Kuiper’s Lone Home Run a Flash in His Career with Tribe
By Christian Petrila
For the second straight week, our Indians Flash in a Pan is a guy who struggled with the power numbers throughout his career. However, unlike Alex Cole last week, once this guy got his first home run, the second never came. We’re talking about none other than Duane Kuiper.
Kuiper was drafted seven times – yes, seven – before finally signing with the Indians in 1972. He would spend the 1972, ‘73 and most of the ’74 seasons in the minors before making his debut on Sep. 9, 1974. He played 40 games in Triple-A in 1975, but that was his last stint in the minors as he would be in the majors to stay.
Kuiper only played in 10 games for the Indians in 1974, but the early impression was nothing short of encouraging. In those games, he hit .500 (11-22) with four RBI, his first hit coming on Sep. 24.
In 1975, Kuiper appeared in 90 games for the Tribe. He hit a very respectable .292 with 25 RBI. Kuiper also drew 30 walks compared to only 26 strikeouts. The next season, his batting average dipped to .263, but he drove in 37 runs in 135 games. It was also the start of a streak that would go until the end of his career. Every season for the rest of his career, he would either get caught stealing more than he had successful steals, or the two stats were the same.
On Aug. 29, 1977, it finally happened. In the first inning of a 9-2 win against the Chicago White Sox, Kuiper turned on a Steve Stone pitch and hit it over the wall in right field. It was Kuiper’s first career home run and would also end up being his last. That’s right. Kuiper would go his last eight seasons without another home run. His other numbers in 1977 included a .277 batting average and 50 RBI, which was a career high.
The next season was arguably his best in an Indians uniform. Kuiper hit .283 with 43 RBI in a career-high 149 games. However, the next season was the beginning of the end of Kuiper’s tenure in Cleveland. He only played 42 games in 1980, hitting .282 with only nine RBI. The next year, he hit .257 with 14 RBI in 72 games. After the season, he was traded to San Francisco for Ed Whitson. By the time his career in Cleveland was over, he had a .274 average with 263 RBI and one home run.
Kuiper had a temporary renaissance in his first season in San Francisco. In 107 games, he hit .280 with 17 RBI. However, the revitalization was short lived. In 1983, Kuiper hit .250 with 14 RBI in 72 games. The next year was even more of a struggle for Kuiper. He hit a mere .200 with 11 RBI in 83 games. He only played nine games in 1985 before the Giants released him on June 28.
Despite having some rough seasons there, Kuiper has found a home in San Francisco as the play-by-play voice for the Giants. He has also done voice work for the now-defunct MVP Baseball video game series.
Kuiper holds the MLB record for the most at-bats with exactly one career home run (3379). He has become a beloved fixture in the broadcast booth not just for Giants fans, but all fans around the MLB. Not bad for a guy who went deep once.
Photo: Sports Illustrated