The Klein Chocolate Company Baseball Team’s Remarkable 1919 Season

This article was written by Russ Walsh

This article was published in Fall 2022 Baseball Research Journal

Before starting the Klein Chocolate Company, the Klein brothers worked for Hershey, including the Hershey baseball team. William Klein in street clothes at left. Frederick is in uniform, third from left. (Author's collection)


Chocolatier William Klein Sr. of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, had a problem. The year was 1918. Soldiers were returning from the war in Europe. Klein was looking to expand to a national market for his “Lunch Bar,” a three-cent candy bar that was in direct competition with the chocolate bars produced by Milton Hershey at his factory just ten miles away. The Klein Lunch Bar would be familiar to returning soldiers, because Klein, like Hershey, had landed a contract with the armed services to include his Lunch Bars in rations distributed to soldiers overseas.1 Klein wanted to build on this familiarity and make the Lunch Bar a staple of the American home.

Like many companies of the day, Klein advertised in newspapers, but display ads were expensive and did not provide the kind of exposure that could make a product a household name. Klein—in concert with his brother and partner in the business, Frederick—decided to attract copious amounts of attention by fielding a highly competitive independent professional baseball team. They would attract the very best players by offering both a steady job in the chocolate factory and a chance to play baseball in the summer.2 In a time when even the top levels of professional baseball provided skimpy salaries and no employment beyond the summer months, the offer would prove attractive to many top-level ball players.

The scheme worked. In 1919 the Kleins fielded one of the finest independent professional baseball teams in the country.3 The team would win more than 80 percent of its games and compile a 7–4 record against major league competition. The exploits of the team were chronicled in newspapers across the country and every time the Klein Chocolate Company team was mentioned in the press, the brothers garnered plenty of publicity for their candy bars.


William and Frederick Klein were born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to German immigrant parents. The boys helped to support the family by selling newspapers and, during holidays, German chocolate eggs made in the family’s kitchen. Local caramel company owner Milton Hershey, a man with a lifelong fascination for the milk chocolate he had tasted at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago, hired the Klein boys as apprentices. Hershey brought the boys with him when he moved his company from Lancaster to Derry Township, in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. There he built his famous chocolate factory, and there Frederick and William became his trusted assistants.4

While working for Hershey, William, a huge baseball fan, convinced his boss to sponsor a company baseball team to provide the chocolate factory workers some pleasurable recreation after long hours in the factory. William managed the team. Frederick played in the infield.5

By 1912, William and Frederick were ready to strike out on their own. They started the Klein Chocolate Company in a small shop on Market Street in nearby Elizabethtown. After about one year, with the support of investors, the Kleins had begun construction of a larger manufacturing facility.6 Also, of course, they established a company baseball team that competed against other local teams.7

By 1918, though, William Klein decided he needed not just any baseball team, but one that could win against the very best competition.8 He noted that major league teams passed right through Elizabethtown when they travelled on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. If he could field a winning team, perhaps he could convince the major league teams to stop in Elizabethtown to play exhibitions against them, and the ensuing coverage in the press would provide a promotional boon to his fledgling company.

Klein wrote to every major league team inviting them to stop in Elizabethtown to play an exhibition game on their way through town. He promised to put the team up for the night, buy their dinners, and share the ticket profits with the visiting teams.9 At a time when many major league teams were barely breaking even financially, a chance to earn a little more money was appealing, and several teams agreed.


Klein then needed to assemble a competitive team. His first step was to hire former major league pitcher John Brackenridge, who lived in nearby Harrisburg, as manager.10 Klein told Brackenridge to recruit the best ballplayers he could find for the team. While Brackenridge combed the area, Klein set out to construct a first-class ball field on the Poplar Street grounds adjacent to his factory.11 The way the ballpark was laid out, a batter could take aim at the factory smokestacks looming in the distance. There was a large, modern grandstand, but no outfield fence. Conoy Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, formed a natural outfield barrier.

