- Associated Press - Sunday, August 3, 2014

ENID, Okla. (AP) - David Clyde was a picture of contentment after his Houston Miracles shut out the Texas Stix Black of the Dallas area 4-0 in the first round of the Connie Mack South Plains Regional recently at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.

“It’s great that we won a ballgame,” he said. “What could be better in my life than God, family and baseball.”

Clyde has been called the “most mishandled” young player in the history of baseball, but has no bitterness or regrets, the Enid News and Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1rCm143 ).

Forty-two years earlier, he went from pitching for Houston’s Westchester High School (where he averaged more than two strikeouts per inning) to the Texas Rangers.

Only 19 days after his high school graduation, he was on the mound for the Rangers against the Minnesota Twins in front of 35,000 fans - more than 10,000 fans more than the second-year Rangers had drawn since moving from Washington, D.C. the year before.

He was an instant success, allowing only one hit while striking out eight and walking seven in five innings to pick up the victory.

“How do you describe getting to live your dream,” Clyde said about the moment. “That’s all I can say, You dream about something your entire life and you’re in the middle of it … God is great.”

That might have been the high point of a career that would end before age 26 with shoulder problems.

Rangers manager Whitey Herzog wanted to farm out Clyde after his second start. Owner Bob Short, seeing Clyde as his only main draw, said no.

Herzog, in his autobiography “White Rat,” said the only young pitcher who was as good as Clyde at that age was Dwight Gooden.

“If Clyde had been brought along as carefully as Gooden was, he could have had an outstanding major league career,” Herzog wrote. “He still might be pitching in the major leagues (circa 1986) instead of being a footnote in trivia book.”

Herzog wrote Clyde was still better than most of the pitchers he had.

Reality was the Rangers drew an average of 35,000 fans when Clyde was on the mound and 5,000 when he wasn’t.

Clyde was 4-8 that season with a 5.03 ERA. In 93 innings, he would allow 106 hits, while striking out 74 and walking 54.

“It could have been handled a whole lot differently, but that’s baseball,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today to help kids if I hadn’t had those experiences.”

He understood why Short wanted him for box office value.

“Bob Short was a great man,” Clyde said. “He gave me an opportunity to play.”

He uses himself as a lesson to his players about the business of baseball.

“It definitely helped me to pass on to these boys (the Miracles) what to be aware of,” Clyde said. “Baseball is a great game. Professional baseball is a great game, but you also have to realize it’s a business, and you have to treat it like a business because the ownership and the upper level management aren’t going to treat you like you were in high school. I was putting fannies in the seats. That’s why I was there.”

Clyde is credited for saving the Rangers franchise.

“I don’t know if I was the savior of the franchise,” he said. “No major league franchise has ever folded. All I did was to show baseball was an option in north Texas.”

He did feel a little pressure. He said during his time in Texas he felt he had to be better than he actually was.

“I was 18 in that work environment,” Clyde said. “I made a big jump and I didn’t have a chance to get my feet on the ground. I always felt I had to be better than I actually was.”

Herzog had been fired in September. Billy Martin, fired just a week earlier by the Detroit Tigers, was named in his place.

“Whitey’s firing was one of the worst things to happen in my career and Billy was probably the next worst thing to happen to my career,” Clyde said. “Other than that, life is great.”

While Herzog wanted to send Clyde to the minors, Martin didn’t want him on the team at all. Clyde said in an interview with DeadSpin that Martin didn’t like him because he was a young man and he “wasn’t allowed to work on the field like I wanted to work.”

“That’s life,” Clyde said.

Clyde was 3-9 with a 4.38 ERA under Martin. He pitched 117 innings, allowing 129 hits, striking out 52 and walking 47.

Herzog wrote in his book Clyde “wasn’t taking the best care of himself,” and was running around with older players, who weren’t the best influences.

Clyde, in the interview with DeadSpin, said he accepted the blame “for not taking care of myself as best as I could have.”

“I was the youngest player on the team,” Clyde said. “It’s hard to say if those guys were bad influences. That’s life.”

He missed the 1976 season with shoulder problems and was traded to the Cleveland Indians where he was 8-11 with a 4.28 ERA in 1978 and 3-4 with a 5.87 ERA in 1979.

Clyde had his second-favorite moment in baseball in the last game of the season for the Indians in 1978. He was beating the New York Yankees - who needed the win to force a playoff with the Boston Red Sox - 1-0 when he was taken out in the eighth. He ended up with a no-decision.

He was traded back to the Rangers in 1980, but he hurt his shoulder again and was released. He had shoulder surgery and caught on with the Houston Astros farm system the next season, but would retire after the season.

“It wasn’t hard,” Clyde said about his reason for leaving baseball. “It was my decision and nobody else’s. I needed to get on with the rest of my life.”

He was in the lumber business for 20 years before taking a position with the Houston Miracles Baseball Academy, a faith-based organization, 15 years ago.

“We’re trying to teach kids how to grow up,” he said. “We don’t push the religious side on them, but we’re there for them. God gave us the ability do to this, so why not honor him.”

He was inspired to coach by his past and his sons. His oldest son is one of the coaches for the five teams the Academy sponsors. He did get to coach his youngest on one of the teams.

The organization has two 18-year-old teams, one 16 and two 13s.

“This (the team in the Connie Mack regional) is the major league team,” he said. “I rob all of our other teams if I want somebody.”

He said he has “always believed in God,” but has become more vocal about his faith.

“I’m just more bold about him and my beliefs,” Clyde said.

He smiles as thinks how long ago it was when he was the center of the baseball spotlight.

“When you’re young, it seems like forever between birthdays and Christmas,” he said. “When you get to be my age, time flies by too fast. I got to live my dream. I know a lot of people who would have given anything for that chance.”

___

Information from: Enid News & Eagle, http://www.enidnews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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