The Hornet baseball program began in the early 1940’s in the shadow of World War II. Playing at Macken Park from the beginning, the program showed flashes of greatness from the start.

Joe Presko, Sr. (1928-2019)

Northtown’s earliest program participant became its most successful player in program history. Joe Presko Sr. played for the Hornets in 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
[BaseballReference.com]

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.

Presko was inducted into the Hornets Hall of Fame in 2018.

Our presentation of Mr. Presko at the Homecoming assembly
The 1971 Hornet Baseball team lost in the sub-district semi-finals. Photo courtesy of the Hornet’s Buzz.

Hornets District Titles

1984 ⚾ 1985 ⚾ 1987 ⚾ 1988 ⚾ 1989 ⚾ 1992 ⚾ 1993 ⚾ 1998 ⚾ 2000 ⚾ 2007

Hornets Conference Titles

1976 ⚾ 1982 ⚾ 1984 ⚾ 1985 ⚾ 1988 ⚾ 1989 ⚾ 1992 ⚾ 1994 ⚾ 1995 ⚾ 2004

Special thanks to Bob Hiatt, Jessica Thomas, The City of North Kansas City, and The Hornet’s Buzz for contributions to this page. If you have more Hornet history you’d like to add to this page, please send it to me.

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