Among the first players Brackenridge signed were pitcher Hank “Big Bill” Ritter, slugging first baseman Tony Walsh, catcher Irvin “Bugs” Trout, pitcher/ outfielder George Hunter, and outfielders Charles Babbington and Earl Potteiger.12 Ritter had pitched parts of four seasons in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants and had attended both Juniata and Albright Colleges in the central Pennsylvania area. Walsh. a veteran of both the minor leagues and several local semi-pro teams, was noted for his extra-base power. Trout was an experienced backstop who had played several years with Toronto in the International League. George Hunter was a 10-year veteran of the New York State League (NYSL) and Southern Association, who had played one season with the Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers) in the major leagues. Babbington was another veteran of the NYSL. Potteiger, from nearby Pottstown, had spent several years in the New England League.

Pitcher Walter Harned, infielders Addie Berger, Russ Wrightstone, and Glenn Killinger, and outfielders “Babe” Brown and Henry “Hinkey” Haines were soon added to the squad.13 Harned was a veteran of six seasons in the NYSL and would prove to be a key member of the Kleins pitching staff. Wrightstone was a local hitting legend who had played for other industrial teams in the area. Killinger was a student and star athlete at Penn State. Brown had been a minor leaguer 1902–04.14 Hinkey Haines was a 19-year-old collegian from Lebanon Valley College, who had interrupted his schooling to serve in the Army during the war. Other players with similar profiles would join the team from time to time as the season went on.


The Klein Chocolate Company team played their first game against the local Ephrata team on May 25, 1919, at Ephrata. The starting lineup was Hunter in left field, Killinger at short, Wrightstone at third base, Walsh at first base, Haines in right field, Berger at second base, Brown in center field, and Trout catching. Ritter and Harned shared pitching duties. The Kleins won, 15–8. Killinger, Walsh, and Brown each had three hits.15

On Friday, May 30, the Klein Chocolate Company opened its new ballpark in Elizabethtown. The opponent was the Motive Power team, a company team from Harrisburg sponsored by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Games were played in the morning and afternoon. At the afternoon game, to celebrate the new field a flag was raised and music was provided by the local Palmyra town band.16 In these two games the Klein team gave notice that they would be a force to be reckoned with. Motive Power, recognized as one of the better teams in the area, fell by scores of 15–3 and 13–0. Killinger hit two home runs and Walsh hit one. Wrightstone, who formerly had played for Motive Power, had five hits in the doubleheader. William Klein presented Killinger and Walsh with boxes of Klein Almond Bars as rewards for their home runs. Thus began a tradition of rewarding home runs with boxes of Klein Chocolate, always dutifully reported upon in the newspapers.17

The Klein Chocolate team breezed to five more wins against local competition and then left on June 19 for a four-day road trip to see the Philadelphia A’s host the Detroit Tigers and to play games of their own in Newark, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Lancaster. The team returned home undefeated. They took down the Newark Charms Candy team, a reported professional powerhouse, 3–2.18 Their most impressive win yet was a defeat of the highly regarded Strawbridge and Clothier team in Philadelphia, 5–1, behind Ritter’s pitching and Walsh’s long three-run home run in the ninth inning. “The Strawbridge and Clothier team thought we were a bunch of rubes from upstate,” reported manager Brackenridge, “but when they saw we played big-league ball you never did see such a change in a mob of fans.”19 The Kleins finished the road trip with a win over the Eighth Ward team in Lancaster.20

The Klein team lost their first game of the season on June 26, falling to the Parkesburg Iron Works team, 6–5, in 16 innings.21 Several more easy victories over local teams followed and then on July 5, William Klein made a big announcement that received coverage in all the local papers: The Philadelphia Athletics had been engaged to play an exhibition on July 23, which would be played at Harrisburg’s Island Park to accommodate the anticipated large crowd.22


Klein constructed a grand- stand and playing field on the Poplar Street grounds adjacent to the chocolate factory, with the field ori- ented so the smokestacks were visible beyond the outfield. (Elizabethtown Historical Society)



Before the big game, some changes occurred to the Klein roster. First baseman Tony Walsh signed with a team in Larksville and left. Shortstop Killinger returned to Penn State. “Babe” Brown also left to play for other local teams. In response to these defections, Brackenridge signed former St. Louis Browns player Dick Kauffman, a native of nearby Lewistown, to replace Walsh. Veteran catcher/third baseman Frank Brannon, a Wilkes-Barre resident, jumped from the Shreveport team in the Texas League to replace Killinger. Bill Kay, a 41-year-old former Washington National and longtime minor leaguer, replaced Brown in the outfield. Brackenridge also signed a new pitcher from the Reading team of the Allison-Hill League, Clyde Mellinger, who had starred for the local Shippensburg College team for four years. Also new to the lineup was 39-year-old infielder Bill Cranston. Cranston, who had had a 12-year career in the minors, would become a key member of the team.

