hit in his previous three seasons total.
Reitz has a place in baseball history for one of the longest Major League games ever played. On September 11, 1974, against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, with the Cardinals trailing 3-1 with two out in the ninth and pinch runner Larry Herndon on base, he hit a home run off starter Jerry Koosman to send the game into extra innings. The score remained tied 3-3 until Bake McBride scored the winning run from first base on two Met errors in the top of the 25th inning.
- ^ Cardinals' Media Relations, ed. (2001). St. Louis Cardinals 2001 Media Guide. Hadler Printing Company. pp. D–18.
- ^ http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1974/B09110NYN1974.htm
By Dean Hanley
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