Eddie Kasko, an All-Star infielder who managed the Boston Red Sox and spent nearly three decades with the team in a variety of roles, died Wednesday. He was 88.
Mr. Kasko lived in Richmond, where he once played for the minor league Richmond Virginians. While playing baseball in Richmond, he met his wife, Catherine. They were married for 57 years before she died in December 2015. They were survived by two sons, Michael and James.
The Red Sox announced Mr. Kasko’s death Wednesday night, three days shy of his 89th birthday. No cause was given.
Mr. Kasko played 10 seasons in the major leagues from 1957-66 and was an All-Star shortstop for the National League champion Cincinnati Reds in 1961. He batted .318 in the World Series that year, leading the Reds with seven hits during their five-game loss to a mighty New York Yankees team that featured Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.
After spending his final season on the field with the Red Sox, the New Jersey native stayed in the organization to manage its Triple-A club from 1967-69. He was hired as Boston’s big league skipper at only 38 years old in October 1969.
Mr. Kasko guided the Red Sox to a winning record in each of his four seasons as manager from 1970-73, never finishing worse than eight games above .500. He went 345-295 in all, tied with Joe Cronin for the fifth-best winning percentage (.539) among Red Sox managers who lasted at least 500 games.
Mr. Kasko then spent 21 years in Boston’s front office as a scout (1974-77), director of scouting (1978-92) and vice president of baseball development (1992-94). The team said he “played a pivotal role” in signing such stars as Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn.
After 29 years with the Red Sox organization, Mr. Kasko was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2010.
Mr. Kasko, originally from New Jersey, played on the 1954 and 1955 Virginians teams, who were unaffiliated and often cash-strapped, something he reminisced on in a 2013 interview with The Times-Dispatch.
In November 1955, the franchise gained a dubious distinction. Mr. Kasko distinctly recalls it being auctioned off at home plate at Parker Field.
“Out of the clubhouse came about a half-a-dozen bats, three or four bases, an old steel locker,” Mr. Kasko said. The government had seized the team after owner Harry Seibold encountered tax issues, then auctioned it.
Included were contracts of 20 players, 19 trunks of equipment, an electronic scoreboard and a whirlpool bath, according to The Associated Press account.
Mr. Kasko also remembers visiting a local bank with teammates to cash paychecks in 1955.
“If there were three guys in line, the first one may have been paid, and the two behind him couldn’t get their money because there were insufficient funds,” he said.
Mr. Kasko broke into the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals before spending five seasons with Cincinnati. He also played for Houston, serving as the franchise’s first captain in 1965.
A right-handed batter, Mr. Kasko hit .264 with 22 home runs and 261 RBIs in 1,077 major league games, making 483 starts at shortstop, 361 at third base and 47 at second base. His best offensive season came with the Reds in 1960 when he batted .292 with six homers and 51 RBIs.
Mr. Kasko was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on June 27, 1931. He graduated from Linden High School in 1949 and signed a minor league contract with the New York Giants at 17 years old.
Before reaching the majors, he served two years during the Korean War from 1952-54 with the United States Army Combat Engineers, the Red Sox said.