Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't Blink, or You'll Miss It

In this undated wire photo, Milwaukee fastballer Robert George Kline, Junior is captured in mid-pitch, the ball just beginning its half-second journey to the plate. This picture is one of a series taken by photographer Frank J. Scherschel for the Milwaukee Journal using new equipment to seemingly freeze time and give the viewer a new look at the national pastime.

Bob is pictured wearing one of the classic 1940s-era Brewers uniforms, with the piping and classic block "M". This one appears to have red piping and a blue M, although the Brews also wore a version of this uniform with the colors reversed.

The caption reads:

With the use of stroboscopic light, which permits exposures at 1/100,000ths of a second, this picture reveals the way a ball leaves the hand of the pitcher. The action was frozen before the arm and shoulder followed through. The picture, made by Frank J. Scherschel of the Milwaukee Journal, shows Bob Kline, of the Milwaukee Brewers in action.
Kline's career in Milwaukee was almost as brief - we know the photo was taken some time in 1940, as that was his sole season in a Brewer uniform, earning an 8-5 record and a 3.78 ERA over 112 innings.

Kline had previously pitched for five seasons in the American League, mostly with Boston. He is notable for being the opposing pitcher during the last game in which Babe Ruth's took the mound, on the final day of the 1933 season - the Babe pitched a complete game, including seven shutout innings, and hit a home run. Kline took the loss.

In December of that year, Kline was part of a blockbuster trade when the powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics traded Rube Walberg, Max Bishop and future Hall of Famer Lefty Grove to the Red Sox for Kline, Rabbit Warstler and $125,000 cash.

His stay in the City of Brotherly Love was to be achingly short - Philadelphia sent him to the Washington Senators before the end of his first season. Kline spent the last few games of 1934 in Washington before closing out his career with nine seasons in the minors. Five of those years were in Buffalo, the first three of them under manager Ray Schalk (himself a former Brewer) before Bob came to the Cream City for his single campaign.

Four days into the 1940 season, and his Brewers career, Kline injured his knee. It hampered him all season, but he was still one of only two Brewers selected to play in the 1940 American Association All-Star game.

Kline had knee surgery in the fall of 1940 and came into Spring Training ready to win a spot on the roster. The Brews weren't convinced, and sold him to Minneapolis in late April of 1941.

He remained with the Millers for a year and change before leaving baseball in 1942. I don't know where he went from there. Ordinarily (giving the timing) you'd have to suspect that he found himself in olive drab, but perhaps his "bum knee" could have kept him out of the Army.

Wherever he was in the interim, Bob Kline returned to the field in 1946 to pitch one-third of an inning for the Class D Marion Cardinals before becoming a manager in the Cardinals organization. He died in 1987 in his native Ohio, about a hundred miles from the town in which he was born.

Such is the transient life of a ballplayer: another season, another uniform. But for that 1/100,000th of a second in 1940, as the shutter clicked and the ball left his hand, Bob Kline was a Milwaukee Brewer through and through.

No comments:

Post a Comment