North Kansas City High School has had a baseball program since the 1940’s. In the nearly 80 years of the program, the Hornets have had 10 players move on to professional baseball or drafted. Of those men, only four advanced to the minor leagues, and of that list, only two men made it to the Major Leagues as Hornets.

The late Bill Kelso was the most recent, he played from 1964-1968 for the Angels and Reds. But the first was Joe Presko.

Joe Presko in 1951 []
Mr. Presko graduated North Kansas City in 1946 and excelled in baseball while at Northtown. Nicknamed “Baby Joe” or “Little Joe” because of his diminutive stature, “Little Joe” also came with a cannon for an arm. Baseball Almanac listed him at 6’0″, but numerous reports put him no taller than 5’9″, maybe 5’9.5″. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948 and immediately went 16-8 for St. Joseph, the Cardinals’ Class C team. Later, he moved to Class A Omaha and then on to AA Houston. With success at every level, it was just a matter of time before he was called to the majors and on May 3, 1951, former Hornet Joe Presko got the call for a spot start with St. Louis against the Phillies. He won his first ever game that night, then notched his first save three days later, and thus began his MLB career. He finished in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1951 behind future Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

1952 Topps Joe Presko 220 Card

Presko’s best season was ’51, going 7-4 with a 3.45 ERA. But he had a very successful career for four years with St. Louis, then two years with Detroit. In total, Presko won 25 Major League games and posted a 4.61 ERA in 490 innings, and frequently pitched against names that included Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Brooks Robinson, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Jackie Robinson.

Following Joe’s career, he stayed active in local baseball, coaching at Macken Park in American Legion and the Ban Johnson league for the next 30 years where he coached another pitching product of Kansas City, David Cone. Additionally, he is a father, grandfather, and great grandfather to Preskos that have graduated from high schools all over the Northland.

Monday night, we welcome Joe Presko back to the Hornet Baseball family.

We’ll be honoring Mr. Presko as the Hornets and the Oak Park Northmen face off at T-Bones Stadium in Kansas City, Kansas at 6:30. At 89 years young, we certainly won’t put a radar gun on Mr. Presko, but we will hope he honors us by throwing out the first pitch.

The event will also feature a raffle of unique baseball memorabilia and donations from local businesses, including a 1994 World Series baseball (the World Series that never occurred), a Jackie Robinson 50 logo baseball, and a signed helmet from new Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Raffle tickets are only $1, and all of the proceeds from the raffle go to the You Matter foundation which supports efforts to curb teen suicide in the city. Tickets for the event are available at the door for $7.

We hope this is the first of many opportunities for the present to connect with the past in the storied history of the North Kansas City Baseball program all in the spirit of #NorthtownWINS

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