Every fan of the St. Louis Cardinals know who Pete Kozma is — in fact, every fan of the Atlanta Braves also know who Pete Kozma is. He’s that guy. The one who turned to snag a fly ball and let it drop between short and left field, right in front of Matt Holliday.
News broke as of December 2019, Pete Kozma, the man who ruined every fan of Braves World Series dream on the night of October 5, 2012 — signed with the Braves organization on a minor league deal. Something Braves and Cardinals fans will be keeping tabs on, one can assume.
So who is Pete Kozma?
His legend remains one of the most oddball baseball stories to date in both Braves and Cardinals history. Andrelton Simmons hits the ball in what should be a routine catch for Kozma, but it drops between him and Holliday. While the Braves faithful roared into the night in hopes of it becoming an error — a sign of postseason hope, it wouldn’t end well. Umpire Sam Holbrook quickly calls Simmons out on an infield fly.
Turner Field soon became riddled with litter, players were escorted off of the field and Kozma’s fate in postseason history was dealt. While the Cardinals would eventually win the game, the Braves faithful didn’t forget.
Kozma’s legacy of oddity in the postseason wouldn’t stop there. In the 2013 World Series, Kozma was involved in a controversial call that was overturned by the umpiring crew. He unfortunately mishandled and dropped a ball that had been tossed to him which would have began an inning-ending double play. The umpires ultimately ruled that Kozma never had control of the ball after confrontation by Red Sox manager John Farrell. Boston ended up winning the game and eventually the championship.
So what happened to Kozma after 2012?
In 2014, Kozma went from being the primary shortstop in St. Louis to ending up in Triple-A Memphis. The signings of Jhonny Peralta, Mark Ellis, and some young kid named Kolten Wong pushed Kozma down in the ranks. Despite the demotion, he ended the season with an average of .248, eight home runs, 61 SO, and 54 RBIs.
Eventually after the 2015 season, the Cardinals removed him from the 40-man roster after the season and re-assigned him to Memphis. He opted to become a free agent and said goodbye to St. Louis.
The New York Yankees took the bait and signed him for a minor league deal in 2016 — eventually placing him on the Opening Day 2017 roster after Didi Gregorius became injured. His career within the Evil Empire didn’t last long as he was designated for assignment on April 28, 2017.
Claiming Kozma off of waivers, the Texas Rangers took a chance with the then 29-year-old. He played as a utility backup until he was once again designated for assignment on July 20, 2017.
He didn’t play again until signing with the Detroit Tigers in January of 2018 — a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. By May 8, 2018, the Tigers had purchased Kozma’s minor league contract and added him to the major league roster — although he hit a home run in his first at-bat, he was once again designated for assignment within the next month.
After clearing waivers, he was sent outright to Toledo from the Tigers on June 5, 2018. By September 14, 2018, the Tigers again purchased Kozma’s contract from Toledo to add infield depth. A carousel of back and forth.
By 2019, Kozma had found himself at home with Toledo. An average of .263, seven home runs, 51 RBIs, and 73 hits in a total of 278 AB. At the end of the season, he once again became a free agent at the age of 31.
While his baseball career has been filled with DFAs and oddities, Kozma could still be a decent baseball player if he were to be given a chance. It’s quite possible that he may find a home in Gwinnett or history may repeat itself and he’ll find another home before officially calling it quits.
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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Reference Credit: Baseball Reference