Chuck Klein

Chuck Klein

Right fielder
Born: October 7, 1904(1904-10-07)
Indianapolis, Indiana
Died: March 28, 1958(1958-03-28) (aged 53)
Indianapolis, Indiana
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
July 30, 1928 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Last MLB appearance
June 1, 1944 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Career statistics
Batting average     .320
Home runs     300
Runs batted in     1,201
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1980
Vote     Veterans Committee

Charles Herbert "Chuck" Klein (October 7, 1904 – March 28, 1958) was a Major League Baseball outfielder who played for the Philadelphia Phillies (1928–33, 1936–39, 1940–44), Chicago Cubs (1934–36) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1939).

Klein was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was known as the "Hoosier Hammer." He was one of the most prodigious National League sluggers in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Contents

Overview

Klein worked in a steel mill in his youth, and played semipro baseball on his own time. The St. Louis Cardinals soon noticed his talent, and signed him to a minor-league contract. He eventually worked his way up to the Cardinals' farm team in Fort Wayne. After hitting 26 homers in 88 games in 1928, Klein was slated to be called up to St. Louis midway through the season. However, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis discovered that the Cardinals owned a team in Dayton, Ohio that played in the same league as Fort Wayne. Landis ordered the Cardinals to sell off the Fort Wayne team and give up the rights to its players. The Phillies outbid the New York Yankees for Klein's services, and Klein joined the Phillies in July.

Klein owned the record for most team home runs until the arrival of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. A left-handed hitter, Klein racked up almost all of his numbers during his first six-year stint in Philadelphia, where he was an instant success as the starting right fielder. A conscientious worker and hustler, Klein captured four home run championships, two RBI titles, and a batting title for the Phillies. Unlike most sluggers, Klein was a competent baserunner, topping the senior circuit in 1932 in stolen bases and coming in third in triples with 15. The same year, he was the last player to lead in homers and steals in the same season, when he paced the National League with 38 and 20, respectively. Jimmy Sheckard and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb are the only other players to do so in the majors. After the season, he was named the NL MVP.

Klein won the National League home run title in 1929, his first full year in the majors. However, he was helped along by his teammates on the last day of the season. In this game, the Phillies faced the New York Giants. The Giants' star slugger, Mel Ott, was tied with Klein for the lead with 42. In the first game, Klein homered to put him one ahead of Ott, who was held to a single. In the second game, the Phillies' pitchers walked Ott five straight times — including once with the bases loaded.

Through May 2009, Klein holds the all-time record for most home runs over the first two calendar years in the major leagues (83). Ryan Braun is second (79), and Joe DiMaggio and Mark McGwire are tied for third (77).[1]

Through 2011, he was one of seven major leaguers to have had at least four 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons in their first five years, along with Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Ralph Kiner, Mark Teixeira, and Pujols, and Ryan Braun.[2]

Along with his batting prowess, the strong right-armed Klein was also a superb defensive right fielder who still holds the single-season mark with 44 assists in 1930.

In 1933 Klein won the Triple Crown (.368, 28, 120), though Carl Hubbell took MVP honors. On July 6 of that year, he also became the first Phillies player ever to bat in an All-Star Game.

Traded to the Cubs for the 1934 season, Klein was a disappointment in Chicago by his previous standards. Even so, he hit 20 and 21 HRs in two seasons and batted .301 and .293. These were far below the numbers he posted in Philadelphia, leading to claims that Klein wouldn't have hit nearly as many homers had he not played in notoriously hitter-friendly Baker Bowl. The Phillies reacquired him two years later.

On July 10, 1936, Klein became the first NL player to slug four home runs in a game in the 20th century. He is one of only 15 players in baseball history to have accomplished that.

Klein went to the Pirates during the 1939 season, but was back in Philadelphia the following season. For the last five years of his career, he was a part-time player, often used as a pinch-hitter. He retired after getting one hit in seven at-bats in 1944.

In his 17-year career Klein batted .320, with 398 doubles, 1,201 runs batted in, 1,168 runs, 2,076 hits (870 extra-bases), and 300 home runs. After retiring, he ran a bar in Philadelphia for a time. He endured some tough financial times, largely due to a drinking problem. Eventually, his drinking and a stroke damaged his nervous system and left one leg paralyzed.

Death; Posthumous honors

The Phillies retired the Old English "P" to honor Klein in 2001.

Chuck Klein died in Indianapolis, Indiana, aged 53, from undisclosed causes.

After years of lobbying, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.

The Phillies honored him on the outfield wall of Veterans Stadium with his name and an Old English-style "P" where a retired uniform number would go. The Phillies began using numbers in 1932, and in that season and 1933, Klein wore number 3. He was then traded to the Chicago Cubs, and when he returned to the Phillies in 1936, he wore 32 (later retired by the Phillies for Steve Carlton), and soon switched to 36 (later retired by the Phillies for Robin Roberts) for that season and 1937. In 1938 he wore number 1 (later retired by the Phillies for Richie Ashburn), wore 26 and then 14 (later retired by the Phillies for Jim Bunning) in 1939, wore 29 in 1940 and 1941, 3 again in 1942, 8 in 1943 and 26 again in 1944, his last major league season. Rather than choose one of these numbers, the Phillies simply retired a "P" for him, as they did for pre-numbers legend Grover Cleveland Alexander.

In 1999, he ranked number 92 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Career highlights

Klein was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in 1980.
  • MVP (1932)
  • Triple Crown (1933)
  • Twice All-Star (1933–34)
  • 4-time led league in home runs (1929, 1931–33)
  • Led league in home runs (38) and stolen bases (20) in the same season (1932). He was the third and last player to do so (the others being Jimmy Sheckard and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb).
  • Hit 4 home runs in one game (1936)
  • 3-time led league in runs batted in (1931, 1933, 1936)
  • 3-time led league in runs (1930–32)
  • Led league in batting average (1933)
  • Twice led league in OPS (On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage) (1932–33)
  • Twice led league in hits (1932–33)
  • 5-time collected more than 200 hits (1929–33)
  • 4-time led league in total bases (1930–33)
  • 4-time led league in extra-base hits (1929–30, 1932–33)
  • Led league in triples (1932)
  • Twice led league in doubles (1930, 1933)
  • Led league in stolen bases (1932)
  • Holds the single-season record for assists by a right fielder (1930)
  • Twice 26-consecutive-game hitting streak in the same season (1930)
  • Hit safely in 135 of his team's 156 games (1930)
  • Twice hit for the cycle (1931, 1933)
  • Holds the record for most home runs (83) over the first two calendar years (through May 2009)
  • Twice led league in games played (1930, 1932)

See also

References

External links


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