The following is a condensed excerpt from The Best Team Ever, a Novel of America, Chicago and the 1907 Cubs.
Johnny Kling deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was regarded by his contemporaries as the best catcher in the major leagues. Rifle-armed Kling proved a solid hitter, a great defensive catcher, a smart backstop who consistently outguessed hitters, and a remarkably effective receiver/mentor to the Cubs’ pitchers. When young pitchers joined the Cubs, two things happened: they won more games and their ERA’s dropped. Johnny Kling’s role cannot be disputed. Honus Wagner rated him the best catcher ever. Walter Johnson chose two best catchers of all time: Johnny Kling or Bill Dickey.
Anti-semitism may have played a role in keeping Kling out of the Hall of Fame. After his death, wife Lillian (herself Jewish) denied that Johnny was Jewish in a futile effort to help his candidacy. Once she claimed he was a Baptist while years later she said he was a Lutheran.
In 1909, the year that Johnny Kling took off from the Cubs to pursue the billiard championship, he organized a semipro baseball team in Kansas City, “Johnny Kling’s All Stars.” Johnny turned from baseball to a number of business interests after the 1913 season. He purchased the American Association’s Kansas City Blues in 1935, and immediately eliminated the segregated seating policy at the ballclub’s Muehlebach Field.
Johnny Kling passed away in 1947 at age 71, a millionaire.
The Best Team Ever, a Novel of America, Chicago and the 1907 Cubs contains several examples of Johnny Kling’s contribution to the Cubs’ championship culture. Here is another excerpt that strongly supports the inclusion of Johnny Kling in the Baseball Hall of Fame:
Johnny Kling came to the rescue. In the bottom of the sixth, Cobb stood several paces off second base, lusting for third. Joe Tinker tried a recent ploy, screaming to Cobb, “Don’t get too far from the bag or the Jew will nip you!” Cobb flashed a look of contempt at Tinker, allowing Evers to sneak up to second base from behind, while Johnny Kling snapped off a throw to the bag. The play did not work this time, as Cobb scrambled back, safe by a hair. Emboldened by his good fortune, Cobb made off for third in a great burst of speed on the next pitch. Johnny Kling threw a perfect strike to Steinfeldt to nail the Tiger phenom by two feet.
To learn more about Johnny Kling and the rest of the 1907 cubs – get your copy of The Best Team Ever, a Novel of America, Chicago and the 1907 Cubs today!
Johnny Kling on Deck at West Side Grounds