BY: Richard W. Humphrey
40 years ago today, the Texas Rangers had their first sellout, a crowd of 35,698, in their second season in Texas. The attraction was the Rangers’ starting pitcher, David Clyde. Clyde was 18, having graduated just 19 days earlier from Westchester High School in the Spring Branch I. S. D. in Houston. He was selected with the first overall pick in the amateur draft. He negotiated a chance to play in the Majors immediately in his contract – two starts before he could be sent to the minor leagues.
Vern Lundquist was the channel 8 sportscaster at the time, and when the start was announced, he opined that the game would draw perhaps 10,000 more than usual. The start fell on a Wednesday night, not a weekend, so his prediction was not surprising. In the end however, the idea caught fire with the fans, and the game sold out. The traffic was such a problem, that the start time of the game was delayed 15 minutes to allow more fans to enter the stadium.
Clyde was then and remains the youngest starting pitcher to ever start a game for the Rangers. Minnesota was the opponent that night, and their starting pitcher was Jim Kaat. Ron Luciano was the home plate umpire, a fair ball and strike caller for the youngster. Clyde wallked the first two batters he faced, Jerry Terrell and Rod Carew, but proceeded to strike out the next three. For the night, Clyde completed five innings, allowing one hit, a two run home run to Jerry Terrell. He walked seven and struck out eight, throwing 112 pitches. As Clyde left the mound after the fifth inning, it was announced that his night was over; he would pitch no more that evening. The adoring crowd gave him a standing ovation! Texas won the game 4-3, and Clyde was the winning pitcher.
The Rangers had drawn a disappointing 660,000 fans in 1972, their first year in Arlington after moving from Washington. Rangers’ owner Bob Short had thought he could open the gates and a million fans would show up. It didn’t happen, and a year later, attendance trailed 1972′s pace by about 40,000 fans. The Rangers in fact had never even drawn as many as 25,000 fans to a game. The sellout was a shot in the arm for a struggling franchise, and Clyde’s second start also drew a sellout crowd. That was just too good to send him down to minors. The day after Clyde’s start, the Rangers drew fewer than 4,000 fans; but when the date of his second start was announced, 25,000 tickets were sold in three days. He stayed in the Majors, with what proved to be his downfall.
Clyde was thought to be another Sandy Koufax coming out of high school. He was lefthanded and had more pitches than just a fastball. He was 18-0 with a 0.18 ERA in his senior year at Westchester, having allowed three earned runs total. He stood 6′-1″ and weighed 190. He was thought to have all the physical tools to enjoy an outstanding Major League career. What he didn’t have was the mental maturity to handle the big leagues at the age of 18. Alcohol became a problem.
In the end, he pitched parts of five seasons in the Majors, three with Texas and two with Cleveland. His career record was 18-33 with a 4.63 ERA. Arm troubles forced his retirement. He was a bust, but he for sure gave the Rangers a shot in the arm at a time when it was needed. The attraction of Clyde and the draw was undoubtedly the deciding factor in making him the number one pick. When they did, the Rangers passed on Robin Yount, taken third by Milwaukee and Dave Winfield selected fourth by San Diego. It might have been the worst that could happen to Clyde, but for the fans that were there, it was a magical, unforgettable night.
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