EDWARD "BIG ED KONETCHY golden legend
Edward Joseph Konetchy was born in La Crosse on September 3, 1885. He left school after the eighth grade and began working at the Funk Candy Company. When he was 16 he joined the competitive factory team, and at age 20 he signed his first professional contract with the La Crosse Pinks of the Class D Wisconsin State League.
The big right hander usually batted cleanup and eventually attracted the attention of professional scouts. He was hitting .359 when the St. Louis Cardinals purchased his contract for $1000 in June of 1907. The next day he made his major league debut, getting his first hit in a 4-3 loss to the Reds.
Over a fifteen year MLB career, Ed Konetchy led National League first basemen in fielding eight times and batted .281 in 2,085 games. His 2,150 hits included 344 doubles, 181 triples (17th all time), and 74 home runs. He even contributed on the mound, appearing twice in relief and once as a starter.
In 1910 Konetchy put together a 20-game hitting streak, batted over .300 for the first of four times, and won the Triple Crown in fielding, leading NL first basemen in fielding percentage, putouts, and assists.
In 1911 the Cardinals team was involved in a train wreck on a trip to Boston. A dozen passengers were killed and 47 others injured. Konetchy and Cardinals manager Roger Bresnahan led the rescue effort, carrying several passengers to safety.
Before the 1914 season Konetchy was traded to Pittsburgh for five players. That year he batted only .249, resulting in a reduced contract offer from management, spurring him to sign with the Pittsburgh Stogies of the Federal League. In his only season in the Federal League, Konetchy set career highs in batting average (.314), hits (181), and triples (18), finishing in the Top Five in almost every offensive category while winning his second fielding Triple Crown. When the Federal League folded in the fall of 1915 Konetchy was purchased by the Boston Braves.
After three years with the Braves, Konetchy was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers before the 1919 season. On June 28 that year he began an incredible streak, knocking out two singles and a double. He followed that up the next day with four singles and a triple, then started the following game with two more singles. When the hitting barrage ended, he had collected ten consecutive hits, tying a record set in 1897 that would stand until 1952, and is still the second most consecutive hits in MLB history.
In 1920, his 13th season in the majors, Koney, as his name was often shortened in box scores, played in his first and only World Series. He struggled at bat, collecting only four hits in seven games, but excelled in the field, setting a single game World Series record for most chances accepted by a first baseman with 19.
1921 was his last season in the majors. He was released by the Dodgers in July and claimed on waivers by the Phillies. He finished the year hitting .299 with a career-high 11 home runs, and a single-season record five unassisted double plays.
Konetchy's playing days, however, were far from over; he remained active in the minors until 1926. After a year with Toledo of the American Association, he became player-manager of Omaha of the Western League in 1923. The following year he held the same role for Petersburg of the Virginia League, leading the circuit in home runs. In 1925, while playing for the Ft. Worth Cats, Konetchy, who turned 40 at the end of the season, batted .345 and led the Texas League with 41 home runs and 166 RBIs. He retired as a player after the 1926 season and remained in Texas for another ten years, managing the Brownsville entry in the the Texas Valley League in 1938 before returning to LaCrosse to take the helm of the new La Crosse Blackhawks in the Wisconsin State League. He led the Blackhawks to the league title that year and continued to manage the team until the league dissolved after the 1942 season. That season was Ed’s last in professional baseball, and he retired back to Texas, becoming a foreman at the Convair plant. He also owned a restaurant and chicken farm and worked occasionally as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ed Konetchy died from heart disease on May 27, 1947. He was posthumously inducted into Wisconsin's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1961, the first La Crosse native to earn such a distinction.