100 Greatest Phillies: 8 – Chuck Klein

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 19, 2009 02:00 PM | Comments: 68
100 Greatest Phillies, Posts


Chuck Klein
1928-1933, 1936-1939, 1940-1944

Career w/Phillies: .326 AVG / 243 HR / 983 RBI / 71 SB

Born in Indianapolis in 1904, Chuck Klein earned the nickname “The Hoosier Hammer.” And boy, was he a ballplayer.

The Phillies luckily received Klein. Bashing the ball in 1928 for the Cardinals’ Fort Wayne, Ind., farm team, Klein was about to reach Saint Louis. But Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered the Cards to relinquish the Fort Wayne team because they had two teams in the same minor league; Klein was out for bidding. Somehow, someway, the Phillies actually outbid the Yankees for Klein; instead of joining Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the Bronx, Klein would become a Phillie legend.

Klein finished 1928 by hitting 11 home runs for the Phillies, and in 1929 he broke out. He slammed 43 homers, drove in 145 and hit .356. In 1930 he hit .386 with 40 bombs and 170 RBI. Consistently among top performers hitting the ball, Klein came down to Earth a little in 1931, merely hitting 31 homers and driving in 121, but both totals led the National League. His .337 average wasn’t good enough to win a Triple Crown. He came close again in a spectacular 1932 season, hitting .348 (3rd), homering 38 times (1st) and driving in 137 runs (2nd), but it would all come together in 1933. (Still, he led the league in steals that year with 20, earning himself a NL MVP award).

In 1933 Klein hit .368 with 28 home runs and 120 runs batted in, all leading the league and earning himself a Triple Crown (but not the MVP award). It would show that Klein benefited greatly from the Baker Bowl’s short right field, as Klein’s numbers decreased considerably upon arrival in Chicago in 1934.

Klein would return to the Phils twice. Between 1936 and ’39 he had a few nice seasons (104 RBI in ’36, .325 in ’37) but nothing near his totals of his glory years. The Phils would release Klein in ’39, but he’d return again in 1940 as a sporadic pinch hitter and platoon player. After a seven-home run campaign in ’40, Klein dwindled to a shell of his former self. He remained in Philadelphia after retiring, running a bar but drinking heavily. He died in 1958 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

And for all the offense Klein exhibited, he was also a strong defensive player, regularly achieving more than 20 assists per season in left field. As far as all-around ballplayers are concerned, Klein was one of the best early ones.

Comment: I wrestled with the ordering of Klein and No. 7 on the list, so they could go either way. I took points off Klein for evaporating so quickly upon his first return to Philadelphia; he truly got help from his ballpark. Still, he was a prodigious player and deserves a top 10 ranking.

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Tim Malcolm has written 1948 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Wait, I get it now…okay. So, because Wagner isn’t as good as Ozzie Smith defensively then that doesn’t make him best all around. Willie Mays is the best 5 tool player of all time, how is he not the best CF of all time? There wasn’t a better offensive or defensive CF than him. There were a few that were faster but that’s about it.

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Oh, and btw…Mike Schmidt wasn’t the best all around because Brooks Robinson was better defensively.

  • Posts: 0 Lewisauce

    The Schmidt bashers are all on crack. He is widely considered by all analysts, experts, and people who have a freakin’ clue to be the best third-baseman of all time.

    Fun fact: when you eliminate the admitted/caught/obvious steroid users/cheaters (Bonds, Palmiero, Maguire, Sosa-the-corker, A-Rod), Schmidt is still the No. 8 home-run hitter of all-time. How can you argue with that?

  • Posts: 0 From Section 113

    People, you do realize when Schmidt retired he was easily in the top 10 in HRs of all time? He won 10 gold gloves! 10!

    I think Schmidt’s clearly better than Brett, but we sill are comparing 2 HOFers, it’s not like anyone is knocking Brett.

    **Also, I cannot decide what to do with ALexander. I think he was the best player ever for the Phills but doesn’t have the longevity as Schmidt and Carlton do. I wish he just played 2 more yrs as a PHilly because then I think he would hands down be #1. Still I think ALexander has a shot at being #1. His 1915 season is unbelievable.

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Schmidt openly said he did amphetamines during his career. Although they aren’t roids it is still a performance enhancer. It is speculated that Aaron did them too and Mays did greenies. Babe Ruth used to eat animal testicles back in the day so that he could get extra testosterone and a lot of players were corking their bats back then too. People cheated throughout every generation, these guys just got caught doing an illegal substance.

