The Phillies and one of their greatest players of all-time parted ways on this date, 75 years ago.

Chuck Klein spent a total of 15 years with the Phillies and played four other seasons in other cities. The all-time Phillies great made his way to the Hall of Fame, when he was inducted by the Veteran's Committee in 1980.

Chuck Klein got used to leaving Philadelphia. He also got used to coming back to Philadelphia. The sweet-swinging right fielder played in Philadelphia on three different occasions, being traded away once, reacquired in a trade once, and released twice by the franchise during his career. On January 12, 1942, the Phillies released Klein and he sat out much of the season, until he was re-signed by the Phillies on August 7th of that year.

Klein's first stint with the Phillies came in late July, 1928 when he was traded from Fort Wayne of the Central League to Philadelphia for Harvey MacDonald. The day after the trade, manager Burt Shotton put Klein into the starting lineup and he quickly showed what he could do with a bat when he doubled in three at-bats and quickly became a fixture in the lineup for a team that was desperate for any kind of offense. As a 23-year old rookie, Klein hit .360 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 275 plate appearances in 1928. Klein followed that up with a 43 home run season in 1929 and hit .356 that year, despite slumping through much of the early part of the season. At the time, Klein's 43 home runs were a National League record and earned Klein the nickname of "Babe Ruth of the National League."

After getting a nice raise to $15,000 for the 1930 season, Klein put together one of the greatest seasons of all-time, with two 26-game hitting streaks to his credit on the year and was hitting .413 in early August as he looked to finish the year above the lofty .400 mark. Klein leveled off, although still hit well in August and September, his season average dropped to .386 on the season and he fell short of his predicted 50 home runs, finishing with "just" 40.

Klein amazingly finished second in the inaugural MVP Award balloting in 1931, but he continued to pound the ball, but the financial fortunes of the team took a huge hit when attendance was cut almost in half by the Great Depression. Not only was the team bad on the field, but they were even worse on the balance sheets and were nearly bankrupt. Owner Gerald Nugent unloaded Klein to pay off bills, trading him to the Cubs for shortstop Mark Koenig, outfielder Harvey Hendrick, pitcher Ted Kleinhans and $65,000 in cash.

The Phillies were financially saved, but were now even worse of a team without Klein on the roster.

Klein adjusted well to playing in Chicago and was putting up good numbers when an injury ruined his season. He attempted to play with a torn muscle in his leg, but eventually missed time, but still hit .301 with 20 home runs playing much of the season on a leg that not only bothered him that season, but into the next season as well. 

In 1936, the Cubs returned Klein to Philly when he got off to a sub-par start, dealing him to the Phillies along with Fabian Kowalik for Ethan Allen and Curt Davis in May of that season. With Jimmie Wilson now managing the Phillies, Klein was back in the starting lineup, Klein turned things around and looked like the same player that the team had traded away four years earlier. Klein had a four home run game against Pittsburgh and just missed having a fifth in a July game at Forbes Field. Klein again put up good numbers, but the Phillies were still a pretty bad team and finished with 100 losses and 38 games behind the Giants.

1938 presented a challenge for Klein as the team - in mid-season - moved from the Baker Bowl, which was crumbling around them, to Shibe Park. The right field fence was 50 feet deeper at Shibe than it was in the Baker Bowl, leaving Klein with a new obstacle to conquer. The new ballpark combined with the slowly shrinking skills of Klein led to the worst season of Klein's career when he finished with just eight home runs, 61 RBI and hit just .247 for the Phillies. The next season was even worse and the Phillies released Klein in June. He latched on with Pittsburgh in mid-season and slowly began to hit better with an everyday spot in the lineup. Klein put together a 21-game hitting streak that bumped his average from .225 to .316 with the Pirates. He came back to Earth, but still hit .300 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI.

When Klein was eventually released by Pittsburgh, the Phillies took him back for the 1940 season, but he was nothing near the player he had been earlier in his career. Klein finished with just 73 at-bats in 1940, which would be more than he would have in any one season over the rest of his career, which came to an end in 1944. In 1941, Klein was a utility player, but managed to hit his 300th career home run, the only home run that he would hit that year.

The Phillies released Klein in January of '42, but he stayed with the team as a coach. He was reactivated as a player in August, but would play just 30 more games from then until the end of his career in 1944. He continued to coach until the end of the 1945 season before retiring from that role as well. 

From there, Klein became a bar owner in Philadelphia, but that would last only a couple of years. Klein, decimated by a disease that affected his central nervous system, went back to his hometown of Indianapolis, where he died in March of 1958 at just 53 years of age. The cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage.

For years, there was a debate over whether or not Klein was worthy of the Hall of Fame. It looked like he would never be enshrined, but a Philadelphia school teacher - Edward "Dutch" Doyle started a letter writing campaign to get Klein into the Hall of Fame. A family member and other fans also started campaigns on Klein's behalf and in 1979, the Veteran's Committee considered Klein, but didn't vote him in. The following March, just as the Phillies were preparing for what would be a World Series Championship season, Klein was voted in by the committee and inducted in ceremonies later in 1980.

Chuck Klein's career stats

YearTmGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOBAOBPSLG
1928 PHI 64 253 41 91 14 4 11 34 14 22 .360 .396 .577
1929 PHI 149 616 126 219 45 6 43 145 54 61 .356 .407 .657
1930 PHI 156 648 158 250 59 8 40 170 54 50 .386 .436 .687
1931 PHI 148 594 121 200 34 10 31 121 59 49 .337 .398 .584
1932 PHI 154 650 152 226 50 15 38 137 60 49 .348 .404 .646
1933 ? PHI 152 606 101 223 44 7 28 120 56 36 .368 .422 .602
1934 ? CHC 115 435 78 131 27 2 20 80 47 38 .301 .372 .510
1935 CHC 119 434 71 127 14 4 21

73

41 42 .293 .355 .488
1936 TOT 146 601 102 184 35 7 25 104 49 59 .306 .358 .512
1936 CHC 29 109 19 32 5 0 5 18 16 14 .294 .384 .477
1936 PHI 117 492 83 152 30 7 20 86 33 45 .309 .352 .520
1937 PHI 115 406 74 132 20 2 15 57 39 21 .325 .386 .495
1938 PHI 129 458 53 113 22 2 8 61 38 30 .247 .304 .356
1939 TOT 110 317 45 90 18 5 12 56 36 21 .284 .357 .486
1939 PHI 25 47 8 9 2 1 1 9 10 4 .191 .333 .340
1939 PIT 85 270 37 81 16 4 11 47 26 17 .300 .361 .511
1940 PHI 116 354 39 77 16 2 7 37 44 30 .218 .304 .333
1941 PHI 50 73 6 9 0 0 1 3 10 6 .123 .229 .164
1942 PHI 14 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .071 .071 .071
1943 PHI 12 20 0 2 0 0 0 3 0 3 .100 .100 .100
1944 PHI 4 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .143 .143 .143
17 Yrs 1753 6486 1168 2076 398 74 300 79 601 521 .320 .379 .543
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2017.


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