James V. Gruzdis
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 8", Weight 185 lb
Infielder/Outfielder Jim Gruzdis was a fine minor league player whose career stretched from the mid-30s until the 1950s. He also was a minor league owner and manager. He then became a scout, discovering several prominent players.
Gruzdis debuted as a 20-year-old with the 1934 Huntington Red Birds, hitting .278 with 10 HR and 75 RBI. In 1935, he led the Middle Atlantic League with 111 runs while batting .302 with 9 home runs and 53 RBI. Gruzdis batted .330 with 94 RBI for the 1936 Columbus (GA) Red Birds to place 4th in the South Atlantic League in average and 6th in RBI.
In 1937, the switch-hitter batted .310 with 9 HR and 72 RBI for the Asheville Tourists. He struggled in 1938, splitting time between the Richmond Colts (.248/~.405/.355) and Evansville Bees (.247/~.404/.373) as his only positive point was his fine OBP.
Gruzdis rebounded in 1939 with the Leaksville-Draper-Spray Triplets, hitting .368 with 17 homers and 77 RBI. He was in the top five in the Bi-State League in average and home runs (tied for third). In 1940, Jim batted .369 with 17 circuit clouts and 85 RBI for the Reidsville Luckies, finishing 5th in the BSL in batting average.
Gruzdis played for the 1941 Thomasville Tommies, hitting .281 with 6 HR and 30 RBI. With Thomasville the next year, he won the Louisville Slugger Award by having the highest batting average in Organized Baseball with his .418 mark. His 68 RBI tied for 5th in the North Carolina State League; he led the loop in average by 42 points over Norman Small.
Jim finally made it to the top tier of the minors at age 29 with the Toronto Maple Leafs of 1943. He was the top backup outfielder behind Jimmy Ripple, Maurice Van Robays and Lee Gamble, hitting .258/~.350/.343 in 95 games and stealing 18 bases, second on the club behind Frankie Zak. Toronto won the International League title.
In 1944, Gruzdis hit .260/~.360/.320 with 15 stolen bases in 72 games for Toronto. In the final year of his IL career, he batted just .213/~.314/.279 in 30 contests.
Gruzdis was the traveling secretary for the Maple Leafs in 1946-1947. He became general manager/manager of the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms in 1948. He led the North Carolina State League with his .388 average that year, his first playing action in three years. Gruzdis eventually came to be the majority stockholder of the Hi-Toms club.
Gruzdis hit .359 for the Hi-Toms in 1949, just missing the league's top five in average. Gruzdis was given a "night" by the Hi-Toms and received a new station wagon, the keys handed over by Miss Hi-Toms, on July 27, 1951. In 1953, he hit .406 in limited action for High Point-Thomasville, his first playing time in four seasons.
Gruzdis became a scout for the Cleveland Indians from 1953 to 1974, the National Scouting Bureau from 1975 to 1978, and the New York Yankees from 1979 to at least the mid-80's. Gruzdis signed Jim Perry, Al Rosen, and Otis Nixon to pro contracts.