A crowd estimated at between 4,000 and 6,000 crammed every corner of the Harrisburg Athletic Club field on Island Park at 3:45 on July 23 to see Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics square off against the Klein Chocolate team.23 Mack brought a team of mostly starting players with him. Stars Amos Strunk and Tillie Walker were in the outfield. Fred Thomas was at third base. Bench players like Dick Burrus and Terry Turner filled out the lineup. Regular starting catcher Cy Perkins was playing shortstop, while coach Paddy Livingston did the catching. On the mound for the A’s was Tom Rogers, who was a semi-regular part of the starting rotation.

Walter Harned pitched for Klein Chocolate. The A’s pushed across single runs in the second and seventh to lead, 2–0, going into the eighth. In the eighth inning, the Kleins got to Rogers for four runs on five consecutive hits, including a George Hunter double. Harned shut the A’s down in the ninth and the victory went to Klein Chocolate, 4–2. Harned allowed only four hits to the major leaguers, while the Klein hitters managed eight hits off Rogers. Newspapers from as far away as Pittsburgh and New York City carried reports of the surprising Klein victory.24 William Klein got publicity for his candy and Connie Mack and his A’s got roasted.25


August saw the Klein Chocolate team continue their domination of local clubs and defeat a travelling contingent, the Baltimore Dry Docks team, 5–4, before a large, enthusiastic crowd at Island Park in Harrisburg.26 On August 11, the team split a Sunday doubleheader against Ephrata, falling, 2–0, and winning, 3–2, to run their season record to 34–6.27 Meanwhile the entire region was abuzz with the news that the St. Louis Cardinals—with stars Rogers Hornsby and Jack Smith, as well as local boy Clifton Heathcote—would be coming to town to play the Klein team.28 The game was scheduled for Tuesday, August 12.

An estimated crowd of 5,000 crammed the Island Park field for the game against the Cardinals.29 Manager Branch Rickey sent out a team of mostly regular players, including Hornsby, Smith, and Heathcote, to face the Klein team, although he did start pitcher Frank Woodward in left field. Oscar Tuero was the Cardinals hurler. Mellinger started the game for the Klein team, but he did not last long. After an error by Wrightstone at third base, the Cardinals cracked out two doubles and a single, scoring three runs, and Mellinger was replaced by Harned. The Cards plated two more runs before Harned could put out the fire. Down five runs before they even came to bat, the Klein team responded by steadily eating away at the Cardinals lead, while Harned tamed the St. Louis bats. The “Chocolate Boys” scored two runs in the fourth, two in the sixth, and two more in the seventh to win the game, 6–5. They were helped along by six Cardinals errors. Wrightstone led the Klein team with three hits, while Kauffman drove in two runs.30


On August 18, the Klein team was back at Island Park to play a barnstorming independent Negro team, the Bacharach Giants from Atlantic City. The Bacharach Giants featured some of the finest players in the country including pitcher Dick “Cannonball” Redding, speedster Spot Poles, slugging first baseman Ben Taylor, and shortstop/manager John Henry “Pop” Lloyd. The Kleins could manage only four hits off Redding, and fell to the visitors from Atlantic City, 2–1.31 The Bacharach Giants proved to be the toughest of opponents for the Kleins. Two weeks after this defeat, Klein Chocolate visited the Bacharach Giants in Atlantic City for a weekend series and dropped two games by the scores of 1–0 and 3–2.32 Veteran star Frank Wickware pitched the Giants to victory in the second game. It appeared that the fine Klein Chocolate team had met its match and then some against the Bacharach Giants.


