David Clyde

David was called “The Next Sandy Koufax” as he was drafted straight out of high school with the number 1 pick in 1973. I’m not so sure he would have been another Sandy Koufax but because of greed he never found out. David was a can’t-miss prospect who was 18-0 with a 0.18 ERA as a Westchester senior who went just 18-33 as a major leaguer.

The Texas Rangers had moved from Washington because of bad attendance and settled in Texas. In 1972 they had low attendance and the owner Bob Short wanted a boost in attendance and the plan was to start his new draft pick David Clyde in two games and then send him to the minors after that.

Twenty days after pitching his last high school game, Clyde won his first-ever Major League start before over 35,000 fans in Arlington Stadium, the first sellout in stadium history. David pitched well in his second game until a blister forced him out in the 6th inning. Now he was scheduled to go to the minors to learn and develop. Short, though, had other ideas after 33,010 fans flocked to Arlington Stadium for Clyde’s second start, a six-inning, no-decision performance against the White Sox.

Clyde remained a Ranger and got battered, going 4-8 with a 5.01 ERA for a 57-105 team.

Whitey Herzog the manager pleaded with Short to send Clyde to the minors. Like many young pitchers, Herzog says, Clyde started throwing his curveball too hard and lost control of it. Then hitters began sitting on his fastball. Herzog says Clyde could have regained his control and confidence in the minors.

At the end of 1973 Billy Martin was let go by the Detroit Tigers and Rangers owner Bob Short told his manager, Whitey Herzog, that he would fire his own grandmother to have a chance to hire Martin…well he fired Herzog and got Martin. Herzog’s reply was “I’m fired, I’m the grandmother.”

Martin argued to send David Clyde to the minors for seasoning the next year but he still started 21 games. He was sent and later on developed arm troubles and was traded to Cleveland in 1978

He threw his last major league pitch on Aug. 7, 1979, as a 24-year-old Cleveland Indian, 37 days shy of qualifying for MLB’s pension plan. He has tried to act as a coach to get the 37 days but no luck so far. 

Many people claim that David Clyde saved the Rangers Franchise from moving elsewhere. 

 

George Brett and Graig Nettles ALCS Gm 5 fight

I remember watching this when it happened. Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS between the Royals and the Yankees. In the bottom of the first Brett hit a triple with Hal McRae on first. It went over the head of Mickey Rivers and Brett slid in at 3rd base and got in tangled with Graig Nettles…Nettles did a dirty kick to the face of Brett and George came up swinging.

Everyone got in on the action including pitcher Ron Guidry and then Thurman Munson came over. Thurman had seen Nettles kick Brett in the face and although Nettles was a teammate…Munson’s sense of fair play took over.

Thurman gets into the pile and covers Brett and sticks his glove over Brett’s head to avoid any cheap shots. George Brett said Munson told him:  “Don’t worry, George, I won’t let anybody hit you when you’re down.” And they didn’t. “Thurman is my hero.” This quote surprised me quite a bit since Thurman was known to be crusty at the best of times.

Yankee manager Billy Martin, no stranger to fights, wrapped an arm around the 5’5″ Royal shortstop Freddie Patek and pulled him from the fracas. Billy said to him, “Stay with me over here and we won’t get hurt. Let those guys sort it out.

The reason this fight stuck with me all of these years is because no one got ejected… there were no warnings. Everyone brushed themselves off and played the rest of the game like nothing happened…the Yankees won 5-3 and advanced to the World Series where they beat the Dodgers.

 

1976… The Year of the Bird

I didn’t start following baseball heavily until 1977. I do remember Detroit Tiger Mark Fidrych well though. Once in a while there will be a player that fans want to see no matter what team he plays for at the time. There are a few that come to mind. Fernando Valenzuela, Bo Jackson, and to a lesser extent Yasiel Puig in his rookie year. We want to see them because they have strong personalities and are usually good to great players.

Mark Fidrych was a joy to watch. He would look like he was talking to the ball, do ground maintenance on the mound, and would congratulate teammates for making routine plays. It was so much fun to see his obvious excitement playing Major League baseball. MLB estimated that in 1976 the 21 year old drew in over `1 million extra attendance across the league. Teams would ask the Tigers if they would change their rotation so Fidrych would pitch in their park to spike their attendance. Can you imagine that happening today?

His nickname “The Bird” came from his blonde thick curly hair and his big feet resembling to Sesame Street’s Big Bird. Fidrych was great in his rookie year. His record was 19-9 with an ERA of 2.34 and he pitched an incredible 250.1 innings with 24 complete games! He didn’t pitch his first game until May 15 that year. That makes it more impressive.

He injured his knee in Spring Training the next year in 1977. He recovered and was doing great until July 4 against the Orioles he felt his arm go dead. He ended up only pitching 81 innings in 1977 and was 6-4 with a 2.89 ERA. He tried pitching through what he could but missed a lot of time…he was out of baseball by 1980.

It was a rotator cuff injury that wasn’t properly diagnosed until 1985 when he was 31 because of medical advancement. There was too much damage already done to his shoulder that prevented him from coming back.

Some teams didn’t like his antics. The Yankees thought he was showing them up but teammate Rusty Staub said “It’s no act. There’s nothing contrived about him and that’s what makes him a beautiful person.” I think that is the reason people did like him so much…he seemed real and was having the time of his life playing baseball.

Fidrych went back home to Northboro, Massachusetts, where he became a licensed commercial truck driver and later purchased a farm. He married his wife, Ann, in 1986, and they had a daughter, Jessica. He made appearances for charity groups and nonprofit organizations over the years, making himself rather accessible to fans who fondly remembered the career of the Bird. Tragically, Fidrych died on April 13, 2009, at age 54, in an accident as he worked underneath a truck.

Baseball needs players like Fidrych…who are genuine and appreciate being a grownup playing a game.