  • Posts: 0 rob

    “Those uniforms are boss. Easily the best in franchise history. I’d advocate for the Phils to go back to the old-English “P,” but I don’t mind the new alternates at all.”

    Except that same P was retired in honor of Chuck Klein in favor of retiring the half dozen numbers he wore. I’d like having the Old English P back too… except we don’t need another curse on our hands ;)

  • Posts: 0 Justin

    Tim, the Phils brought back the old fashioned English P I believe in 94 and not too many people liked it, just because of how plain the uniform and logo were that’s why it never lasted, just like for whatever reason the blue hat and red P didn’t last long even though I think that a little more blue in the uniform would be awesome. Their blue BP jerseys look amazing with the rest of the uniform that i think they could turn that into an alternate jersey or an away jersey.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    “Schmidt openly said he did amphetamines during his career. Although they aren’t roids it is still a performance enhancer. It is speculated that Aaron did them too and Mays did greenies. Babe Ruth used to eat animal testicles back in the day so that he could get extra testosterone and a lot of players were corking their bats back then too. People cheated throughout every generation, these guys just got caught doing an illegal substance.”

    I’ve been saying that since this witch hunt began… it’s not like PED’s just broke out on the scene. MLB just decided to stop them from being used…

    I took this from something that I wrote about steroids…

    Synthetically-produced testosterone has been around since the 1930s. In the 1940′s, testosterone was hailed as the next “wonder drug,” partially due to a medical publication, The Male Hormone, by Paul de Kruif, and the drug was knowingly used by body builders and weight lifters.

    We didn’t hear a lot about steroids for the next 30 years, but it’s becoming pretty clear that the game was not as pure as many believed it was.

    Former Major League pitcher Tom House, a teammate of Hank Aaron in the late 1960s, has been one of the first to confirm that he and several teammates were taking steroids. In May 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that House said, “I pretty much popped everything cold turkey. We were doing steroids they wouldn’t give to horses. That was the ’60s, when nobody knew. The good thing is, we know now. There’s a lot more research and understanding.”

    More and more players from every sport are coming out: In the NFL, the San Diego Chargers teams of the 1960s have openly admitted that steroids were a regular facet of their training regiment, prescribed and overseen by the team trainers.

    The anti-steroid movement only truly began in the 1970s, as steroids became banned substances by the Olympics and several collegiate and professional sports.

    Baseball, however, was not one of the sports that banned steroids.

    That didn’t happen until 1991… kind of. That was when Fay Vincent sent out a memo telling owners that steroids were banned and that suspected players were to be confronted and tested.

    Zero players were confronted and zero players were tested.

    The “random” and “anonymous” sample of 2003 was the tipping point… Canseco’s allegations undoubtedly stirred the pot and ultimately charged the movement for more rigorous testing. In the end, it’s pretty clear that PED’s have been around for much longer than we were led to believe and it’s almost certain that there are people in the HOF that took PED’s during their careers.

    You can’t blame the players… you can’t keep them out of the hall. Bud Selig has proven himself a coward by turning his back on his players and outing them. If he had any scruples, he would step up, take the blame and protect his players… the worst commissioner in all of sports.

  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    Oh good, the Schmidt arguments are starting already.

    First off, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t really believe in clutch hitting, but let’s pretend it exists; let’s further pretend that there’s some Phillie out there who’s better at it than Schmidt. That may be possible, but you’re going to have to prove it.

    I’m not sure where the Bake McBride comparison comes from, but using the “late and close” stats (career for Bake–I’m lazy today) you get:


    BA .282 OBP .329 SLG .361 OPS .691 BAbip .311 tOPS+ 81

    RISP w/2 outs
    BA .271 OBP .342 SLG .391 OPS .733 BAbip .297 tOPS+ 92


    BA .267 OBP .386 SLG .504 OPS .890 BAbip .289 tOPS+ 97

    RISP w/2 outs
    BA .251 OBP .410 SLG .495 OPS .905 BAbip .271 tOPS+ 102

    By the way, BAbip is “batting avg for balls in play”, and more importantly, tOPS+ is a metric that basically measures how close a player is to his overall performance. In other words, in late and close situations Bake is only 81% of his “normal” self, while Schmidt is 97%. Bake’s performance in these situations clearly declines more than Schmidt’s. Schmidt actually “improves” with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. Is it possible to get more than 100? Of course, if you’re outperforming. George Brett, for instance, gets a tOPS+ of 103. Horribly, for a Yankee-hater like me, Mickey Mantle seems to lead with a mind-numbing 122 in late and close situations. One of my heroes, Willie Stargell leads the RISP w/2 outs charts with an eye-popping 125.

