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Alvin Kluttz

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: January 13, 1922 Salisbury, NC
Date and Place of Death:    May 22, 1985 Asheville, NC
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Catcher
Rank: Private
Military Unit:  Company F, 222nd Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Alvin C. Kluttz, the son of Arthur and Roxie Kluttz, was born on January 13, 1922, in Salisbury, North Carolina. Alvin was an outstanding baseball and basketball player at Boyden High School in Salisbury, and, like his older brother, Clyde, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals after graduation. Clyde was four years Alvin's senior and had begun his pro career in 1938 with Johnson City. When Alvin signed with the Cardinals in 1941, Clyde was making a name for himself with the Pacific Coast League's Sacramento Solons and hit .336 for the season. Alvin, a catcher like his brother, was assigned to the Springfield Cardinals of the Class C Western Association, where he batted .173 in 32 games. Playing the outfield in Springfield for much of that year was future Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who would get his first taste of the big leagues that year.

In February 1942, Kluttz received a telegram from Branch Rickey, general manager of the Cardinals. The team needed an extra bullpen catcher for spring training at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and asked if he'd like the job. You would think that his brother, Clyde, was the person who suggested this, but Clyde was not with the Cardinals for spring training in 1942. He'd been selected on waivers by the Boston Braves and was with them at Sanford, Florida. What seemed a great opportunity turned sour when Alvin was hit in the ribs by a Max Lanier fastball. The injury led to pleurisy, the inflammation of the tissue between the lungs and ribcage, which caused sharp chest pains.

While Clyde began a major league career that would span eleven years (656 games), by playing 72 games for the Braves and batting .267, Alvin - who was assigned to the Asheville Tourists of the Class B Piedmont League, virtually sat out the entire season, unable to play.

In 1943, Alvin was assigned to the Lynchburg Cardinals of the Class B Piedmont League. Sharing catching duties with two minor league veterans - Ken Blackman and George Pratt - Alvin played 65 games and batted .227, before entering military service in July. Kluttz was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for nine months and played on both the baseball and basketball teams. In the summer of 1944, he was sent to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, and assigned to Company F, 222nd Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. The Division left the United States for France at the beginning of December 1944, and entered combat on Christmas Eve.

Private Kluttz was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) gunner - a light machine-gun that weighed around 20 pounds that was used to support riflemen in an attack. On January 1, 1945, in northeastern France, the Germans launched Operation North Wind, their last major offensive of the war. The attack came against thinly stretched Allied lines and the 222nd Infantry Regiment was at the heart of it.

On the morning on January 6, 1945, Company F were crossing railroad tracks and entering an open, snow-covered field about 200 yards wide, when German troops - hidden in a wooded area - opened fire with mortars and machine-guns. Kluttz was ordered to take out one of the machine-guns with his BAR. He crawled forward 150 yards, but as he reached for his ammunition clip, a bullet tore through his upper left arm. Kluttz lay in the snow-covered field for several hours. Enemy shells continued to explode all around him, and one shell was close enough to send 48 pieces of shrapnel into his chest.

When darkness fell, Kluttz was able to crawl back to Allied lines. He was taken to a field hospital where doctors were able to save his arm and remove 27 of the 48 pieces of shrapnel from his body. He was later hospitalized in Paris and England, before returning to the United States on a hospital ship in April 1945. He was further hospitalized in New York and Georgia, before being discharged on October 6, 1945.

Despite requiring further surgery during 1946, Kluttz returned tot he Cardinals organization and played 73 games with Lynchburg, the team he'd last played for before joining the Army. He batted only .207, but showed he could still work behind the plate. One of his batterymates in 1946 was future major leaguer Al Papai. In 1947, he played four games for the Houston Buffs of the Class AA Texas League - the highest level he would reach - and for much of the season was assigned to the Carthage Cardinals of the the Class D K-O-M League as a player/manager. Kluttz batted only .133 with Carthage in 1947, as he continued to struggle with his shoulder injury, but he returned as player/manager for the team in 1948 and batted .296 in 45 games.

Kluttz batted .294 for the Kingsport Cherokees of the Class D Appalachian League in 1949, and .373 for the Clinton-Sampson Blues of the Class D Tobacco State League the following year. In 1951, his last year in professional baseball, the 29-year-old hit .287 for the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms of the Class D North Carolina State League.

While brother, Clyde, continued his pro career for a few more seasons, Alvin returned home to Salisbury and took a job with the city's sanitation department, and was the head of the department from 1956 to 1967. He was a basketball official for high school and college games until a blocked artery in his left leg led to an amputation in 1963. But he remained involved in sports as a local radio broadcaster.

In 1978, Alvin Kluttz was awarded the Bronze Star his World War II service. He passed away on May 22, 1985, in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 63 years old and is buried at Salisbury National Cemetery.

Date Added January 1, 2018

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