fb-pixel

Eddie Kasko, former Red Sox manager with sharp mind for the game, dies at 88

Mr. Kasko managed the Boston Red Sox for four seasons in the early 1970s.
Mr. Kasko managed the Boston Red Sox for four seasons in the early 1970s.Harry Harris/Associated Press

For Eddie Kasko, the change from being a ballplayer to managing a team felt seamless.

“It was almost a casual transition,” Mr. Kasko said during a late October 1969 news conference, when the Red Sox announced he would succeed Dick Williams as Boston’s manager.

“All of a sudden you’re not playing every day, sitting on the bench, and when the manager makes a move, you find yourself managing along with him,” he added. “Then all of a sudden you’re doing it.”

A former Major League infielder who managed the Red Sox for four seasons, Mr. Kasko died June 24. He was 88.

Advertisement



He had played for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds, and in Houston during the time when the team changed its name from the Colt 45s to the Astros. Mr. Kasko spent his final season with the Red Sox before beginning his managing career with a Boston farm team.

In Louisville, where he was managing when he got the call to lead the Red Sox, players praised his leadership.

“He’s the greatest man I ever played baseball for in my life,” Tony Muser, a future Major League player and manager, told the Globe in September 1969, a few days before Mr. Kasko was promoted.

“Eddie Kasko has imagination, he talks to his players all the time, and he’s anything but shy,” added Muser, who went on to manage the Kansas City Royals.

Red Sox players were just as impressed.

“He’s the most aggressive manager I’ve ever played for,” Carl Yastrzemski told the Globe during spring training in March 1970, during Mr. Kasko’s first season at the helm. “He seems quiet, but is talking baseball all the time. He plays a wide open game.”

That same day, Red Sox catcher Jerry Moses said of Mr. Kasko: “He has the best mind in baseball.”

Advertisement



Mr. Kasko kept using that sharp mind in later years, after he was fired as manager with a game left in the 1973 season and went on to become the team’s scouting director and vice president for player development.

In those roles, he helped draft players such as Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and Jeff Bagwell — the last two in the same draft, in 1989.

“Has anyone ever had a draft as good as that?” Ed Kenney, a former Red Sox farm director, asked in a 2003 Globe interview.

Mr. Kasko, who was 38 when he was named Boston’s manager, was known for being low-key — in contrast to the fiery Williams, his predecessor — and for the way he treated players.

“I don’t consider myself a strict disciplinarian,” he said at the October 1969 news conference, speaking about Boston’s ballplayers. “If you treat them as men you more or less get their respect. Then you don’t need to be a disciplinarian. Firm and fair is better than discipline.”

In his administrative positions as scouting director and vice president for player development, meanwhile, he offered storied scouts such as Danny Doyle more support than they would have received from many other ball clubs.

“We don’t make a lot of money,” Doyle told the Globe in 1990, “but we get better than most and we got a man — Kasko — who takes care of you with respect and tells you to walk with pride.”

Advertisement



Edward Michael Kasko was born in Elizabeth, N.J., in 1931 and grew up in nearby Linden, where his family had a grocery store, which his parents hoped he’d eventually help run. According to his Society for American Baseball Research biography, Mr. Kasko had one older brother.

“My father couldn’t understand why I’d waste my time playing baseball when I could make a living in a grocery store,” Mr. Kasko recalled in a 1970 Globe interview. “He wasn’t interested at all in baseball.”

Mr. Kasko graduated from high school in Linden and played minor league ball before serving in the Army during the Korean War. “I wound up with a combat engineer outfit,” he recalled in an SABR interview.

Initially returning to the minor leagues after the war, he made his Major League debut with St. Louis in 1957.

As a second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman from 1957 to 1966, Mr. Kasko hit .264.

In 1961, he was an All-Star with Cincinnati, playing shortstop for the National League in the game in Fenway Park. He also hit .318 in the 1961 World Series, which the Reds lost to the New York Yankees in five games.

After releasing Mr. Kasko as a player in 1966, the Red Sox hired him to manage a farm team.

Upon taking the helm in Boston, he posted a 345-295 record – ninth in the Red Sox history for games managed. In 2010, he was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame.

Advertisement



Mr. Kasko married Catherine Bache in 1958, according to his SABR biography, and they had two sons, Michael and James. They had been married for 57 years when Mrs. Kasko died in 2015. She had volunteered for organizations including the League of Women Voters and the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, according to her obituary.

In an interview for his SABR biographical entry, Mr. Kasko said that among the Red Sox players signed during his tenure heading up scouting and player development, “probably the biggest one was Roger Clemens.”

The Red Sox selected Clemens as the 19th overall pick in the first round of that year’s draft. Mr. Kasko said he then instructed Doyle to sign the future multiple Cy Young Award-winner.

“He called back within, I think, two days and said, ‘I signed the Clemens boy,’ " Mr. Kasko recalled. “I said, ‘What did you give him?’ He says, ‘$121,000.’ I said, ‘$121,000? Why not 120 or 125?’ He said, ‘Well, 21’s his lucky number.' I said, ‘Well, did you try offering him $21,000?’ "

Mr. Kasko and his wife had lived for many years in Richmond, Va., where they had married.

When he was replaced as Boston’s manager just before the end of the 1973 season, he told the Globe that he doubted he would ever manage a team again.

He added that Catherine was relieved his managing days appeared to be over.

“Right now,” he said, “my wife is the happiest woman in the world to hear the news.”

Advertisement




Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.