On August 29, a throng estimated at 8,000 crammed the stands and rimmed the outfield at Island Park to see the Klein Chocolate team take on the National League-leading Cincinnati Reds. The field was so packed with spectators that special ground rules needed to be instituted for the fans lining the outfield.33 Cincinnati manager Pat Moran fielded a team studded with stars, including local favorite Jake Daubert from Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Sherry Magee in left and future Hall of Famer Edd Roush in center, as well as starting third baseman Heinie Groh and right fielder Greasy Neale. Lefty Rube Bressler did the pitching. Walter Harned was on the mound for the Kleins. The Reds reached Harned for single runs in the first, third, fifth, and ninth, in part due to two errors by shortstop Frank Brannon. The Kleins were held off the board by Bressler until the ninth when they scored three runs, thanks in part to doubles by Wrightstone and Brannon, to make the game close. George Hunter had three hits for the Klein team. The final was St. Louis 4, Klein Chocolate 3.34

Mired in a team hitting slump, the Kleins lost their fourth straight game at home to a Bethlehem Steel team led by former and future Philadelphia Phillies lefthander, Stan Baumgartner, 1–0.35 The team’s hitting form returned with a string of wins against weaker local competition, however. The Lancaster News Journal noted that third baseman Russ Wrightstone was emerging as “the best slugger in this neck of the woods.”36

On September 8, the Klein team held a rematch with Connie Mack’s Athletics at Island Field. Before traveling to Harrisburg for the game, the Kleins won a morning game at home against the semi-pro Middle-town, Pennsylvania, team.37 Walter Harned was again chosen to pitch against the A’s for the “Lunch Bars.” Harned scattered nine hits and two runs in earning the easy 8–2 victory. Wrightstone contributed an inside-the-park home run. The Lancaster News Journal called the game, “too one-sided to be very interesting.”38

After the Athletics game, the Lunch Bars went on another run of victories against semi-pro teams in the region including Williamsport, Bloomsburg, Ephrata, and Nanticoke. A return match with the strong Parkesburg Iron Works nine ended in controversy. With the game being played in a steady rain in the late innings, manager Brackenridge appealed to have the game called off with his team ahead, 3–1. The Parkesburg manager refused, so Brackenridge grabbed the ball, threw it over the fence and pulled his team off the field. Two Parkesburg runners, on base at the time, came around to score. Each team then filed a final score with the newspapers, the Klein team declaring victory and the Parkesburg team calling it a draw. The Lancaster News-Journal carried both line scores.39


During the week of September 22, the Klein team would play four games against major-league competition and win three of them. First up were the Brooklyn “Robins,” as the team was often called in those days in deference to their revered manager Wilbert Robinson. The Robins were traveling to Philadelphia by train after defeating the National League champion Reds in Cincinnati, 3–1, on Sunday, September 21. On Monday, September 22, they stepped off the train in Elizabethtown and walked across the street to the Poplar Grounds ballpark to meet the Klein aggregation. They got back on the train a few hours later, having been handed a 2–1 defeat at the hands of the Lunch Bars. Recently signed York, Pennsylvania, native Norman Plitt pitched for the Brackenridge nine. Plitt had pitched briefly for the Brooklyn team in 1918, and he was out to show them what they were missing, as he gave up seven hits and just one seventh inning run, to a team that included future Hall of Famer Zack Wheat, and stars including Hi Myers, Ed Konetchy, and Ivy Olson. “Bugs” Trout had two hits and drove in the winning run for the Kleins.40

On September 24, the Klein bunch traveled to nearby Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to play the Washington Nationals at Dickinson College. The Nats were on their way to Boston after dropping four games to the Indians in Washington. The crowd of 3,000 that turned out included a contingent of soldiers from the Carlisle Barracks and wounded troops from World War 1 who were recovering at the base’s military hospital.41 Free Klein Almond Bars were given away to all who attended. The Kleins prevailed against Clark Griffith’s team, 4–3, behind the pitching of Walter Harned, who scattered nine hits. Washington’s future Hall-of-Fame outfielder Sam Rice had two hits, third baseman Joe Leonard had three, while their star first baseman, Joe Judge, was held hitless. Wrightstone had two hits for the Klein team, including a triple, and made a spectacular diving stop of a smash at third to save a run.42 Wrightstone’s play had attracted the attention of major league scouts and rumors appeared in the papers suggesting he would be with a major league club in the spring.43


