Inductee — Charles Herbert Klein

klein2_13Charles Herbert Klein

Class of 1981

Birthplace: Indianapolis, IN

Outfielder

Deceased

Biography:

KLEIN, Charles Herbert (“Tiger,” “The Hoosier Hercules,” “The Hoosier Hammerer”) born Oct. 7, 1904, Indianapolis; died March 28, 1958, Indianapolis. Philadelphia (NL) 1928-1933, Chicago (NL) 1934-1936, Philadelphia (NL) 1936-1939, Pittsburgh (NL) 1939, Philadelphia (NL) 1940-1944. OF-1B. 1,753g, 6,486ab, 300hr, .320. Debuted July 30, 1928. 6-0, 185, BL, TR. Hall of Fame 1980.

Chuck Klein was a slugging outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies during the Depression years. At Southport High School, Klein played for varsity teams in baseball, football, basketball and track. He later played for Indianapolis semi-professional clubs and worked in steel mills before signing with Evansville (Three-I) in 1927. Fort Wayne (Central) purchased his contract after the season. Klein was batting .331 with 26 home runs in 88 games when he joined the Phillies. He immediately took over in right field and batted .360 in 64 games with 11 homers.

Playing in Baker Bowl during the live-ball era of the late twenties and early Thirties, Klein compiled amazing statistics during his first five-and-a-half big league seasons. In 1929, his first full year, he batted .365 and his league-leading 43 home runs set a National League record. Klein had a pair of 26-game hitting streaks in 1930, finishing with 40 homers and a .386 average. He led the N.L. with 59 doubles and 158 runs and his 44 assists set a record for outfielders that has never been broken. In 1931 he hit .337 and led the league in homers (31), runs and runs batted in (121 in both categories).

In 1932, when he was the N.L.s Most Valuable Player, Klein batted .348 with 137 RBI. His 38 homers tied for the league lead. He led the N.L. in hits (226), runs (152) and stolen bases (20) to become the first live-ball era player to win both the home run and base-stealing titles. Klein was the N.L.s starting right fielder in the major leagues first All-Star Game in 1933, when he set a record with 200 or more hits for a fifth consecutive season. He won the Triple Crown, leading the league with 28 homers, 120 RBI and a .368 average. Although Klein led the league in five other offensive categories, he finished second in the MVP ballot to pitcher Carl Hubbell of the pennant-winning New York Giants.

Since joining the Phillies, Klein had averaged 36 homers a year, 139 RBI, 229 hits and a .359 batting average. Hed belted six grand slams and twice hed hit for the

cycle. During that period, the Phillies had only one winning season. In November 1933 Philadelphia dealt Klein to the Chicago Cubs, perennial pennant contenders. Klein became the first player to be traded after winning the Triple Crown. In 1934 he got off to a fine start and was again named to the N.L. All-Star team. He suffered a leg injury in July and missed 37 games, finishing with 20 homers and a .301 average as Chicago came in third. The Cubs won the pennant in 1935, but Klein had another sub-par season with 21 homers and a .293 average in 119 games. It was the first time he failed to hit .300 or better. Benched for much of the pennant drive, Kleins home run in Game Five of the World Series led to a 3-0 Cubs victory over Detroit. The Tigers went on to win the Series in six games.

Chicago traded Klein back to the Phillies in May 1936. On July 10, he hit four home runs in a game with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bothered by injuries in 1937, Klein hit 15 homers and averaged .325. In 1938 he averaged .247 with eight home runs. Cut loose by Philadelphia in June 1939, he signed with the Pirates. Klein rejoined the Phillies for a third hitch in 1940. He got into 116 games, hitting .218 with seven homers. From 1941 to 1944 Klein served mostly as a pinch-hitter. He was a player-coach for his last three seasons.

After retiring, Klein operated a Philadelphia tavern. He returned to Indianapolis in 1948, suffering from a debilitating illness aggravated by malnutrition and excessive drinking. He died at age 53 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. Klein was on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years but was passed over each time. The Veterans Committee finally selected him for Cooperstown in 1980. In 1981 he was elected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.

An Indianapolis sports complex was named for him in 1985. In 2000, The Sporting News ranked him No. 92 on its all-time greatest players, while Baseball America listed him as No. 65 that same year. In 2004 the Society for American Baseball Researchs Centennial Celebrity voted Klein the most prominent baseball figure born a hundred years earlier.

From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright © 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the authors permission.