Life's a Pitch

David Clyde was supposed to save the Texas Rangers. Thirty years later, he just wants 27 days of his old life back.

Strangely, it probably didn't help Clyde's career any that he did well in his first few starts. Herzog's intention was to option him to the minors after a couple of games, allow him to work on his mechanics and grow up some, and then bring him back to the majors. Clyde's success kept that from happening. Short was so smitten with his ability and box-office appeal, the owner wasn't yet ready to slaughter his fatted calf. He once again vetoed Herzog, and Clyde stayed in Arlington.

"The circumstance, the atmosphere surrounding David, was obviously the hardest part," Grieve says. "He had a perfect delivery, a great arm, total command of his pitches. He was well beyond the curve of a teen-ager. But that was a lot to deal with. No--well, I shouldn't say no--but few 18-year-olds are capable of handling that kind of pressure on their psyche. There was just so much that he had to deal with and absorb. Bottom line: The Texas Rangers, Bob Short, Whitey Herzog, they never should have put him in the majors. It wasn't fair. It might have been in the best interests of the club to do so, or the best interests of the team as far as money was concerned, but putting him in the majors was definitely not in the best interests of David Clyde or his career in the long term."

Even though he disagreed with rushing his young pitcher, Herzog was still one of Clyde's chief proponents. But before the '73 season ended, Herzog was fired. In came Billy Martin, a subversive personality best known for his many managerial stints with the New York Yankees. Martin was the antithesis of Herzog in temperament and baseball philosophy. Where Herzog got on well with Clyde and valued his potential, Martin was derisive toward most pitchers. Particularly Clyde. Almost immediately, Clyde went from a starter to an extra, shunted off into the ballpark shadows. Despite starting the '74 season 3-0, Martin all but forgot about Clyde and rarely pitched him thereafter. It makes little sense, and to this day, few people know why, though Clyde has a theory.

Former Texas Rangers pitcher David Clyde, who had a fearsome hook, shows off his grip.
Mark Graham
Former Texas Rangers pitcher David Clyde, who had a fearsome hook, shows off his grip.
Clyde's card collection shows his quick progression from fuzz-cheeked 18-year-old phenom to broken-down veteran.
Mark Graham
Clyde's card collection shows his quick progression from fuzz-cheeked 18-year-old phenom to broken-down veteran.

"If you look at Billy's career, not only playing but managing, you can see where I wasn't his kind of guy," Clyde says. "Number one, Billy's always wanted to be the center of attention. I didn't ask to be the center of attention in Dallas. But I was. So I think there was some jealousy on that part that affected our relationship. Number two, Billy, throughout his managerial career, did not like young players. Number three, Billy hated pitchers. So, if you look at all those things...three strikes, you're out."

Wanting to keep fresh, Clyde would ask to throw before games or during batting practice. Martin almost always refused. Clyde became a pitcher who didn't pitch. The down time slowly eroded his confidence and his curveball. His once-mighty hook started bouncing to the plate, which did little to smooth things over with Martin. At the end of the miserable '74 season, Martin's rancor boiled over and Shropshire quoted the manager as saying, "You know who cost us the pennant? That fucking little David Clyde."

"I faced Vida Blue, [and] he had a fastball that would come over the top and whooom...just like that," says one-time Ranger Dave Nelson. "Well, David was the same way. It had that little giddy-up at the end. And he had some movement on it, too, that was just unbelievable. Man, that guy was a great, great pitcher. You feel sorry...I say this, I blame the organization. When you have a talent that special, you have to nurture that along. They just threw him out there and said, 'You're either going to be successful or you're going to sink.' There was no guidance."

Having saved the franchise a year before, Clyde now found himself in a situation where no one bothered to save him from himself. Shortly after signing with the Rangers, Clyde had married his high school sweetheart, Cheryl Crawford. Less than a year later, they were divorced. (His second marriage, to Patti McKenna, lasted only slightly longer--two years--leaving him twice divorced by 24.) With a rocky personal life, and his career under Martin souring, Clyde tried to blend in with his teammates. It was hard, considering the age difference. The team was mostly composed of veterans in their 30s; the youngest guys on the club, Grieve and Jeff Burroughs, were in their mid-20s--still a good six to eight years older than Clyde. He started drinking more and partying later. The players would take him out, some because they figured why not, others for their own twisted amusement.

"Some of them wanted to take him drinking, and they meant well, and others just thought it was funny," Grieve says. "They didn't care. And David was a good kid. He wanted to please everyone, so he went along."

Clyde swears he was never an alcoholic and that it wasn't an every-night thing. He didn't wake up searching for liquor, he says. But neither does he deny the slide or some of its contributing factors. Some days he would show up to the ballpark with a raging, noticeable hangover. Others he'd appear dressed in the clothes he'd worn the night before. On one occasion, he almost didn't show up at all, catching a flight out of Boston moments before it, and the team, nearly left without him. He developed an ulcer and went from a nonsmoker to a two-pack-a-day habit.

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