Monday, July 16, 2012

Johnny Klippstein: the Guy with the Ears

Johnny Klippstein was known for many things.   Unfortunately, the main thing might have been his lack of control.  Can you believe he was once pulled in the 7th  inning of a no-hitter, after giving up eight walks?   It wasn’t just that one game though.  In four of his 18 seasons, he had more walks than strikeouts.   His nickname of the “wild Man of Borneo” seemed to be well-earned.

To give him his due, though, Johnny must have been doing something right to stay in the bigs for 18 years.  And he was, in fact, a league leader four times.  Unfortunately, two of those were for wild pitches and one for hit batters.  On the plus side, he did lead the AL in saves in 1960 (though with a measly 14).

Over those 18 years, Johnny played with eight different clubs.  He began as a starter, but really found his niche in relief.  He was famous for being able to warm up with just ten pitches.

He loved the Cubs, though, and actually retired in the Windy City.  In fact, he died in Elgin IL, at age 76, listening to a Cubs game on the radio.  Not a bad way to go.

Okay, now that’s all very nice.   What I want to know, though, is why doesn’t anybody ever say anything about this guy’s ears?  I mean, they’re huge!  This guy is to ears what Wally Moon is to unibrows and Don Mossi is to ugly.

So, take it away, Johnny.  ‘Ears to you!

1953.  It’s a painting, so maybe the illustrator toned things down a little.  Previous cards – all paintings too – are much the same.

One of the years he led the league in wild pitches.


1954.   Photos don’t lie.  Johnny looks like he could flap those things and take off.

I also like the mini-me off to the side.  Looks like Johnny is about to throw us a … screwball!

1961.  Hat off, three-quarter shot, and dark background really make ‘em stand out on this one. 

This is for the year he led the AL in saves, by the way.


1962.  Sans chapeau, encore. 

You can always tell the guys who moved around a lot.  Why bother with a hat when you know you’re going to be someplace else next year? 

For Johnny, ’62 was in Cincy, ’61 was in DC, ’60 was in Cleveland, and ’59 was in LA. 

1965.  My favorite.  It’s basically the same as the ’61 shot, but somehow or other, the ears seem to have grown to the size of long-playing records or small serving trays.

He actually had a couple more years after this, hanging ‘em up after the ’67 season.

* - the author has this card


  1. My favorite is the 65 because of his gray hair.

  2. You know, I'm not so sure his hair really is grey in that shot. Heck, he wasn't even 40 yet (he was born in '27). I think it was just the particular camera angle or light or something.

    Of course, he could have gone grey years ago and just decided to give it up and go natural in 65. Who knows. ;^)