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Claus Helmig

From BR Bullpen

Claus T. Helmig

  • Bats Right, Throws Right

Minors BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

The brother of Jürgen Helmig, father of Martin Helmig and grandfather of Lou Helmig and Rex Helmig, 2B-P Claus Helmig played briefly in the Baltimore Orioles organization. When he signed with the Orioles, he became the first German-born and -raised player to sign with a major league team.

In the first European Championship, held in 1954, Claus had a 0-1, 5.68 record. He was 3 for 10 in the 1955 European Championship, second on West Germany in average; he gave up eight walks and eight runs in 9 innings, but just five hits and two earned runs. He had no decisions. Germany won a Bronze Medal, its first medal in a European Championship.

After signing with Baltimore, Helmig pitched one game for the 1956 Paris Orioles. It would not be until 2000 when another German (Michael Franke) signed with a MLB club. He was 0 for 3 in the 1956 European Championship and did not pitch. In the 1957 European Championship, Claus went 1-0 with a save and a 2.25 ERA; between himself and brother Jürgen, they pitched all but four innings for Germany, which won its only Silver at a European Championship (through 2010). In a game against the Netherlands, Helmig and his teammates attacked a Belgian umpire who they felt was making calls against their team; the umpire had been drinking beer during the game as per Helmig.

The Frankfurt native was 3 for 12 in the 1958 European Championship and lost his only game on the hill, with 6 walks, 3 hits and 3 runs in 6 1/3 innings. Germany won a Bronze Medal. The right-hander was 0-2 with 12 runs (only 4 earned) in 18 innings at the 1960 European Championship, dropping games to Italy and Spain. Helmig hit .278/.316/.333 with six runs and 7 RBI in four games in the 1962 European Championship; on the mound, he was 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA. He was second on Germany in RBI (behind Roland Hoffmann) and got their only win (over Sweden).

In the 1965 European Championship, Helmig helped Germany to a Bronze Medal. He tossed a 11-whiff, 3-hit, 6-walk shutout of Sweden and went 3 for 15 with a walk, two runs and 3 RBI. During the 1967 European Championship, the 31-year-old hit .412/.474/.706 with 5 runs, 4 RBI, 2 doubles and a homer in four games as Germany's second-best offensive player, after Hoffmann. He did not pitch and Germany won its fourth Bronze Medal during his career.

Claus was 4 for 13 with a double, RBI and four runs in the 1969 European Championship and 2 for 12 in the 1971 European Championship (0-1, 9 R, 4 ER in 5 1/3 IP after not pitching in the prior two Euros). Germany got the Bronze in '71. In the 1972 Amateur World Series, Germany's first Amateur World Series, he hit .196/.229/.261 with 3 runs and one RBI. He also made 10 errors in 15 games. Only Hoffmann hit better in Germany's debut on the world stage. Helmig also pitched, going 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA. Helmig was also with Germany for the 1973 Amateur World Series but statistics are unavailable. He concluded his international career 21 years after it began, going 3 for 23 with a walk and 3 runs in the 1975 European Championship. Germany won its seventh medal and sixth Bronze of his career.

In the 1980s, Helmig was involved in a dispute over the future of German baseball. He founded a 10-team league of US Army bases, which only required that they use two native Germans per game. This ran counter to the thinking of his former Mannheim Tornadoes teammate Norbert Jäger, who felt that local players should be given more developmental opportunities. The conflict between Jäger and Helmig escalated and in 1989, a brawl broke out between Jäger's Tornadoes team and Helmig's Mannheim Amigos. Helmig and his league were banned from Germany. A former vice president of the European Baseball Federation, he appealed to that body, but they upheld the German decision. Any team that played Helmig's club would get a $1,000 fine.

Through 2010, Helmig was among the German national team's career leaders in games played (67, tied with his brother and Hoffmann behind only Jendrick Speer), European Championships played in (12, tied with Hoffmann, one behind his brother), RBI (22, tied for 12th), hits (41, tied for 7th with Frank Jäger and right behind Mets farmhand Kai Gronauer), runs (27, 10th), putouts (136, 7th), assists (78, tied for 7th), errors (26, tied for second behind Hoffmann), ERA (4.17, 12th), strikeouts (57, 4th behind Peter Budny, Tim Henkenjohann and Enorbel Marquez), wins (3, tied for 6th), losses (9, first, one ahead of former Twins minor leaguer Henkenjohann), innings pitched (114 1/3, 1st) and walks issued (76, 1st).

Helmig founded and ran the Mannheim Amigos for 20 years. He was president of the Mannheim Tornados from 1975-1978 as well. In 2006, he was inducted into the German Baseball Hall of Fame, the bitterness of the 1980s now a matter of the past.