Walter Joseph Kowalski
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 185 lb.
Walter Kowalski hit .308 in seven seasons of pro ball and unsuccessfully attempted to challenge baseball's reserve clause in court.
Kowalski was signed by the Lockport White Sox in late 1942 but instead of beginning his pro career the next season, he instead enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Following World War II, he returned to baseball, hitting .252/.348/.373 with 27 doubles, 8 triples, and 4 home runs as a third baseman (fielding .885) for the Lockport Cubs in 1946. Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers following the season, he played for the Kingston Dodgers in 1947, hitting .318 with 11 home runs while leading the North Atlantic League with 24 triples (the all-time league record). After starting the next year with an ankle injury, he spent the season with the Trois-Rivières Royals, hit .352 with 26 doubles, 12 triples and 10 homers, and led the Can-Am League with 163 hits.
With the Newport News Dodgers in 1949, Kowalski was moved to second base and hit .280 with 31 doubles and 15 home runs. He tied for 5th in the Piedmont League in homers; three of the players with more would play in the majors. He also ranked fourth in doubles. After playing for the Greenville Spinners and the Lancaster Red Roses early in the 1950 campaign, the Dodgers sold his contract to the Johnstown Johnnies of the Middle Atlantic League. In 55 games with Johnstown, he hit .344/.428/.632 with 12 home runs. The Johnnies folded after that year, and he moved on to the New Castle Indians. As a 28-year-old, he had the best season of his career that summer, leading the Middle Atlantic League in batting average (.375), runs (134, tied with Jack Byers), hits (169) and runs batted in (134). He was second in both home runs (24) and slugging (.632), trailing former major leaguer Rudy York in both departments.
Kowalski was signed by the Cleveland Indians organization in 1952 and began the year with the Spartanburg Peaches. He hit .293 in 30 games before his contract was sold to the Lakeland Pilots. He hit .233 for Lakeland and retired after the season.
Away from the diamond, Kowalski filed a lawsuit against Organized Baseball and Commissioner Happy Chandler in June 1951. The suit challenged baseball's reserve clause and sought $150,000 in damages. On February 20, 1953, the U.S. Court of Appeals rules that organized baseball is a sport and not a business, effectively dismissing Kowalski's suit.
After baseball, Kowalski worked for IBM for nearly 40 years. He died in 2011 at age 88.