Joseph Edmund Zdeb (born June 27, 1953) is a former professional baseball outfielder. He played all or part of three seasons in Major League Baseball with the Kansas City Royals from 1977 to 1979, primarily as a left fielder.
|Born: June 27, 1953|
|April 7, 1977, for the Kansas City Royals|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 29, 1979, for the Kansas City Royals|
|Runs batted in||34|
Zdeb attended Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, where he played both baseball and football. A fullback, he signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Missouri, with a promise that he would also be allowed to play baseball. However, when he was made the 4th round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1971 amateur draft, he chose to join the Royals organization instead.
In his first season of professional baseball, Zdeb was assigned to the rookie league Billings Mustangs, where he batted .184. He also spent 1972 in rookie ball with the Kingsport Royals, where he improved to a .319 batting average with 12 home runs. In 1973, he began the year at Waterloo in the Midwest League, where he hit .355, earning him a promotion to the high-A San Jose Bees, where he struggled, hitting .195.
In 1974, Zdeb returned to San Jose. In his first full season there, he batted .295. Over the next two seasons, he continued to move up the ladder, playing at Double-A Jacksonville in 1975 and AAA Omaha in 1976.
"Long hair" confrontationEdit
At some point, during minor league spring training, he showed up to camp with long hair, which was against team policy. Manager Joe Gordon refused to give him a uniform, so he approached general manager Lou Gorman, asking "Mr. Gorman, if I cut my hair, will I become a better ballplayer?" Gorman said he needed to cut it to properly represent the organization, and after initially refusing, he did so a couple days later.
Rookie season: 1977Edit
After the 1976 season, the Royals traded their primary backup outfielder, Jim Wohlford, to the Milwaukee Brewers, opening up a spot for Zdeb. With the left-handed Dave Roberts on the mound for the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day, the right-handed hitting Zdeb wound up starting in left field in place of the left-handed hitting Tom Poquette. Zdeb went 1-for-4 with a run scored in his major league debut.
Zdeb and Poquette platooned over the rest of the season, and the rookie finished with what turned out to be a career high .297 batting average in 105 games. He also had career bests with 2 home runs and 23 RBI. In the 1977 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Zdeb appeared in four of the five games, but failed to get a hit in nine at bats, although he did steal a base.
Remaining Royals careerEdit
In 1978, Zdeb saw his playing time reduced with the arrival of Willie Wilson, and even wound up back in the minors briefly. With three players sharing left field, Zdeb wound up appearing in just 60 games. His batting average fell to .252, without a home run and with just 11 RBI.
With Wilson named the full-time starter in left field for the 1979 season, Zdeb found himself in strictly a reserve role to start the season. After 15 games in which he batted just .174, Zdeb was sent down to the minor leagues. However, he also struggled in Omaha, batting just .224, and was not given a September call-up.
On January 15, 1980, Zdeb was traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Eddie Bane. He finished his professional career that year, splitting the season between the White Sox Iowa Oaks affiliate and the Tidewater Tides in the New York Mets organization. His struggles at the plate continued, as he hit a combined .194, and after the season he was out of professional baseball.
Later life and familyEdit
Zdeb and his wife, Diane, have three children: Rachael, Joey and Josh. Rachael Zdeb attended Mississippi State University, where she was an outfielder for the school's softball team from 2011-2014.
- Joe Zdeb player page at MLB.com
- "Joe Zdeb Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
- Woodling, Chuck (July 8, 1977). "Royals' Zdeb almost put on Tiger grid uniform". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "Joe Zdeb Minor League Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
- Jim Sandoval and Bill Nowlin (ed.). Can He Play? A Look at Baseball Scouts and their Profession. SABR, Inc. p. 125.
- Box score for Zdeb's MLB debut
- Joe Zdeb – VPBL statistics. Pura Pelota. Retrieved on March 29, 2016.
- Bulldog Softball Inks Five Standouts