Bobby Kline: a hero and a Hall of Famer

By on October 11, 2017

 

Bobby Kline was a captain for the Lititz High School Pretzels’ football and baseball teams in the 1940s and was twice selected as class president. Photo courtesy of Bobby Kline’s family

Bobby Kline was a captain for the Lititz High School Pretzels’ football and baseball teams in the 1940s and was twice selected as class president. Photo courtesy of Bobby Kline’s family

If predictions from Lititz High’s 1944 yearbook were right, the school would have been able to boast about a Major League Baseball hero.

“It was in his yearbook that 10 years in the future, Bobby Kline helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series,” Bobby’s nephew, Jim Wolfe, said.

Sadly, Kline never got the chance.

On April 14, 1945, he died while serving his country in World War II as part of the Army’s 273rd Infantry Regimen in Germany.

Kline was three months shy of his 19th birthday when he and his squad came under enemy 88-millimeter gun fire while guarding a crossroads.

“Wrong place at the wrong time,” Wolfe said. “It was like a week, 10 days before victory in Europe. So, so close to the end of the war. It was a shame. I never met my Uncle Bob.”

Over the years, however, Wolfe has talked to many who did meet Kline, including close pals Ed Pelger, John Hanna and Fred Wagner. He learned that his uncle was a captain for the Lititz football and baseball teams — in addition to playing basketball his freshman and sophomore years — and nominated him for Warwick’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

When the 2017 Class was selected, Kline got his due, and last Friday night, he went into the Hall along with five others during a ceremony at Warwick Middle School.

“The Hall of Fame induction is awesome,” said Wolfe, who gave an acceptance speech on behalf of Kline and the family. “I wish my grandparents would be alive to see it. I believe it’s good they reach back into the past and honor guys that came up through.”

Indications were that football and baseball were Kline’s favorite sports. Being smaller in stature, he was a second baseman/shortstop on the diamond and a halfback, occasional QB, on the gridiron.

“From what I’ve heard from the guys he played with,” Wolfe said, “he was a decent hitter, but probably best defensively. It was tough to get a ball past him. He was probably 5-foot-9, wasn’t a big guy, but he had cat-like agility.”

Pee Wee Reese, a shortstop for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1940 to 1958, no doubt would have had his hands full holding off Kline.

Asked if Kline was a fan of the Dodgers, Wolfe said, “Yeah, I guess so, according to his baseball cards that I have. He probably wouldn’t have been too happy about the move out west (to Los Angeles).”

Based on the fact that Kline was twice selected class president, along with being voted for the All-Around Boy Award in his class, it’s evident that he was a well-liked character.

It could have been his sense of humor and reputation as a practical joker that helped make him popular around his classmates.

“He was just a regular all-around good guy and well-spoken,” Wolfe said. “He had kind of a dry sense of humor. He probably got that from my grandfather (Jamie Kline).”

In the words of those who knew Kline, he was known to be a bit shy.

“According to the yearbook, he was bashful,” Wolfe said. “I talked to a couple girls that were in his class — of course, they were all ladies by the time I met them — and they were like, ‘Oh, he was so handsome and bashful.’ I don’t know if he was bashful around the guys or the girls.”

The Warwick Athletic Hall of Fame’s 2017 class, consisting of (left to right) Bobby Kline (represented by his nephew, Jim Wolfe), Dena Gockley (Cascarino), Mark Snyder, Antonio Giorgio (represented by Warwick wrestling coach Ned Bushong), Kyle Narkiewicz, and Brian Johnson, was inducted last Friday night. Photo by Bruce Morgan

The Warwick Athletic Hall of Fame’s 2017 class, consisting of (left to right) Bobby Kline (represented by his nephew, Jim Wolfe), Dena Gockley (Cascarino), Mark Snyder, Antonio Giorgio (represented by Warwick wrestling coach Ned Bushong), Kyle Narkiewicz, and Brian Johnson, was inducted last Friday night. Photo by Bruce Morgan

One place he probably wasn’t bashful, though, was behind a drum set. Having a fondness for the big band Sound of Gene Krupa, Kline performed in the band and orchestra.

“He was an excellent drum player and loved music,” Wolfe said.

Other interests which Kline had included movies and history. In fact, he held a job at one time as an usher at the Lititz Theatre, which was located in the first block of East Main Street.

“I think the mural is still there inside the building,” Wolfe said. “I remember the mural as a kid.”

Kline, of course, was still just a kid when he left school in April of his senior year, heading for advanced training at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. He celebrated his 18th birthday in July, 1944, and headed to England in January, 1945.

Initially, he tried to join the Navy with Ed Pelger, but failed an eye exam on the application, and instead ended up going into the Army.

“(Bobby) enlisted with his parents’ permission,” Wolfe remarked. “He was under 18, so I think that’s one of my grandfather’s biggest regrets is signing his enlistment papers. But looking back, hindsight is 20-20, and he would have went in anyway. He went in willingly and a lot of guys out of his class left early. It was just the thing to do. It was the height of World War II.”

Bobby Kline (front row, second from left), a halfback and quarterback during his playing career, is pictured with the Lititz High School Pretzels football team in the 1940. Photo courtesy of Bobby Kline’s family

In April, 1945, Kline was a Private First Class, but was leading his men when they came under attack. Tragically, he was mortally wounded. He never saw the Bronze Medal awarded to him.

“He was covering his men,” Wolfe said. “It comes back to the leadership mentality, I believe.”

His place is ensured as both an American hero and a Warwick Hall of Famer.

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