(August 23) — Joe Klein, who presided over baseball operations as Executive Director of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball since its inception in 1998 and saw the league send more than 800 players to MLB organizations as the circuit became the premier independent professional baseball organization, died at Temple University Hospital from heart surgery complications on Wednesday morning at the age of 75, the league announced this morning.
In a career that spanned six decades, Klein spent time as a player, manager, scout, scouting director, and farm director before serving as GM of the Texas Rangers (1983-84), Cleveland Indians (1986-87), and Detroit Tigers (1994-95), roles for which he is most widely known in Major League Baseball.
His playing career included three seasons here in York as a member of the White Roses (1965-67).
In 1997, when Atlantic League Founder Frank Boulton needed a baseball man to run the on-field operations of what would become a startup league in 1998, his list was one name long.
“Today is a very sad day for the Atlantic League and for baseball,” said Atlantic League Founder Frank Boulton. “Joe’s contributions to the game and the Atlantic League are immeasurable. He was a great leader who guided the development of our league for over 20 years with his knowledge, grace, and respect for every owner, front office staff member, manager, player, and fan. There is a great hole in the heart of the Atlantic League today. But in time, it will fill in as we fondly remember our dear friend and mentor, Joe Klein.”
Klein was officially named Executive Director of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs in 1998, a position in which he served until his passing. During his tenure, the league hosted 37 million fans and saw player after player return from the Atlantic League to Major League Baseball, a pipeline he helped create and sustain for 20 years. Klein is predeceased by his wife Cathy and is survived by his sons J.K. and Todd, daughters-in-law Ruth and Robin, and granddaughter Hannah.
The York Revolution will honor Klein with a moment of silence before tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game against the Somerset Patriots.
“Our Atlantic League family has lost one of its greatest champions, and we’re saying good-bye to an amazing friend and baseball man,” said York Revolution President Eric Menzer. “From his days playing for the White Roses to his work on behalf of the Revolution and all the teams in the league, Joe was an integral part of the success of the sport he loved here in York. We owe him a lot and will miss him greatly.”
“Joe was a dear friend and esteemed colleague,” added Atlantic League President Rick White. “We feel fortunate to have spent the time we did with him and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and his many friends in the baseball community.”