Benjamin Michael “Benny” Kauff
Born: January 5, 1890 - Pomeroy, OH
Died: November 17, 1961 - Columbus, OH
Career BA: .311
New York Highlanders AL (1912)
Indianapolis Hoosiers FL (1914)
Brooklyn Tip-Tops FL (1915)
New York Giants NL (1916–1920)
Periodically, a player comes up through the ranks that fans attach to because of their antics as well as their talent. Piersall, Belinsky, Fidrych; the list of good players with a side show is endless. Benny Kauff certainly fits the bill. A trash-talking, brash self-promoter, Kauff was as colorful as he was talented.
Nicknamed the “Ty Cobb of the Federal League,” Kauff tore up the short-lived Federal League for two years, batting a whopping .370 in 1914 followed by .342 in 1915. Once the Federal League folded and Kauff was signed by the Giants, he had some productive offensive years in the National League, but never lived up to his self-promotion. Not known for being humble, Kauff often bragged about what a good player he was. His best year in the NL was 1917 when he batted .308 for the Giants. As a kid he developed unusual strength from working in the mines. Known for his combination of power and speed, Kauff was actually a very good player...with a big mouth, and fans found him to be entertaining both on and off the field.
Kauff enjoyed the high life, wearing expensive suits, drinking expensive liquor and smoking expensive cigars. Unfortunately Kauff was caught in the swirl of allegations of the 1919 World Series fix, although there was no proof of his involvement. His run in the Bigs ended abruptly when he was indicted as part of a stolen car operation. Even though he was acquitted, Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Kauff for life because he did not believe he was innocent. Although banned from playing the game, Kauff worked as a scout for 22 years before retiring to work as a salesman at a high-end men’s clothier. Add Kauff to the list of Piersall, Belinsky and the rest. There is always a place for guys like him who make the game more entertaining.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html