Nordmenn of Baseball: Three cups of coffee to go for Art Hauger, Ole Olsen, and Jay Kleven
The Norwegian American
In baseball parlance, a short career is “having a cup of coffee.”
Norwegian Americans Art Hauger, Arthur “Ole” Olsen, and Jay Kleven had such careers, though Olsen at least had some breakfasts with his coffees.
Take Hauger, born Nov. 18, 1893, in Delhi, Ohio. The outfielder lasted three weeks with the Cleveland Naps in 1912, playing 15 games (four starts) with one hit in 18 at bats for a .056 batting average.
He spent 17 years in the minor leagues playing for 18 teams. Minor league stats are incomplete, but he hit over .300 seven times, including .350 for Kinston, Va., with 39 doubles in 1925. The year before, with Bay City, Mich., he batted .316 with 40 doubles, nine triples, and six homers. Hauger hit .316 for Kinston in 1926 with 27 doubles and 10 home runs. He hit a combined .323 with Salt Lake City and Moose Jaw in 1920, and .315 for Edmonton in 1921. Hauger is credited with 1,781 games, 1,940 hits, 261 doubles, 66 triples, 58 homers, and only 31 strikeouts.
He was player-manager of the Kinston Eagles in the Virginia League in 1927, and later headed the Bentonville, Ark., Mustangs (1936, where he also appeared in 10 games and hit .333 at age 44); Williamstown, N.C., Martins (1937, 1938), St. Louis Browns affiliate Pennington, Va., Gap Miners (1939, 1940), and Chicago White Sox affiliate Superior, Wis., Blues (1941, 1942). No records exist, according to baseball-reference.com.
Hauger died of a heart attack at 50 on August 2, 1944, in Redwood City, Calif.
Olsen, born on September 12, 1894, in South Norwalk, Conn., played in 1922 and 1923 with the Detroit Tigers. The righthander made his major league debut on April 12, 1922—Opening Day—with two innings of relief against Cleveland, allowing two runs, three hits, walking one, striking out one. His first start was on April 22, his first victory May 8 against the Boston Red Sox.
On June 14, he struck out Babe Ruth. “I can remember him coming to the plate and calling me a little SOB,” he was quoted in Norwalk’s TheHour.com years later. “Then he said throw the ball and duck. I called him a big baboon.”
The Cornell University graduate would toss 137 innings that season, start 15 games, complete five, relieve in 22, save three and compile a 7-6 record with a 4.53 ERA. His relationship with manager Ty Cobb was strained, especially after 1,200 Norwalk natives travelled to New York to see Olsen pitch against the Yankees on “Art Olsen Day” on July 22. Cobb never played him.
The bad relations continued the following year. Olsen threw only 41.1 innings, made two starts, finished 1-1 with a 6.31 ERA. His last major league game was Sept. 24, 1923, with two innings of relief against the Yankees, allowing three hits and five runs.
He had joined the Tigers after a 250-inning, 14-14 record with AA Syracuse of the International League in 1921. From 1924-1929, Olsen played for five minor league teams. He was a combined 12-14 for Nashville and Birmingham in 1924, combined 14-15 for Nashville and Kansas City in 1925, and 13-8 with 3.73 ERA (his lowest ever) for Atlanta in 1928. Though the Yankees and Indians expressed interest in signing Olsen, Cobb blocked it. An arm injury in 1929 ended Olsen’s career.
Olsen worked as a sales supervisor for a liquor manufacturer for 37 years. He died on his 86th birthday in 1980 in Norwalk.
Kleven barely had time to finish a venti. His catching career with the New York Mets lasted seven days in June 1976. He’s the only one of the three with a bio on Society for American Baseball Research website. It’s almost longer than his career.
On June 14, Kleven got two hits and two RBIs in an exhibition game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. “I go back to Tidewater tomorrow, but I’ll take this biggest thrill of my life with me,” he said. “Playing in front of all those people is something I’ll never forget.”
With starting catcher Jerry Grote and backup Ron Hodges injured, Kleven stuck with the club.
He pinch-hit for Grote on June 20 and stayed in the game. He went 0-for-3. A week later, against the Chicago Cubs, he again pinch-hit for Grote and hit a two-run single off one of future Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter’s infamous split-finger fast balls in the Mets 13-3 victory. Who knew that would be the extent of his major league career? Hodges came off the disabled list, and Kleven returned to the minors.
Kleven was considered a good defensive catcher, respected for his knowledge and handling of pitchers. In five minor league seasons, his highest batting average was .279, and RBIs 35. He was out of professional baseball in 1978.
Kleven was born Dec. 2, 1949, in Oakland, Calif. He is a member of the San Lorenzo High School and Cal State University-Hayward baseball Hall of Fames.
He taught special education and did some coaching, but died of a massive heart attack following hip replacement surgery on June 30, 2009, at 59.
In a 2004 interview, he probably echoed the sentiments of Hauger, Olsen, and all Field of Dreams’ Moonlight Grahams: “I will never forget my brief, but memorable big league stay.”
This article originally appeared in the June 29, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.