David Clyde, 1970s Baseball Phenom, Arrested for DWI
David Eugene Clyde, one of baseball's great "What if?" stories, was arrested for DWI this weekend in Harris County.
In his senior year at Spring Branch's Westchester High School in 1973, the fireballing lefty went 18-0 with an ERA of 0.182. Yes, the decimal is in the correct place there -- Clyde surrendered three runs in 148 innings. He also averaged more than two strikeouts a frame and tossed no fewer than five no-hitters.
The floundering Texas Rangers, new in the Dallas area after years of struggle as the Washington Senators, snagged Clyde as the first pick in the 1973 draft. The organization was struggling with poor attendance and badly needed a draw, and the Texas-bred Clyde was just what owner Bob Short had in mind.
Less than three weeks later, the teenage Clyde took the mound against the Minnesota Twins. Pitching in front of the Rangers' largest crowd of the year, Clyde got the win after five one-hit innings.
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It was pretty much all downhill from there. Like a lot of young lefties before and since, Clyde had control problems. Clyde also reportedly partied too hard with some of the veterans, seasoned drinkers like Clyde Wright, Dick Billings and Jim Fregosi. One day, Wright reportedly almost missed a team flight after he straggled hungover to the gate, still wearing yesterday's clothes.
"I thought nothing of having a few drinks after the game -- that was the way things went," Clyde told the Houston Chronicle in 1993. "But I really wasn't an alcoholic. Yeah, I did party a little too much at times, I'll admit to that. But I thought it was just the major-league lifestyle."
And then the injuries came, and Clyde's not-yet-fully-formed ego could not take the blows. Some of his managers, especially Billy Martin in Clyde's own telling, handled his career poorly.
In 1979, Clyde drilled Carl Yastrzemski with his final pitch in the big leagues. Far from his dream of becoming the next Sandy Koufax, Clyde's record stood at 18-33, his ERA a pedestrian 4.63.
Ever since, his name has become a byword for the hazards of rushing a talent to the big leagues too fast. Whitey Herzog, a manager Clyde liked but who was fired very early in Clyde's career, called the mishandling of Clyde's career "one of the worst things I've seen in baseball."
Earlier this year, Clyde told Deadspin's Rob Trucks that he was happy to serve as a cautionary tale.
I am the poster child. And it makes me feel wonderful, because it's going to happen again no matter how hard they try. The perfect storm is going to arise again. It will happen again. The perfect storm will arise again. A hometown boy is this phenomenal athlete. The local ballclub is in dire straits, and they're going to need to do something. And so the great thing is that when that does happen, I'll hear them say, "We're not going to let happen to him what happened to David Clyde."
After 20 years in the lumber business, Clyde, 57 and living in Humble, has more recently coached at a Houston-area Christian baseball academy.
On Saturday, Harris County Sheriffs arrested Clyde for DWI. It is his first offense. He is currently free on a $500 bond.
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