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.

"In '74, when I didn't get to pitch a lot, I probably partied a little bit too much," says Clyde, who, post-career, has had little communication with former teammates. He's tried contacting a few to go hunting or fishing, but the calls were seldom returned. "Well, you're 7-foot-tall and bulletproof. You're kind of like a rock star. Mine was part of the maturity process. But, like I said, I didn't have anybody there really trying to steer me in the right direction. But I'm the one who has to ultimately take responsibility for everything."

The Rangers thought so. After bouncing him back and forth from the minors, Clyde blew out his left shoulder. The Rangers, ever benevolent and thankful for his resurrection of their moribund franchise, bought out his contract for about $35,000 and then released him (an indignity teams aren't allowed to bestow upon the injured these days). Clyde used $30,000 of that to pay the doctors. At 26, he had played for the Rangers, and briefly for the Indians, before trying a "comeback" with the Astros. During a stint in the Instructional League, the gravity of it all collapsed his will and he simply walked out, quit, retired, however you want to spin it. He left the game with the clothes on his back and little-to-no money saved. Had he stayed 27 more days, he would have qualified for a pension that would pay him as much as $40,000 a year.

"If I ever get a chance to get you those 27 days," Herzog told Clyde on The Jim Rome Show, "I'm gonna get 'em for you. The other thing is, if I were you...I think the Texas Rangers owe you those 27 days."

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.

"Nobody told me to leave," Clyde says evenly. "I left because I looked around and it wasn't me anymore. It was too much; I'd had enough of it. I decided, you know, I had met my current wife, and I wanted to settle down and be a normal person with a normal family."

David Clyde is giving a tour of his home. After checking the pH and chlorine levels in the Jacuzzi, and adjusting them accordingly, he walks slowly back inside, passes through a glass door that leads into the living room and heads into the recreation room. On the walls surrounding the pool table are just a few reminders of his playing days. A picture of him with preposterously large hair jutting from beneath a Rangers cap. A jersey. The Koufax telegram. Not much else.

"For the longest time, I sealed it off, my playing days, I mean," Clyde says. He looks comfortable; a T-shirt hides a bit of a belly and hangs loosely over shorts. Through glasses, he looks his guest in the eye. "I tried not to dwell on it, because, yeah, some of it hurts because maybe I wasn't as successful as some people thought I should be. But then I realized, after a while, that it's nice to be remembered, and maybe somehow my story will help someone out along the way."

Or touch someone. In summer 1998, the L.A. Times ran a story by Bill Plaschke titled "All Grown Up." Mike and Rick Julian--two brothers who had years before abandoned the dreary East Coast existence of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for the therapeutic Los Angeles weather--read the piece and fell all over themselves with sympathy. And ideas.

Both were sports fans. Both were in L.A. to--you guessed it--get a play or movie of theirs made. It seemed like a perfect fit. Clyde had a terrific, albeit sorrowful, tale to tell, one to which the Julians felt "connected." They'd contact him, befriend him and make a movie--in their minds, it was that straightforward. Rick, the writer, would pen the script. Mike, the producer/money man/contact guy/happy-go-lucky hustler, would take care of the rest. There was only one hitch: David Clyde.

"It took him almost a year to open up," Rick says. "He was very guarded at first. The emotional scars...David didn't trust anyone. It was about a year into us talking before I could convince him to let me come down to see him. He was exploited a lot, and I guess that's what he expected, more of that."

A normal reaction. For nearly all of his career, Clyde met precious few who were genuine--he was baseball's Diogenes, ever in search of an honest man. Then two brothers come from nowhere, all smiles and good intentions, offering to help champion his cause by trying to make a movie out of his life story. Oh, and maybe help him get back into baseball, too. They may as well have shown up at his door saying, "Hey there, Mr. Texas Man, want to buy a bridge?"

"Yeah, well, I didn't know the Julian brothers from Adam," Clyde says. "Just out of the clear blue one day, I get a call from these fellas. Or from this fella about the interest in maybe, maybe making a movie about me. We sat down; we talked about it. Eventually...I mean, I'm just totally freaked out about how really, an entire family, it's not just Mike and Rick, there's another brother and their dad, too, the whole family's involved in this thing. They're all just terrific. I mean, it's just...I can't thank them enough for the interest they've shown and the interest they've been able to, uh, generate in this thing. It's just, it's just awesome to have some people that believe in you that way. I guess they could have me fooled, but I don't think so."

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