One day later, on September 25, the Klein Chocolate team returned to Island Park in Harrisburg to play the Boston Red Sox and their budding superstar pitcher/ outfielder, Babe Ruth. Boston manager Ed Barrow played a number of youngsters in his lineup, but Ruth started in left field, along with regulars Stuffy McInnis at first, Red Shannon at second, and Everett Scott at shortstop. “Big Bill” Ritter got the starting assignment for the Kleins and shut the big leaguers out on five hits. Klein Chocolate won the game, 4–0. Wrightstone had the big hit, a two-run triple in the eighth inning. Ruth struck out twice and flied out deep to right on a ball that was flagged down by Bill Kay. Ruth also pitched the final two innings and was charged with three earned runs.44

The Red Sox stuck around for a rematch the next day. The second game was played at Rossmere Field in Lancaster about 30 miles from Harrisburg. Future Hall of Famer Herb Pennock pitched for the Sox and newly signed right hander Art Decatur, who joined the Klein team after his season ended at Nashville in the Southern Association, took the ball for Brackenridge.45 Boston prevailed in this one as they scratched out three single runs in the first, fourth, and fifth innings. The only Klein run came in the eighth and was driven in by Wrightstone. The Klein team managed seven hits off Pennock, Wrightstone leading the way with three.46 Ruth contributed an RBI single to the Red Sox cause, but his big name and growing reputation as the greatest of all baseball players earned the Klein brothers plenty of publicity for their chocolate bars.


After the second Boston game, manager Brackenridge announced that a return match against the Washington Nationals had been scheduled for Island Park, and that star pitcher Walter Johnson would take the mound.47 The game, played on September 29, was designated as a special “Soldiers Day” celebration, designed “to welcome home thousands of American soldiers returning from the trenches of Europe.”48 Game day started with a parade and speeches by local politicians, including Pennsylvania Governor William Sproul. The events culminated with the raising of a massive flag at Island Field.49 A throng estimated at 10,000 people showed up for the game. The crowd was so large that it rimmed the outfield, causing easy fly balls to go for ground rule doubles when they disappeared into the sea of onlookers.

Unfortunately, the game itself was anti-climactic. The Harrisburg Telegraph accused the Nationals of playing “uninspired” baseball.50 The Nationals brought only nine players with them and no bats. They used the Klein team equipment. Johnson pitched only the first three innings and then switched positions with center fielder Sam Rice, who took over the pitching. The Kleins prevailed, 4–3, in twelve innings, behind the pitching of Norman Plitt. The winning run scored, fittingly in this sloppily played game, on a Rice wild pitch. The Harrisburg Telegraph reporter said the run “looked like another Washington gift.”51


As the infamous 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago “Black Sox” got under way, the Klein Chocolate team was preparing for a busy final three games of the season, all against majorleague competition. They had two games with the New York Giants sandwiched around a game against a barnstorming group of American League All-Stars.

The Giants had finished second in the National League. The first game was scheduled for Rossmere Field in Lancaster on October 4. The lineup that manager John McGraw sent out against the Klein team included 17-game winner Rube Benton, future Hall of Famers Frankie Frisch and Ross Youngs, and other regulars like George Burns and Larry Doyle. Benton pitched a two-hit shutout and the Kleins went down to a 7–0 defeat.52

The next day the Klein Chocolate team traveled to Marietta, Pennsylvania, to face off against the American League “All-Stars.” A crowd of 2,500 showed up to see such major leaguers as Del Pratt of the New York Yankees and Amos Strunk, Whitey Witt, Cy Perkins, and George Burns of the Athletics. Dave Keefe of the A’s pitched for the All-Stars. He was opposed by Art Decatur. The Klein team prevailed, 2–0, as Decatur shut down the All-Stars on six hits.53

The rematch with the Giants was held at Island Park on October 6. This time the Giants pitcher was 25-game winner Jesse Barnes. Bill Ritter pitched for the Kleins. The game was a tight pitchers’ duel for the first eight innings as the Giants built a slim 3–2 lead. The Giants finally got to Ritter for five runs in the ninth to make the final score 8–2. The Lancaster News-Journal described the crowd as “mediocre.”54


