Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#525 - Clyde Wright

Clyde Wright had quite a few cards in which he looks pissed off, like this one here. Outside of the fact that his air-brushed uniform looks like it was generated by something nuclear, his expression on this particular card may have had to do with the season during which the photo was taken. A nasty back ailment took its toll on him all year, reversing a pretty good record in ’72 to the one he had with an ERA that popped by three-quarters of a run. A disk problem left him with nearly no mobility and he couldn’t put anything on his out pitch, which was a screwball. Shortly after the season ended he, Steve Barber, Kan Berry, and Art Kusnyer went to Milwaukee for Ollie Brown, Joe Lahoud, Skip Lockwood, Ellie Rodriguez, and Gay Ryerson. Every one of those guys except Kusnyer and Ryerson are airbrushed in this set. Clyde shows us his scorn at Yankee Stadium. By the end of the year he’d be just plain pissed.

Clyde Wright grew up playing baseball in Jefferson City, Tennessee and after high school he went to the local college, Carson-Newman, a four-year NAIA school. There he went 32-5 as a pitcher during his career and recorded 422 strikeouts. His senior year he hit .455 with 13 homers – he also was an outfielder – and went 10-0 while leading his school to the NAIA title. Drafted and signed that spring by the Angels, he pretty much picked up where he left off, going 7-2 with a 1.99 ERA that summer as a starter in A ball and hitting .255 while also playing a few games in the outfield. His field time was permanently put to rest the next season as he moved to Double A and went 9-0 with a 3.41 ERA as a spot guy before making his debut up top in June. He beat the defending AL champ Twins in his first start. He pitched OK ball even though his record wasn’t so hot and in ’67 he improved his ERA at the top while moving into more of a swing role and spent time in Triple A where he was 8-4 with a 3.07 ERA back in the rotation. In ’68 it was all California in a reprise of the swing role and though his ERA bloated a bit he put up his best record and added three saves to his numbers. But then ’69 got messy. Clyde missed time for some military work and couldn’t get in synch and though his ERA only slid up a notch his record got ugly as his starts declined to just five and his innings halved.

After the ’69 season Angels shortstop Jim Fregosi talked Wright into joining him in Puerto Rico for the winter where Fregosi managed the Ponce team. Clyde went and while down there he helped pitch Ponce to the championship while learning the screwball. Until then he had a pretty good fastball but his out pitch was his curve, which he threw at different speeds. Part of the trouble in ’69 was that his time away wreaked havok on his curve and he needed a new off speed pitch so hence the screwball. And it worked pretty well. In ’70 Clyde set the Angel mark for wins in a season, tossed a no-hitter at Oakland, and won Al Comeback Player of the Year (though that was a bit silly). He was also an All-Star for the only time in his career. From ’70 to ’72 he went 56-40 for a team that was under .500 with an ERA of about 2.95. With ’73 came back pain, the losing record, and the trade.

In ’74 Wright won his first two starts for the Brewers and indicated he had no pain in his back. Shortly thereafter he got in a fight with Bobby Valentine which resulted in a dislocated shoulder for Bobby. But that success was short-lived as he went 7-20 the rest of the way with an ERA that moved to 4.42. There seems to have been no indication that his numbers were due to injury from the fight or elsewhere so I guess things just rolled that way. He then got sent to Texas for Pete Broberg in a trade of two blowup guys. With the Rangers Clyde became a project for manager Billy Martin who thought he could win 20 again. Billy was wrong that time as Clyde went only 4-6 with pretty much the same ERA he had in ’74. He was released late in spring training of ’76 and opted to play ball in Japan which he did for three seasons. He spent all his time with the Yomiuri Giants, the same team for whom Davey Johnson played. Clyde went a combined 22-18 with an ERA a bit above 4.00 while there. ’78 was his last year playing and he finished in the States 100-111 with a 3.50 ERA, 67 complete games, nine shutouts, and the three saves. In the minors he was 24-6 with a 2.86 ERA and hit .256.

Things got a bit ugly for Wright while he was in Japan. Always a recreational drinker his habit apparently reached a much higher level and he brought it back to the US with him when he came home. Shortly after he was done his son Jaret was born and Clyde later indicated that when Jaret was three and locked the door on him so he couldn’t get into the car that he realized it was time to sober up. That he did and by ’82 he was doing the tour as a recovered alcoholic to school and civic groups. By then he’d also started up his pitching academy in Anaheim which is still running. He also plays lots of golf and does other community work for the Angels and is reportedly a much mellower and more content guy than his cards indicate. Jaret went on to be an MLB pitcher whose career ended a couple years ago.

This stuff was all touched on above. Check out that birthdate though. That would mean that Clyde graduated college when he was 24, but articles from back then indicated he was 21 when he was in the NAIA tourney. In the few articles regarding his no-hitter he was listed as being 27. So he was born in either ’41, ’43, or ’44. I guess we get to take our pick.

We can do this a couple ways but let’s go through the Brewers:

1. Wright and Jim Colborn ’74 Brewers;
2. Colborn and Bill Plummer ’79 Mariners.

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