Having a fiancé who is Polish must have led me to Mike Krukow’s 1987 Topps card. The backside of the card lists a nickname. I think it’s pretty cool. “The Polish Prince” sounds crafty and it’s nice to get one’s heritage in a nickname, complete with alliteration.
Mike Krukow played catcher in high school and was even drafted by the California Angels in 1970 as a backstop. But he went to college instead at Cal Poly, playing there just before Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. During Krukow’s time at Poly, he transitioned to a starter and set the school’s record for career ERA.
He was then drafted by the Cubs and pitched well for them from 1976-1981 (oddly enough his FIP was always better than his ERA – maybe he was the first Ricky Nolasco?).
He made a brief and successful stop in Philadelphia in 1982, throwing 208 innings with a 3.12 ERA and 3.12 FIP. He was worth 4.4 WAR.
The Phillies, though, traded him in a move that brought them Joe Morgan, and Krukow was on his way to San Francisco, basically back home. He’d stay there for the rest of his life. He pitched solidly from 1983-1988, until injuries got to him. During that span, he never pitched less than 184 innings and consistently had ERAs and FIPs in the 3.00s. In his only play-off game, he threw a complete game against the Cardinals in 1987.
Krukow seems to be the quintessential 1980s hurler. To go all Jack Morris argumentative on you: from 1980-1989, Krukow had the 42nd most Fangraphs WAR and tied for the 36th most wins. In fact, he reminds me of a few contemporaries (and fellow Flip Siders): Ed Whitson, Mark Gubicza (here and here) and Mike Boddicker (here), seriously, check out their career side-by-sides here.
They each won between 124 and 134 games, pitched between 2,123 and 2,240 innings and had ERA’s between 3.79 and 3.96. Gubicza is the star of the group, but Krukow was the flamethrower.
Of course, the baseball world remembers and loves Krukow a bit more than the other three, as fans adore him for his transition to the broadcast booth. He has been a mainstay of radio and television for San Francisco Giants games and has a number of catch phrases. When the Giants advertise jerseys and whatnot, Krukow closes the ad by saying “I wanna get that!” three times.
As someone who grew up with Rex Barney at Orioles games and Jon Miller doing broadcasts, fans know when they are blessed to have someone of that talent and magnitude. I also know how fleeting those moments in time can be. Enjoy Krukow baseball fans, he’s one of the best.
Oh, one more thing, Krukow also provided commentary for the video game MVP Baseball from 2003-2005. The Polish Prince is simply cool.