On the evening of October 7, the Klein brothers hosted a banquet for the players at the Greenwalt House in Elizabethtown. Invited guests included friends of the players who had supported the team throughout the historic season and members of the press who had publicized the team’s exploits. An “excellent chicken dinner” was followed by the cutting of a large cake in the shape of the Elizabethtown baseball grounds.55 The occasion, while festive, was bittersweet. While Frederick Klein, in his remarks, promised another great team for next year, no one could be certain what the future held.56 Many of the players left for home immediately after the banquet, while a few stayed to work in the Klein Chocolate factory.57

The final statistics for the 1919 Klein Chocolate team were indeed impressive. The Lebanon Evening Report called it “the most successful [season] ever experienced by a semi-professional organization.”58 The team’s final record was 69–14–2 with one forfeit on that rainy day in Parkesburg when manager Brackenridge pulled the team off the field. Leading hitters on the team were Bill Kay with a .358 batting average, Russ Wrightstone at .338, and Frank Brannon at .325. Wrightstone led the team in extra-base hits. While several pitchers contributed to the success of the team, none was more important or more consistently excellent than Walter Harned.

Most remarkably, the team played 11 games against major league teams, going 7–4, beating the Athletics and Nationals each twice and scoring victories over the Red Sox, Brooklyns, and Cardinals. Only the major league New York Giants and the Negro independent team the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants were superior to the Klein Chocolate team over multiple matchups.

The team certainly achieved the goal that William Klein had aimed for when he decided to go all in for baseball. As the Lancaster New Era put it, the team “put Lancaster County on the baseball map… and incidentally, made the Klein Chocolate known from coast to coast.”59


Klein team uniforms at the Elizabethtown Historical Society. (Author's collection)



Any hopes that the Klein team could repeat its success the following season were quickly dashed as major league teams and other semi-professional teams came bidding for Klein team talent. In January, Klein third baseman Russ Wrightstone signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The 27-year-old Wrightstone would have a productive eight-year major-league career with the Phillies and New York Giants. The Klein team was his training ground. Wrightstone, who compiled a lifetime .297 batting average in the major leagues, never spent a day in minor league baseball prior to his majorleague debut.

While no other Klein players went directly to the major leagues, several signed major league contracts and a few did eventually make it to the bigs. Art Decatur signed with Louisville in the American Association and by 1922 he was with Brooklyn. Earl Potteiger became the manager of the Lebanon team in the semi-pro Bethlehem Steel League, and he signed Norman Plitt to pitch for him. Plitt played for several local teams before eventually surfacing in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1927. Injuries from an auto accident that year cut short his major league career.60

Potteiger eventually made his name as the head coach of the champion New York (Football) Giants in the National Football League. While there he coached former Klein player Hinkey Haines, who was signed by the New York Yankees, played on the Yankees 1923 World Series championship team, and then switched to football, winning a title as a key member of the backfield with the 1927 New York (Football) Giants.

Pitcher “Big Bill” Ritter re-signed with his former team, the New York Giants, but never returned to the big leagues, eventually pitching for the local Motive Power team. Catcher Irvin “Bugs” Trout was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and was farmed out to Houston in the Texas League. Shortstop Frank Brannon went to Tulsa to play in the Western League. Dick Kauffman signed with Atlanta in the Southern Association. As a forty-one-year-old outfielder, Bill Kay caught on with Greenville in the South Atlantic League. George Hunter signed to play with a different local team, the Lancaster-Baltimore squad. Charlie Babbington played several years in the International and New York-Pennsylvania Leagues.


Only two players from the 1919 Klein squad returned for the 1920 season. Bill Cranston stayed with the team, before quitting in a dispute with management in June. He later became the manager of the local Mount Union team. Walter Harned pitched for a time with the Klein team in 1920 and then for several other semi-pro teams in the area, before landing a few years later with the Harrisburg Senators of the New York-Pennsylvania League.

