October 7, 1904|
|Died: March 28, 1958
|July 30, 1928, for the Philadelphia Phillies|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 1, 1944, for the Philadelphia Phillies|
|Runs batted in||1,201|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
Charles Herbert "Chuck" Klein (October 7, 1904 – March 28, 1958), nicknamed the "Hoosier Hammer", was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball as an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies (1928–33, 1936–39, 1940–44), Chicago Cubs (1934–36) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1939). He was one of the most prodigious National League sluggers in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He became the first baseball player to be named to the All-Star Game as a member of two different teams.
Klein was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was known as the "Hoosier Hammer." He worked in a steel mill in his youth and played semipro baseball on his own time. The St. Louis Cardinals noticed his talent and signed him to a minor-league contract. He 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 won the NL 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.
In 1930, Klein enjoyed one of the best offensive years in baseball history, batting .386 with 250 hits and 158 runs scored, all career highs. He also set career bests and still-standing Phillies records with 59 doubles, 170 runs batted in, a .687 slugging percentage and 445 total bases. No player has had as many total bases in a season since. His 107 extra-base hits that year are a National League record, tied by Barry Bonds in 2001. Along with his batting prowess, Klein was also a superb defensive right fielder who still holds the single-season mark with 44 assists in 1930. In 1932, Klein led the NL in both home runs and stolen bases. No player since has led the league in both categories in the same year. 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 would not 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 remains one of only 16 players in baseball history to have accomplished the feat.
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, 74 triples, 300 home runs, a .543 career slugging percentage, and an OPS of .922.
Later life and legacy
After retiring, he ran a bar in Philadelphia for a time. He endured some difficult financial times, largely due to a drinking problem. Eventually, a stroke damaged his nervous system and left one leg paralyzed. By 1947, Klein was living with his sister-in-law in Indianapolis, Indiana. He died there in 1958. Klein was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. 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.
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.
- Philadelphia Phillies award winners and league leaders
- Triple Crown
- List of Major League Baseball single-game home run leaders
- Hitting for the cycle
- List of Major League Baseball home run records
- List of Major League Baseball doubles records
- List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career hits leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career runs scored leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career runs batted in leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual runs batted in leaders
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball annual home run leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual runs scored leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual stolen base leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual doubles leaders
- Major League Baseball titles leaders
- "Chuck Klein succumbs". Times-News. March 27, 1958. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
- 100 Greatest Baseball Players by The Sporting News : A Legendary List by Baseball Almanac