Clyde Kluttz, veteran catcher on the last winning Griffith team

March 14, 2020

Clyde Kluttz was a backup catcher in the majors for nine seasons, the last two of them with the Washington Senators in 1951 and ’52, the last Griffith team to finish above .500.

After seven years in the National League, Kluttz was sent to the minors by the Pirates after the 1948 season. A good year with the AAA Baltimore team in 1950 earned Luttz cardhim a return to the majors with the St. Louis Browns in 1951. When the Browns released Kluttz in early June, Clark Griffith picked him up. He appeared in 53 games with the Senators and overall produced career-highs in batting at .313 and OBP, .389.

Washington manager Bucky Harris considered Kluttz like an additional coach. “He’s making my job easier…. He’s all business, and I wish I had discovered him 10 years ago,” the veteran skipper said of Kluttz in March 1952.

Indeed, pitcher Bob Porterfield, who won 22 games, threw nine shutouts and was AL Pitcher of the Year as a Senator in 1953, credited Kluttz “for working with him to perfect his change-up,” Warren Corbett wrote in Porterfield’s SABR bio essay.

While with Washington, Kluttz sang in a quartet with Porterfield, Tom Ferrick and Irv Noren. In 1946, with the St. Louis Cardinals, he earned a World Series ring.

Kluttz got off to a solid start in 1952 and was hitting .300 after the games of June 1. But he slumped the rest of the way, spending most of July on the disabled list after an appendectomy. He finished at .229.Washington released him in October.

By no means was Kluttz done with baseball. After a few seasons managing in the minors, he began a scouting career with Kansas City that eventually led to front-office jobs with the Yankees and Orioles. While with the Athletics, he signed a young pitcher who soon became known as “Catfish” Hunter. Later, with the Yankees, he persuaded Hunter to sign as a free agent with New York.

While with the A’s, Kluttz also signed Ken Harrelson, who later played with Senators before helping the 1967 Red Sox to the pennant and later becoming the broadcast voice of the White Sox.

Kluttz developed heart trouble and died at age 61 in 1979 while helping develop Orioles teams that twice made it to the World Series.

During his playing career, Kluttz played for six teams. “Kluttz was shopped around,” sports columnist Jim Murray wrote in 1975, “usually landing on teams that had whole dugouts of Clyde Kluttzes.”

A longer version of this appears as part of the BioProject on SABR.org

 

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