The Klein brothers rehired manager Brackenridge for the 1920 season and announced their intention to field a superior team once again, but it was not to be. Brackenridge again combed the region for the best players he could find, and high salaries were offered, but the magic was gone: the talent pool was dry. After two months of uninspired play, which saw the team losing more games than they won, William Klein pulled the plug in late June. When informing the players that the team was being disbanded, Klein handed each player his final check and a box of Klein chocolate, possibly, as the Lancaster News-Journal speculated, “to remind them of better times.”61

From 1921 through 1932 the Klein Chocolate Company fielded modest teams, with modest ambitions, at a much more modest cost than in the 1919 heyday. A highlight of this period of Klein baseball history came in May 1932 when the Klein team hosted a game against the House of David team featuring the great Grover Cleveland Alexander, then 45 years old and far past his prime, but still a major attraction for baseball fans.62

Although the team never reached such lofty heights as it had in 1919, William Klein’s gamble paid off. His 1919 Klein Chocolate baseball team attracted nationwide attention for the excellence of their play and for their ability to defeat major-league competition. That attention put the Klein Chocolate brand in the headlines of newspapers throughout the country. The exploits of the team helped Klein Chocolate become a major competitor in the candy field. The company flourished for many years until the Kleins finally sold the company and the factory to M&M Mars in 1970. The factory employs 300 people to this day.63

RUSS WALSH is a retired teacher, die-hard Phillies fan, and student of the history of baseball with a special interest in the odd, quirky, and once in a lifetime events that happen on the baseball field. He writes for both the SABR BioProject and the SABR Games Project and maintains his own blog, “The Faith of a Phillies Fan.” You can reach Russ on Twitter @faithofaphilli1 or through email at



In addition to the notes below, the author consulted and the following newspapers: The Harrisburg Telegraph, The Evening News (Harrisburg, PA), The Lancaster News-Journal, The Lancaster New Era, The Evening Report (Lebanon, PA), and The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, for information on individual players and games. The author would also like to thank Fran Strouse of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, for his invaluable assistance in researching the story of the Klein Team and Dixie Kaley of the Elizabethtown Historical Society for making the resources of the Society available.



1. Christian Wilbers, “William Klein,” Immigrant Entrepreneurship. Accessed on November 12, 2021.

2. “William Klein.”

3. At least one of the finest white independent teams. In these segregated times, before the formal organization of the Negro Leagues, at least one of the Negro teams, the Bacharach Giants, was likely a superior team to the Kleins, as the Bacharachs’ sustained history of excellence suggests.

4. “William Klein.”

5. Gerald Heusken, “A Year Probably Never Before Equaled: The Klein Chocolate Company Team and Its Nine-Game Major League Run of 1919,” File of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

6. “William Klein.”

7. “William Klein.”

8. “William Klein.”

9. “William Klein.”

10. “E-Town to Have Fast Team in Chocolate Nine,” Lancaster News-Journal, April 29, 1919: 9.

11. “Klein Chocolate Erects Grandstand,” Lancaster News-Journal, May 12, 1919: 8.

12. “Base Ball Notes,” Lancaster New Era, May 3, 1919: 3.

13. Killinger stayed with the Klein team for only a few months before returning to Penn State where he starred in football, basketball, and baseball. He was named an All-American in football and later played professionally in the National Football League with the Canton Bulldogs. He also played for 10 seasons in minor league baseball. He later became a noted football and baseball coach at West Chester State Teachers College (now West Chester University).

14. “West End Much Stronger; Will Battle St. Mary’s,” Harrisburg Telegraph, June 7, 1918: 17.

15. “E-Town’s New Team Starts with Win,” Lancaster New Era, May 26, 1919: 6.

16. Big Day at Elizabethtown When Klein Company Opens Athletic Field,” Harrisburg Telegraph, May 31, 1919: 13.

17. “Big Day at Elizabethtown When Klein Company Opens Athletic Field.”

18. “Klein Chocolate Team Shows Quaker Fans It Is No Rube, Three Games Won in Tour,” Harrisburg Telegraph, June 23, 1919: 10.

19. “Klein Chocolate Team Shows Quaker Fans It Is No Rube, Three Games Won in Tour.”

20. “Klein Chocolate on Winning Trip,” Lancaster New Era, June 23, 1919: 6.

21. “Klein Team Lose in 16 Innings,” The (Harrisburg) Evening News, June 26, 1919: 11.

22. “Connie Mack is Coming to Harrisburg from the West,” Harrisburg Telegraph, July 18, 1919: 28.

23. “Klein Chocolate Downs Athletics,” Lancaster New Era,” July 24, 1919: 6.

