Monday, January 31, 2005


January 31st, 1947

Johnny Kling Dies

Johnny Kling was the catcher for the Cubs' teams that went to four World Series in five years in the late aughts, winning two of them. Kling was above average for each year the Cubs went to the World Series, an impressive feat for a catcher in his late 30s, a time when most have begun to decline. The only season in the period 1906-1910 that the Cubs did not go the World Series was 1909, when Kling wasn't on the team. He had retired prior the 1909 season when in the winter of 1908 he won the World Pocket Billiards Championship and decided to hold out, working on the theory that he could always fall back on his billiards career. When Kling failed to hold the title and discovered that playing for a semi-pro team in Chicago didn't quite pay the bills the way playing for the Cubs did, he returned. He was fined $700 (roughly $15,000 in modern dollars) played for his 1908 salary of $4,500. Although they had not made the World Series, the Cubs had done alright in Kling's absence, winning 104 games, and Kling helped them do so again, and the total proved enough to take the team to the World Series, where they were defeated in five games by the Philadelphia A's.

Early in the 1911 season Kling was traded to the Boston Braves where he served as the starter on a pair of truly miserable Braves' teams, the latter of which Kling also managed. The team lost 101 games (it was actually an improvement, they had lost 107 the year before) and Kling was sold to Cincinnati where his one-time teammate Joe Tinker was manager. Kling played one season for the Reds and retired.

Besides his brief career as Minnesota Fats, Kling is also notable for his long run as holder of the National League stolen base record for catchers, with 23 in 1902 and 1903. Kling held the record for more than seventy-five years until it was broken by John Sterns of the Mets in 1978. Kling has since been dropped to third on the list behind the current record holder, Jason Kendall and his 26 steals in 1998.

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