Monday, September 15, 2014

Card #107: Wayne Krenchicki

Who Can It Be Now?
Wayne Richard Krenchicki was born on September 17, 1954, in Trenton, New Jersey. Krenchicki went to high school at Ewing High, and was drafted in the 8th round of the 1972 draft by the nearby Philadelphia Phillies. 

He did not sign with the Phillies, opting instead to join the rest of New York and New Jersey by moving to South Florida.  In all seriousness, the University of Miami (FL) was just starting to award scholarships for baseball around this time, and Krenchicki received one. It worked out for him, it seems, as the U inducted him into its Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 and called him the greatest shortstop in the history of the University of Miami.  Krenchicki helped lead the Hurricanes to the finals of the 1974 College World Series, where they lost to Rod Dedeaux's Southern Cal machine.

Playing in the College World Series brought Krenchicki greater attention. It probably helped lead to his being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of the January Secondary Draft with the 7th pick in that draft. He signed with the Orioles and skipped playing his senior year as a result.

The Orioles assigned Krenchicki to the Florida State League after he signed. That worked well for Wayne, since the team he played for was the Miami Orioles. He didn't exactly impress with his hitting at Miami -- even in the hitting-impaired Florida State League, slashing at .237/.289/.272 isn't very good. 

Still, the Orioles must have seen enough to move him to Double-A Charlotte, where his hitting picked up in a manner consistent with the league -- though a sudden spurt of 9 triples inflated his SLG in the same way that his unexpected 12 HRs in 1978 at Rochester did. Neither result was entirely consistent with the rest of Krenchicki's career -- certainly, the home runs were closer to his abilities -- but those stats along with an improved batting eye kept him moving up the Orioles' chain.

Wayne got his first taste of major league baseball in June and July of 1979. He didn't play much -- just 12 at bats before he was sent back down to Triple-A -- and he only got 9 more plate appearances when called up in September for the eventual AL Champions. This was pretty much the story for his entire career in Baltimore. He was on the Baltimore-to-Rochester shuttle for the next three years -- good enough to get called up, not good enough to stay.

As Krenchicki himself recognized in an interview over a decade ago, the problem he faced in Baltimore was simply that, as he put it, he "was breaking in with the wrong team." Wayne was versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield, but when the infield is Eddie Murray, Rich Dauer, Mark Belanger/Kiko Garcia, and Doug DeCinces, you can only hope that shortstop might be your place to play.

Of course, looking at where things stood at the end of 1981, shortstop for the Orioles had a massive shadow looming in the background -- some can't-miss prospect/son of a coach named Cal Ripken was already taking up chances at short and third in Rochester. Add in the fact that Bobby Bonner was also highly thought of in the Orioles system, and you see why Krenchicki needed to move on.

It must have felt like a reprieve, then, when the Orioles and Reds made Krenchicki the player to be named later when they obtained pitcher Paul Moskau from the Reds.  For the first time in his career and at the age of 27, Krenchicki spent the entire 1982 season in the major leagues with an awful Cincinnati Reds team. Wayne split time at third base with Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench -- whose career the Reds were trying to extend with the move. That experiment lasted into 1983, after which Bench retired.

Krenchicki started and ended the 1983 calendar year with the Reds, though he was traded at the end of June to Detroit in exchange for pitcher Pat Underwood. After the season ended, the Reds bought his contract back from the Tigers.  He stayed with the Reds through the end of the 1985 season.

At the end of spring training in 1986, however, the Reds needed to clear a roster space. In those times of the 24-man rosters (an effort by the Owners to save money by unilaterally reducing the number of players on the major league roster), Krenchicki ended up being the Reds' 25th man. So, the Reds traded him to Montreal in exchange for a couple minor league pitchers -- one of whom was Norm Charlton.  

After one season with the Expos, Krenchicki's big league career came to an end. He spent 1987 in Tacoma as a member of the Oakland organization. In 1988, he bounced from Tacoma (Oakland) to Louisville (St. Louis) to Columbus (Yankees) in an apparent effort to play in all three Triple-A leagues. Then, for the 1989 and 1990 seasons, he played in the Senior Professional Baseball Association.  He finally retired from playing after that 1990 season.

Mustache Check: Whoomp, there it is.

Family Ties
Wayne's brother Tom Krenchicki played in 10 games for the Ogden Dodgers in 1968 in the rookie level Pioneer League.  Unfortunately, Tom passed away at the age of just 47 years old in 1995. Both Wayne and Tom have been inducted into Ewing High School's Athletic Hall of Fame.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
With a name like Wayne Krenchicki, it was tough to miss this guy -- even if he played just 58 games for the Orioles over three seasons. He really didn't play that much against the Milwaukee Brewers in his career -- only 23 plate appearances (1 walk) -- so it's clearly his name that stuck in my head.  

As I mentioned above, Krenchicki stopped playing after the 1990 season. He stepped immediately into the dugout as a manager in 1991. For four years, he was a minor league manager in the Milwaukee Brewers system, spending a year with the rookie level Arizona Brewers before stalling out in the Midwest League with the Beloit Brewers.  From 1995 to 2009, he managed in the independent leagues -- mostly in the Atlantic League.

He left the Atlantic League after the 2008 season. His departure was not a pleasant one -- the Newark Bears changed ownership due to having financial trouble, and new ownership decided to hire baseball great Tim Raines as their manager. So, Krenchicki moved to Evansville to manage the Otters.  That job, too, ended badly, as he left Indiana midway through the 2009 season. This link is to a video when the Evansville Otters decided to let Krenchicki go from his position as manager of that club. 

These days, it appears that Wayne has joined the good life.  By that, I mean that he is now living in Wisconsin -- Beloit, to be exact -- and running the Hog Cabin Saloon. It appears from his Facebook page that he has been having some health issues lately, but that he has become a Packers fan.  

Speaking as a fellow Packers fan, that itself could cause health issues.  Get well soon, Wayne.

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