24. “Athletics Lose Contest to Klein Chocolates, 4–2,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 24, 1919: 13. “Athletics the “Candy Kids,” New York Tribune, July 24, 1919: 13.

25. The New York Tribune reported that the Athletics “had lost their self-respect entirely.” While the headline in the Wilmington (DE) Morning News crowed “Even Klein Chocolate Are Better Than Athletics.”

26. “Dry Docks Lost to Klein Chocolate,” Lancaster New Era, August 8, 1919: 6.

27. “Klein Buds Win 34th Victory of the 1919 Season,” The (Lebanon, PA) Evening Report, August 11, 1919: 5.

28. “Big Stars with St. Louis Cardinals Meet Klein Team H. A. C. Field Tuesday,” Harrisburg Telegraph, August 9, 1919: 13.

29. “Klein Chocolate Trims Cardinals,” Lancaster New Era, August 13, 1919: 6.

30. “Klein Chocolate Trims Cardinals,”

31. Bacharach Giants Defeat Klein Co.” Lancaster New Era, August 19, 1919: 6.

32. “Kleins Lose Two,” The (Harrisburg) Evening News, September 1, 1919: 9.

33. “Great Crowd Sees Exhibition Game Between Cincinnati and Klein Boys,” Harrisburg Telegraph, August 30, 1919: 17.

34. “Great Crowd Sees Exhibition Game Between Cincinnati and Klein Boys,”

35. “Klein Chocolate Loses Hard Game,” Lancaster News-Journal, September 2, 1919: 8.

36. “Sports Scraps,” Lancaster News-Journal, September 9, 1919; 8.

37. Gerald Heusken,

38. “Klein Wallops Athletics, 8–2.” Lancaster News-Journal, September 9, 1919: 8

39. “Klein Chocolate Leaves Diamond,” Lancaster News-Journal, September 11, 1919: 9.

40. Klein Club Downs Dodgers,” Lancaster New Era, September 23, 1919: 6.

41. Gerald Heusken.

42. Gerald Heusken.

43. “Local Players May Go Upline,” The (Harrisburg) Evening News, September 27, 1919: 11.

44. “Boston Blanked by Klein Chocolate, The (Lancaster) New Era, September 26, 1919: 6.

45. Gerald Heusken. Decatur pitched for Nashville in the Southern Association in 1919 and joined the Klein team after Nashville’s season concluded. He would later pitch in the major leagues, for the Dodgers and Phillies. He was 10-9 as a swing man for the Dodgers in 1924. He was a teammate of Russ Wrightstone on the Phillies from 1925–27.

46. “Boston Red Sox Bat Out Close Win Over Red Sox,” The (Lancaster) New Era, September 27, 1919: 6.

47. Gerald Heusken.

48. Gerald Heusken.

49. Gerald Heusken.

50. “Washington Hands Fans Poor Quality of Baseball.” Harrisburg Telegraph, September 30, 1919: 15.

51. “Washington Hands Fans Poor Quality of Baseball.”

52. “Giants Win from Klein Chocolate, Lancaster News-Journal, October 6, 1919: 8.

53. “Kleins Beat American All Stars,” The (Wilkes Barre) Evening News, October 6, 1919: 12.

54. “Giants Trounce Klein Tossers,” Lancaster News-Journal, October 7, 1919: 8.

55. “Klein Chocolate Team Closes Successful Season,” Lancaster New Era, October 8, 1919: 6.

56. “Klein Chocolate Team Closes Successful Season.”

57. “Klein Chocolate Team Closes Successful Season.”

58. Gerald Heusken.

59. “Klein Chocolate Team Closes Successful Season.”

60. “Norman Plitt Injured in Auto Accident,” Harrisburg Telegraph, December 16, 1927: 21.

61. “Klein Players Are Given the Gate,” Lancaster News-Journal, June 23, 1920: 8.

62. “Famous House of David Baseball Team to Again Play Klein Team in Night Game Here on June 2,” Elizabethtown Chronicle (Elizabethtown, PA), May 20, 1932: 1.

63. Chad Umble, “5 Key Moments in Elizabethtown History,” Lancaster Online, Accessed on November 12, 2021.,Milky%20Way.%20It%20has%20more%20than%20300%20employees.