Walter Kowalski: A Forgotten Man in the Legal History of Sport

From SABR member J. Gordon Hylton at the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog on May 29:

On May 22, Walter Kowalski of Red Hook, New York passed away at age 88.  Few in the world of sports or sports law noted his death.  Most who recognize the name think of either the famous professional wrestler, Walter “Killer” Kowalski (who died in 2008), or of Walt Kowalski, the angry Korean War vet played by Clint Eastwood in the recent film, Gran Torino.

However, with a little better luck the name Walter Kowalski could have been a familiar name in the annals of the legal history of American sport.  On the other hand, luck was the one thing that Walter Kowalski seemed to be short of during his career as a professional baseball player in the years following World War II.

Kowalski was born in Brooklyn, New York, in January 1923.  His older brother Thad was a star semi-pro baseball player in Brooklyn in the late 1930’s, and Walter dreamed of following in his brother’s footsteps.  However, his baseball career was interrupted by the Second World War, when, shortly after finishing high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

After his discharge from the military, he decided to embark upon a career in professional baseball, and in 1946, he signed a minor league contract with the independent Lockport Cubs of the Class D Pennsylvania, Ontario, and New York League (more commonly known as the PONY League).

Kowalski was Lockport’s starting third baseman throughout the 1946 season, and the 23-year old compiled a respectable batting record, clubbing 27 doubles, 8 triples, and four home runs while batting .254.  At the end of the season, his contract was purchased by his hometown team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 30, 2011. Last Updated: May 30, 2011.