The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which brought most minor leagues and their affiliated teams under the umbrella of Organized Baseball, was formed in September 1901. Over the next several years many ballplayers jumped contracts with teams in Organized Baseball to play in the so-called outlaw leagues, those not included in the National Association. Some players tried to hide their identity by playing under assumed names in the outlaw leagues. Many of them faced expulsion or blacklisting when attempting to re-enter Organized Baseball.
Rudy Kling — whose big-league career consisted of four games for the St. Louis Cardinals in September 1902 — was one of the players who joined the outlaw leagues. However, the infielder was completely aboveboard and honest about his reasons for doing so.
When he jumped to the independent Pacific Coast League in 1903, he said, “It is a question of money with me, and while I would prefer to … remain in the National Association, I figure that I can afford to take the chance in view of the increase in salary I will get and the length of the season. I can play and be paid for eight months in the outlaw league, and I don’t see how I could pass up the proposition. I have considered the outlaw feature, but that don’t deter me, for I have only a few more years in baseball, and I must do the best I can while I retain my ability.”1 Yet as it developed, Kling remained active as a player-manager in the low minors through 1911, when he was aged 41.
Rudolph A. (no full middle name is known) Kling was born March 23, 1870, in St. Louis to Nickolaus and Stephania (Fanny) Kling, both natives of Baden, Germany. He had two older brothers, Charles and Sebastian; two younger brothers, Otto and William; and a younger sister, Maria. As far as can be determined, Rudy Kling was not related to catcher Johnny Kling, a contemporary player in the National League from 1900 to 1913.
Little is known of Kling’s early life other than that he first played professionally with Lima/Mansfield (Ohio) of the Interstate League in 1895. The 5-foot, 10-inch, 178-pound right-handed batter started out as a shortstop, but soon moved to third base (his primary position during most of his career). There are also reports that he played with independent clubs in Williamsport and Carlisle, Pennsylvania,2 before joining Lima. He signed with Cedar Rapids (Iowa) of the Western Association in early 1896 but was released in late April, the only reason given that he was “singularly unfortunate.”3 Nothing more is known of that season other than that he hooked on with an independent team in Chanute, Kansas, in July.4
Kling next played with Little Rock of the Arkansas State League in 1897. He moved on to Charleston (South Carolina) of the Southern League in 1898. There is a gap in Kling’s playing record in Baseball-Reference between 1898 and 1902 (no Sporting News player contract card was found for Kling). There were reports of him playing for independent teams in Olathe, Kansas,5 and Freeport, Illinois,6 before he joined a semipro club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, late in 1899. He remained with Sioux Falls in 1900, and joined Flandreau, South Dakota, the following season. While in South Dakota he played with several future major-leaguers, including Germany Schaefer, Bob Blewett, Charley Moran, and George Starnagle.
Kling returned to organized baseball in 1902, signing with the Terre Haute (Indiana) Hottentots of the Class B Three-I League. In late June it was reported that he was “dissatisfied here over a few criticisms of his playing”7 and left the team to return to St. Louis to engage in the “cider refining business.”8 A few weeks later he rejoined Terre Haute — but on September 20 was signed by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. The circumstances were not reported, only that he was, “picked up by [team owner] Stanley Robison on the recent trip.”9
Kling had a successful major-league debut the next day, September 21, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at Robison Field in St. Louis. In four plate appearances he singled, drew a walk, sacrificed, stole a base, and scored a run, prompting the local press to comment, “He showed himself to be a good waiter when batting, picked out nothing but good balls. … His field play left little to be desired.”10 In the second game of the twin bill, shortened to five innings, Kling went hitless in one official at-bat.
The Cardinals and Reds moved their series to Cincinnati. In Kling’s next appearance, on September 25, he went 1-for-3 with a walk but committed two errors at shortstop. The following day, in what would turn out to be Kling’s last game in the big leagues, he went hitless in four at-bats and booted another chance at short. The Cardinals released him after the season, and this would conclude the major-league career of Kling. In four games he came to the plate 14 times, drawing four walks to go with his two singles. In his four games, all at shortstop, he committed three errors over 33 innings for a dismal .842 fielding percentage.
As a free agent, Kling fielded several offers before agreeing to return to his former team in Terre Haute for the 1903 season. In mid-June he and manager Lew Walters jumped the team when they were offered $275 a month, $100 advance money, and transportation costs by the Oakland club in the then-independent Pacific Coast League.11 Kling’s record in Baseball-Reference indicates that he played in two games for the Oaks, but another source said he appeared in three.12 Regardless how brief his stay in Oakland, soon after his arrival, Kling skipped town in the middle of the night, as did Walters. Team management swore out a complaint for their arrests on the grounds of obtaining money by false pretenses.13
It was initially reported that both men would be blacklisted by Organized Baseball and their case went before Secretary John H. Farrell of the National Association. But, because Farrell did not have any evidence that the players had actually played for Oakland, he returned both to the Terre Haute club, now a member of the Class B Central League.14 Terre Haute immediately sent Kling to Evansville (Indiana), also of the Central League. In August Evansville sold him to Colorado Springs of the Class A Western League.15 Kling did not last long in Colorado either, reportedly being released by the team in early September after committing eight errors in four games.16
One report suggested that Kling had signed with Dubuque (Iowa) of the Three-I League early in 1904, but he did play with the Monroe (Louisiana) Hill Citys of the Class D Cotton States League that season. He returned north in 1905, playing for Springfield (Illinois) of the Class C Western Association. He stayed in the Western Association in 1906, signing with St. Joseph (Missouri) early in the year. Later he moved on to the Wichita (Kansas) Jobbers of the same league. The circumstances surrounding his departure from Wichita were not published, but by late July he was playing on independent teams in his hometown of St. Louis.17 Later that summer he appeared in Mansfield, Ohio.18
In April 1907, Kling was hired as player-manager of Sharon (Pennsylvania) Giants of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League (Class C). However, he resigned at the end of May, citing a leg injury which prevented him from playing in the field.19 He was not unemployed long, signing with Dubuque in mid-June. Possibly still not recovered from his earlier injury, Kling batted just .104 in 37 games for the Dubs before being released in July.
