Hey, Darrell, you surely know all about this phenom down in the Spring Branch section of Houston, at Westchester High School, who can kick a football from Port Arthur to El Paso if the wind is with him. Otherwise, maybe only to Odessa. With the inside of his foot, too, like them foreign fellers, only he's a genuine American phenom, which is the way it should be. Kicked 49- and 45-yard field goals as a senior, and a 59-yarder fell just short of the crossbar. But lest you think this magazine has gone and put the wrong sport in front of the slash up above, or a lunatic's name after it, you ought to know that this young man's future is not with the Texas Longhorns but with the Texas Rangers, for whom he will play briefly before heading north to induction ceremonies at Cooperstown.
His name is David Clyde and he is an 18-year-old left-handed pitcher. He throws the ball so hard that if he had been the David who went up against Goliath, he wouldn't have needed any sling. He threw nine no-hitters in his high-school career, five of them in his senior year and two of them back to back against the same opponent in the state playoffs. He did not allow a run in his last 55‚Öì innings and only three earned runs all season. In his last 39 innings he permitted only two hits, one of them a scratch single, the other a late-swinging Texas League double to right field. He finished with an 18-0 record, and he had not been defeated the entire previous summer of American Legion ball.
So it is no wonder that the hapless Rangers, picking first in last week's major-league draft and in dire need of pitching help, selected Clyde. The word around the state is that he will not be farmed out to Gastonia of the Class A Western Carolinas League but will report first to his bank to deposit his bonus bundle ($100,000 has been the figure bandied about) and then to Manager Whitey Herzog at Arlington Stadium. Before serious negotiations could start between the club and Clyde's father Gene, however, there was first the matter of the state tournament to clean up. Ranger Owner Bob Short and General Manager Joe Burke, not exactly caught up in the heat of a pennant race, told the Clyde family and the Westchester High coach, Bob French, to bring the championship back to Spring Branch—then there would be plenty of time to think about becoming instantly rich.
The semifinals and final of the 25th annual state tournament were held last Thursday and Friday at Austin's Nelson Field. Westchester had been on the scene last year and had been bombarded by Bellaire of Houston 11-1 in the opening game, with Clyde lasting only 4‚Öî innings and hitting everything in the ball park but the strike zone. He had not lost since, and the Westchester Wildcats had good talent to back him up, including Catcher Bobby Williams, Clyde's target for four years, Shortstop Steve Ramsey, drafted by Baltimore, and Centerfielder Mark Covey, an All-District quarterback for the football team.
The opponent in the semifinal was Galena Park High, also from the Greater Houston area and quite familiar with the legendary lefty who in a few days probably would be pitching in the American League. However, the Galena Park players insisted they were not trembling with fear at the thought of stepping into the batter's box.
"If I can't hit him, nobody can," said First Baseman David DuBose. "I don't think there's anybody on this team that's afraid to bat against him."
Westchester lost the coin flip and had to bat first as the visiting team. The lead-off hitter, Jimmy Lassiter, put a home run over the left-field wall, and that proved to be all the Wildcats needed. When Clyde walked out to the mound the crowd settled back in the pleasant heat to eat their snow cones and enjoy the breeze from vainly flailing Galena Park bats. Clyde was not at his overpowering best, perhaps because he had had a seven-day layoff since his last start, but he was good enough to hold Galena Park hitless through the first six innings. The second batter up in the seventh and last inning was David DuBose, the fearless one, who had struck out twice. He swung late and the ball arched into right field, bounced just under the glove of the diving rightfielder and DuBose made it to second. Clyde struck out the next two batters, giving him 13 for the game, and Westchester won 5-0.
He did not pitch the next day and Westchester was upset by Midland 3-1 in the Texas 4A final. And so David finished his illustrious high-school career with 843 strikeouts in 475‚Öì innings in four seasons, a 46-6 record for his last three seasons and 45 victories in his last 46 games. And no doubt a new Texas high school record for drooling scouts, one game, one season, one career.
Clyde seems to have all the attributes of a genuine Texas hero: he is a handsome, well-built, 6'1" 190-pounder with brown curly hair, a polite manner and a pretty little sprite of a girl friend who gets straight A's at Westchester. Thanks to her cracking down on him, he got pretty good grades himself this last year and the two of them will probably go to Texas A&M in the fall. The only flaw is that he is just as much a Kansan as a Texan.
He was born in Kansas City, Kans. and grew up in Wichita and Topeka, not to mention New Providence, N.J. (that is where he played some soccer and developed his sideways kicking) and St. Louis as the Bell System kept moving his father around. The family finally settled in Spring Branch when he was in the ninth grade and had been pitching a couple of years. Just about everything he knows about pitching was taught by his dad, who had been a semipro pitcher and first baseman in the Kansas City area.
Clyde's money pitch—and it will certainly be that after he bites into Bob Short's bankroll—is his fastball. He thinks it is faster than some major-leaguers' (modest fellow) but admits it does not match Sam McDowell's meteorite. He also has a hard slider that fools the batters because it looks just like his fast ball until it breaks.
"I'd like to have some more work on my change of pace," he says.
Whether that work will be done in Arlington Stadium or Gastonia is the question. Some newspaper reports said his father was insisting that Dave go directly to the big club and get at least three starts before being farmed out. Gene Clyde insisted that the tales were not true.
"I'll leave that with the baseball people," he said.
He probably will because he's got enough to think about. There are three more sons at home, ages 14, 13 and 10, and the Rangers are going to need a lot more help the next few years, at least on the days between David's starts.