Klutz–noun, Slang. 1. a clumsy, awkward person. 2. a stupid or foolish person; blockhead.Origin:
1965–70, Americanism; < Yiddish klots literally, wooden beam < Middle High German kloc ( German Klotz )
Wow. Can you imagine a more unfortunate name for a professional athlete? There may be many that come close, and I will cite a couple at the end of this post.
Clyde Franklin Kluttz (1917-1979) was a journeyman major league catcher for the Boston Braves, New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators. His career was so undistinguished that four of the six teams he played for no longer even exist in their original cities. In nine major league seasons between 1942 and 1952 he hit .268 with career HR and RBI totals of just 19 and 212. In fact, his post playing career as a scout was far more distinguished. The pinnacle of his post-playing days came as director of scouting for the New York Yankees (1974-75) and director of player development for the Baltimore Orioles from 1976 until his death in 1979. One of his greatest achievements was to convince then free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter–one of the greatest nicknamed players of all time–to sign with the Yankees after the 1974 season, thus contributing to the foundation of the Bronx Zoo that won world championships in 1977 and 1978.
So back to the name itself. While his playing days certainly seem to have predated the development of the American slang usage of the term, as the dictionary.com definition above indicates, I must take issue with their timing. Back in my junior high school days, c.1962-64, my best friend and I compiled a list of the 50 wackiest baseball names of all times. Now, going through an entire all-time baseball register in this manner is something only an adolescent boy would do in the first place, but it is something I have never forgotten. Clyde Kluttz was #1 on both of our ballots. Believe me, it wasn’t just that the name sounded funny and had a great ring to it. We knew well even then the meaning of the word klutz.
As for other inappropriately or unfortunately named athletes, two of my favorites are Richie Incognito, an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, and Grant Balfour, a relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. If there is anything Richie Incognito can’t do, it’s go incognito. He is 6’3″ and weighs 324 lbs. As for Balfour–I can’t imagine the ribbing he must get on the field, particularly from opposing teams. A pitcher named Ball Four? Really? There are others out there, but for the the most unlikely professional sports name of all time, Clyde Kluttz still takes my cake!
Read about my own baseball history here.