Hey Stephen Strasburg, it’s all been done before.
On June 27, 1973, 18-year-old David Clyde made his major league debut for the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium before the largest crowd in Rangers’ history.
The top selection in the June 1973 baseball draft, Clyde, who had pitched nine no-hitters for Westchester High School in Houston, signed for a $125,000 bonus. It was the most money given to any drafted player in return for signing.
In his high school career, Clyde allowed only three earned runs in 148 innings, for an ERA of 0.06. He won 18 games struck out 328 batters, and never tasted defeat.
Bob French, Clyde’s high school coach, was interviewed 30 years after Clyde made his major league debut.
“I thought he was going to be another Sandy Koufax,” French told a baseball reporter. He paused, lowered his voice, and added, “It all happened so fast, and then it was over.”
The Rangers had wanted Clyde to begin in the minors, but David wouldn’t sign unless he could make two starts for the Rangers before being sent down to learn how to pitch.
The start of the Rangers’ game against the Minnesota Twins was delayed more than 15 minutes because of traffic jams. David Clyde’s first professional start was an event that riveted the entire country.
Sandy Koufax sent Clyde a telegram that was simple and to the point. “Good luck, No. 32.”
American League president Joe Cronin thought it was remarkable.
“I can’t remember this much excitement over such a young player starting out since Bob Feller began with Cleveland. Isn’t the reaction over this kid something? He will really have the eyes of Texas on him.”
A nervous David Clyde walked Twins’ lead-off batter Jerry Terrell. He followed that with a walk to Rod Carew, but then Clyde struck out Danny Darwin, George Mitterwald, and Joe Lis.
Mike Adams touched Clyde for a two-run home run in the second inning, which was the only hit the Twins managed off Clyde. The young left-hander worked five innings, struck out eight, but walked seven. He threw over 100 pitches.
“I was lucky to throw as well as I did. I got away with a lot of pitches I shouldn’t have.”
Clyde pitched well in his next start, which prompted the Rangers not to send their pitching attraction to the minors. It was a fatal error.
The Rangers finally sent Clyde to the minors in 1975 and 1976. He hurt his arm and had shoulder surgery, and was traded to the Indians early in 1978. He went 8-11 for the Tribe that season, and won only three games in 1979. After a brief tryout with the Houston Astros in 1981, Clyde quit.
Whitey Herzog, the Rangers manager in 1973, didn’t mince words when recently asked about David Clyde. Herzog called it “one of the worst things I’ve seen in baseball.”
Owner Bob Short, who saw a chance to make money if Clyde remained with the team, overruled Herzog and the Rangers’ brass.
Teammate Tom Grieve summed it up. “It was obvious to us that the only reason this was happening is that it was putting money in the bank account of Bob Short.”
In 1973, an average of 18,000 fans paid to see the Rangers when Clyde pitched. When he didn’t, the Rangers averaged 7.500 in paid attendance.
David Clyde finished his career with a record of 18-33.
By DEANE McGOWEN. (1973, June 28). Roundup: Clyde, With Eyes of Texas on Him, Tops Twins in Debut :AMERICAN LEAGUE NATIONAL LEAGUE. New York Times (1923-Current file),63. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 103221059).
David Clyde Interview, 2003.