#CardCorner: 1980 Topps David Clyde
Hall of Fame staffers are also baseball fans and love to share their stories. Here is a fan's perspective from Cooperstown.
David Clyde no longer looks like a clean-cut, baby-faced rookie on his 1980 Topps card. He has grown out his hair, lengthened his sideburns, and sprouted a mustache, all significant changes from his first days in the major leagues back in 1973. His face is also starting to show a little bit of aging, as it does for all ballplayers, even those who are still in their mid-twenties.
Still, there’s more to the Clyde card than physical observations. Clyde’s expression might be described as a mix of being pensive and worried. Perhaps he’s thinking of what might have been, of what exactly happened to his career. He was never supposed to wear the warmup jacket of the Cleveland Indians. He was supposed to be a Texas Ranger for life, pitching in the same state in which he was born and had once become a household name.
Unfortunately, Clyde’s career did not progress as most thought it would. Bob Short, the man who moved the Washington Senators to Texas and formed the Rangers, devised a plan to bring left-hander David Clyde from high school ball directly to the major leagues. Short wanted Clyde to be a drawing card for his struggling Rangers franchise. In fact, Clyde’s debut season did help attendance at Arlington Stadium, but it may have altered Clyde’s career, which had once seemed so promising.
At one time a household name, Clyde has become a footnote in baseball annals. That’s unfortunate, because of the talent that once made Clyde a bigger name than even Steven Strasburg or Ben McDonald, two other similarly hyped pitchers of more recent vintage. As a senior at Westchester High School in Texas, Clyde had dominated the opposition to the tune of nine no-hitters. That’s nine no-hitters in a single season. It’s no wonder that the Rangers drafted Clyde first overall in June of 1973 and gave him a bonus of $125,000. What did raise eyebrows was the Rangers’ decision to have Clyde completely bypass the minor leagues. Instead, the Rangers fitted him for a uniform that he sported just a few days later.
Clyde was only 18 years old at the time. Why did the Rangers bring him to Texas so quickly? That was the brainchild of Short, who had angered some within the baseball establishment by moving the Senators out of Washington less than two years earlier. Short now needed a drawing card in Arlington, the home of the Rangers. So he brought Clyde to Texas immediately, in direct conflict with the advice of his future Hall of Fame manager. Whitey Herzog, an expert evaluator and handler of young talent, correctly believed that Clyde needed schooling in the minor leagues.
As the owner of the team, Short’s opinion won out. Equipped with both Short’s blessings and a mechanically sound delivery that some scouts had compared to that of Sandy Koufax, Clyde made his highly publicized debut against the Minnesota Twins on June 27, 1973. It came exactly 20 days after Clyde’s final high school appearance.