Friday, April 8, 2011

#133 - David Clyde

This is the first card from the second '73 checklist, which means I'll be reviewing the first fifth of the set below. This guy, holding what appears to be an enormous mitt, was The Prodigy of '73 and within two years would be The Cautionary Tale. David Clyde was the can't-miss local kid who went straight to Arlington Stadium from high school ball. His debut was huge and if this shot was taken in Texas there'd probably be a million people behind him, or at least 36,000, which filled the Rangers' park. Here he strikes a pose in a more sedate Yankee Stadium, the big grin he usually displayed during the year replaced by a petulant look, one sadly much more representative of his career than the big smile ever was.

David Clyde was the star of Texas high school baseball in '73. He went 18-0 for his championship team, with over 300 strikeouts and only three earned runs in the 148 innings he pitched that year. He threw five no-hitters, two in the state playoffs. For his whole time in school, he K'd 845 guys in 475 innings with a combined 45-1 record. Pretty amazing stuff and Dave was getting very high-profile press when he was drafted and signed by the Rangers number one in June of that year. He made his debut June 27 to such aplomb that there were all 36,000 seats filled in the park. That doesn't sound like very much but the Rangers' normal draw that year was about 5,000. Against the Twins in that game he walked the first two guys, then struck out the side. After a two-run homer in the second he pitched hitless ball, leaving at the conclusion of the fifth inning having given up the two runs and grabbing eight strikeouts. He won the game and before it was over, Texas had already sold over 30,000 seats for his next start. The night after the debut the Rangers drew 3,500. While his performance the rest of the year didn't match the debut - see the card back - he sure did what was expected of him in terms of economics. David initiated the momentum that allowed the club to be sold the next year as the '74 team nearly won the division.

And '74 started out well for Mr. Clyde also. He was 3-0 as the team under Billy Martin became respectable. But then things shifted. Fast. David went 0-9 the rest of the way and in an ironic twist, as the Rangers were chasing the title, he became an extravagance that was dropped from the rotation. After a poor training camp in '75 he was sent to Double A Pittsfield. While his 12-8 record and 3.07 ERA were pretty good, he had developed a hitch in his delivery, was walking too many guys, and was divorcing his high school sweetheart. He also carried down to the minors a reputation as a partyer - but, geez, who wasn't when he was 20 - and after a terrible start in '76 he would have a corrective shoulder operation. But '77 sucked too and his control as well as his confidence were out the window. After the season he was traded to Cleveland with Willie Horton for John Lowenstein and Tom Buskey.

The Indians made Clyde a project. Manager Jeff Torborg and pitching coach Harvey Haddix saw a kid whose pitching motion had devolved to the point where it was just a mess of all the advice he'd received in the majors. Haddix told him to throw like he did in high school, to lose his ineffective slider, and not try to blow the ball by everyone. According to Haddix David already had one of the fastest three arms in the league. And it worked for a while. David started '78 going 4-0 with a 2.58 ERA. But then came five losses and Cleveland went into a dive in July. David had to turn to clubhouse savior Andre Thornton to salve his confidence wounds (in "The Curse of..." Thornton described Clyde as suicidal). In the end, David was 7-11 with a 4.28 ERA, his best season. After a poor '79 season (3-4 with a 5.91 ERA) in which he had his second shoulder operation, David was sent back to Texas. He didn't make it out of spring training of '80 and he went home. After a comeback attempt with the Astros in '81 (he went 10-10 between Double A and Triple A) he was done. He finished 18-33 with a 4.63 ERA and ten complete games in the majors and was 27-29 in the minors.

After his playing career David returned to Tomball, Texas where he worked at his family's lumber business for 22 years, ending in 2003. He did some high school coaching and when he was part of the SI "Whatever Happened to...?" issue in '04 was coaching a semi-pro team and hoping to hook up with a baseball organization. He does a bunch of private coaching now for pitchers of all ages. Every now and then, when a new pitching phenom comes around - the last time was for Steven Strasburg - the interviewers come and see him about the attached pitfalls. That must be a pain, but he never sounds bitter and in most current photos of him he looks pretty happy.

More high school stats populate the back. I wonder if the cartoon on back is a joke. Where the hell was this guy going skiing?

Here's the hookup:

1. Clyde and Lenny Randle '74 Rangers;
2. Randle and Felix Millan '77 Mets.

Now for the good stuff. The last post ended the first 20% of the set's cards. Here is where we are in various categories:

Post-season play: Every year from 1957 to 1987 is represented by someone who played in that year's post-season with the exceptions of 1960 and '63. '74 has the most representation, with 22 guys from that year's playoffs and Series. That's about right.

Awards: There are nine MVP winners, eight Cy Young winners, 10 Comeback Player of the Year winners, and 10 Rookie of the Year winners. I added a couple awards this time. There are eight Fireman of the Year (later Rolaids) winners, five Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year, and five Manager of the Year winners.

Milestones: There are 19 Hall of Famers. The set has had 18 rookie cards as well as nine guys whose final cards are in the set. There have been 14 guys traded prior to the season, including the official "Traded" cards. Nine players are now deceasd.

Rookies: There have been four players from the '73 Topps Rookie All-Star team (Grubb, Thomasson, Lopes, and Boone), so that rate won't last. I also decided to go through the set to see how many guys were still playing from past teams, since the designation was initiated in '59. I thought it might be interesting to see how predictive the awards were. Along with '73 we have the following:

'61-two '64-one '65-one '66-three '67-two '68-three '69-one
'70-one '71-two '72-one

Random stuff: There have been 39 action cards, or about a third of the set. That's pretty good. There have been 76 guys in away uniforms and 43 in home uniforms. Seven guys get the parenthetical name thing. Three guys have served in 'Nam. And there are five cards I have designated as ugly. That last one is a big drop-off from the first survey so I'm pretty happy about that.

1 comment:

  1. I had the pleasure of interviewing Clyde a couple years ago at the baseball academy where he instructs. He is extremely positive. I was stunned at how relaxed and at peace he seems. He was such a great guy.