    So fine, Schmidt in certain “clutch” situations declines a teeny bit compared to his overall performance. So that means that opposing teams can be comforted by the fact that they’re facing a player at “only” 97% of his normal HOF standard. Of course, he actually gets better with RISP and two outs.

    All in all, Schmidt in clutch situations is still Schmidt, no more and no less. He’s remarkably consistent.

  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    @ Mike Cardone

    Warm up the cheesesteak! By the way I’m a Jim’s man.

    Daulton, 2 outs w/RISP

    BA .227 OBP .394 SLG .390 OPS .784 BAbip .259 tOPS+ 102

    Schmidt crushes Daulton, as should be expected. Daulton raises his game a little in this situation, but his game’s not that good to begin with, so big deal.

    Kruk is more interesting (career stats, ’cause I’m lazy):

    BA .309 OBP .454 SLG .465 OPS .919 BAbip .359 tOPS+ 119

    Really outstanding numbers for Kruk, and they would be even better if they were just his stats with the Phils. He’s got game, and he raises it significantly in this situation. Kruk’s average is better than Schmidt’s, as you’d expect, but Schmidt outslugs him (by a lot), as I’d expect.

    Still, I’d argue Schmidt is better. His at bat per home run ratio is 16.3, Kruk’s is 34.7, so Schmidt is going yard more than twice as often. His at bat per RBI ratio is also better, 2.7 to Kruk’s 2.5, so a bit more productive there, too. Schmidt’s performance is also spread over a career that encompasses more than twice as many at bats as Kruk. I think it’s pretty unlikely that Kruk could maintain his numbers over a career as long as Schmidt’s, so they’d drop off as his skills eroded, which they would have given his lack of fitness. In the end, Kruk’s more likely to get on base, Schmidt’s more likely to drive a man in. Which do you want in this situation?

    Remember, Jim’s. No onions.

  • Posts: 0 jhs

    On Alex vs. Carlton and longevity:

    Sandy Koufax (165-87, 131 ERA+) pitched 2324.3 innings for the Dodgers; Grover Cleveland Alexander (190-91, 140 ERA+ with Phils) pitched 2513.7 innings for the Phils. I don’t think that Dodgers fans would seriously argue that, say, Don Sutton (233-181, 3816.3 IP), was a greater pitcher than Koufax simply because he won more games/pitched more innings (about 1500 more), etc., than Koufax. Likewise, while Carlton certainly had a great career with the Phils, his numbers simply pale in comparison to Alex’s numbers. Example? In 1915-1917, Alex went 94-35, with an ERA+ around 182 and a win% around .729 – numbers pretty much identical to Carlton’s 1972 season. Except that Alex did it for three consecutive seasons, and 1100+ IP, and Carlton did it once, for about 345 innings (and was basically a league-average pitcher in 1971 and 1973 overall, according to ERA+). Alex AVERAGED 28+ wins per season during his Phils career! Alex threw 36 CG shutouts between in 1915-1917, only 3 fewer than Lefty threw for his entire career with the Phils.

  • Posts: 0 jhs

    Couple corrections to my last post: Alex averaged 27+ wins per season, and the Sutton numbers are for his career with the Dodgers only.

  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    @ Ed R.
    Your posts are energetic. You have persuaded me to give more attention to the quantification of “Clutch”.

    @ Fans of the 1964 team
    I posted a story about the base running of Roy Sievers in the Sherry Magee thread. He was thrown out trying for an inside the park home run against the Reds & Joe Nuxhall in Connie Mack in the bottom of the 6th on 5/10/1964. The legend is he collapsed from exhaustion between third and home. Baseball-Reference is wonderful.

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Hey look, people into SABRmetrics. I’m just getting into this stuff and it is fascinating.

  • Posts: 0 J-Mills

    I rank Klein’s 1930 season as the 4th best offensive season ever. 250 hits, 158 runs, 59 doubles, 40 homeruns, 170 rbis, .386 ave. and an unbelievable 445 toal bases. I had him no. 6 on my list. There is no way Dick Allen should be ahead of Chuck! I asked Bill Conlin about Klein and why his career when down so fast and he said Klein became an alcoholic while he was playing. Conlin also said the phillies got rid of him because of finances.

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  • Posts: 0 Phil

    How did Bo Diaz not make it

  • Posts: 0 twitter

    Cool Site, thanks for the info!!

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