Kling ventured to Arkansas again in 1908 (he had played with Little Rock a decade earlier), accepting the manager’s job with Helena of the Class D Arkansas State League.
Though Kling was still an active player (he had by then moved from shortstop to second base), the Sharon and Helena jobs were the beginning of a series of one-year managerial stints in Class D baseball. He had developed many contacts, particularly in the St. Louis area, over the course of his career. These allowed him to recruit good talent. One of the players Kling brought to Helena was 21-year-old outfielder Walter Schmidt, who later went on to a 10-year career in the National League. Kling also developed a reputation as an excellent judge of talent and a manager who got the most out of his team.20 He was one of the most sought-after skippers in the lower minors in the Midwest.
Kling signed on with Great Bend of the Class D Kansas State League in 1909. After one year at that post, he managed Clarinda (Iowa) to a second-place finish in the newly formed Class D MINK (Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas) League in 1910. He appeared in 90 games for Clarinda, batting .235.
By 1911 Kling had moved on to pilot the Hastings club of the Class D Nebraska State League, but he resigned from that post in late July. He signed on to manage Asheville (North Carolina) of the Class D Appalachian League 1912; again, he relinquished that post in mid-season. His next stop was with Texarkana (Arkansas) of the Class D South Central League
Kling apparently was out of baseball for two years (1913-1914), although he still listed his occupation as “ball player” in the 1913 St. Louis City Directory. He made one more comeback attempt when he agreed to manage McAlester (Oklahoma) of the Western Association (by then ClasS D) early in 1915. At 45 years old, realizing that he was no longer able to play in the field, and with roster limits precluding a non-playing manager, he resigned his position before the season began.21
It is known that Kling returned to his native St. Louis, but details about the rest of hiss life are sparse. One report said that he was an undertaker in the off-season.22 Yet he continued to pursue jobs as a manager of baseball teams. He was rumored to have been hired to run the Lexington, Missouri club in 1917.23 He briefly managed an independent team in Chisholm, Minnesota, in 1920.24 (He listed his occupation as “ball player” and industry as “manager” on the 1920 US Census.) In 1923, he expressed an interest in the Ogden, Utah job.25
Rudy Kling died on March 14, 1937, at the age of 66. He suffered a heart attack. His death certificate lists degenerative heart disease secondary to arteriosclerosis as cause of death. He was buried at Old Saint Marcus Cemetery in St. Louis.
In the middle of his controversial 1903 season in which he jumped from Terre Haute to Oakland and back again, Kling married Edith Carnes in St. Louis.26 The couple never had children of their own, but when Rudy’s younger brother Otto died in 1904, they took in his son — their nephew, also named Otto — and raised him. Edith died in 1942 in Terre Haute. Otto served in the Army Training Corps during World War I and died in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1962.
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rory Costello and checked for accuracy by members of SABR’s fact-checking team.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics from Kling’s playing career are taken from Baseball-Reference.com and genealogical and family history was obtained from Ancestry.com.
The author also used information from clippings in Kling’s file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
1 Decatur (Illinois) Herald & Review, February 1, 1903: 10.
2 “Base Ball Gossip,” York (Pennsylvania) Gazette, January 26, 1896: 1.
3 “Pick Ups,” Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, April 29, 1896: 3.
4 “Late Arrivals,” Chanute (Kansas) Tribune, July 27, 1896: 4.
5 “Blues 18, Olathe 7,” Kansas City Journal, July 13, 1899: 6.
6 “Freeport Baseball Club Shy Three,” Rockford (Illinois) Republic, July 29, 1899: 5.
7 Decatur (Illinois) World, June 27, 1902: 5.
8 Same as above.
9 “Cardinals’ New Player,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 20, 1902: 15.
10 Cardinals Broke Even,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 22, 1902: 4.
11 “Splinters of Sport,” Decatur Herald & Review, June 19, 1903: 8.
12 “No Trace of Kling and Walters,” San Francisco Examiner, June 29, 1903: 4.
13 “Oaklands Again a Crippled Band,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 298, 1903: 36.
14 Rockford (Illinois) Morning Star, August 6, 1903: 2.
15 Colorado Springs Gazette, August 11, 1903: 3.
16 Decatur Herald & Review, September 3, 1903: 8.
17 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 15, 1906: 5.
18 “New Players Signed,” Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal, August 4, 1906: 2.
19 “Kling Resigns,” Mansfield News Journal, May 31, 1907: 1.
20 “Among the Baseball Players,” Hastings (Nebraska) Republican, July 31, 1911: 8.
21 “Kling Quits Job if Manager; Phil Ketter Steps In,” McAlester (Oklahoma) News-Capital, April 15, 1915: 6.
22 Same as above.
23 “New Manager Arrives,” Lexington (Missouri) Intelligencer, April 13, 1917: 1.
24 “Rudy Kling Released as Manager at Chisholm,” Duluth (Minnesota) News-Tribune, August 3, 1920: 8.
25 “Kling Wants to Direct Ogden Club,” Ogden (Utah) Standard Examiner, February 20, 1923: 7.
26 Marriage Licenses,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 22, 1903: 3.