SABR

Doug Clemens

This article was written by John Stahl.

Personable, intelligent, and soft-spoken, the athletic Doug Clemens also brought a key intangible to his professional baseball career: a dedication to improving his skills. He played parts of nine seasons in the major leagues with three teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Emerging from the Cardinals’ farm system, Clemens started the 1964 season with the major-league club. In 33 games he hit .205 with six walks and 16 strikeouts. On June 15 the Cardinals traded Clemens, Bobby Shantz, and Ernie Broglio to the Cubs for Jack Spring, Paul Toth, and future Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

Douglas Horace Clemens was born on June 9, 1939, in Leesport, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles northeast of Harrisburg, the state capital. He played a lot of football and baseball as a teenager, and played both sports at Muhlenberg High School, where his coach in both sports was his father, Lloyd “Scoop” Clemens.1

“He coached everything,” Doug Clemens remembered. “He had the record for the most victories of all the coaches in the state of Pennsylvania.”2 Doug starred as a first baseman in baseball and a halfback in football. His father also scouted for the Phillies. In 1997 the Muhlenberg School District Hall of Fame inducted both father and son.

As an outstanding halfback, Clemens received a full football scholarship to Syracuse University. In his freshman year he suffered a serious injury to his right knee that required two operations.3 Fortunately for Clemens, Syracuse switched his scholarship to baseball. He played first base and lettered in baseball in both 1959 and 1960.

During summer break, Clemens played baseball in the Basin League, a premier summer college baseball league, with teams in towns located along the Missouri River basin in the upper Midwest. Clemens played for the Mitchell (South Dakota) Kernels. Several Basin Leagure alumni played in the major leagues, including Clemens’ good friend, pitcher Dave Giusti,4 who pitched in the majors for 15 years.5

On July 21, 1960, after Clemens’ junior year at Syracuse, Cardinals scout Benny Bergmann signed him to a contract.6 He received $40,000 in bonus and salary spread over four years.7 The Cardinals sent the 6-foot, 180-pound Clemens to their minor-league team in Billings, Montana, in the Pioneer League (Class C). He immediately tore up the league, hitting .389 in 39 games,,8 and in October the Cardinals brought him up to the major leagues. On October 2, the last day of the regular season, the 21-year-old Clemens made his first major-league appearance when he was sent in to play right field in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants in Candlestick Park. “I was very, very nervous,” Clemens remembered. “A screaming line drive came at me and I made a diving catch. Not only were the 28,000 fans clapping from the catch, but my knees were clapping from being so nervous!”9 The season over, he returned to Syracuse University. Several years later, he achieved both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education.

In 1961 the Cardinals initially sent Clemens to their Tulsa team in the Double-A Texas League. In 97 games, Clemens hit .342. In July the Texas League managers selected him to play in the league all-star game.10 Anxious to see how he would fare against better competition, the Cardinals then promoted Clemens to their Charleston team in the Trile-A International League, where he hit.310 in 52 games. Again the Cardinals called him up toward the end of the season. He played in six games and in 12 at-bats he got two hits. His first major-league hit, a pinch-hit single, came off the Dodgers’ Ed Roebuck on September 23.

Clemens started the 1962 season with the Cardinals. Although he had less than two years of professional experience, manager Johnny Keane considered him ready for immediate duty.11 Before the season The Sporting News’ baseball writers picked him as the “likeliest player to improve” on the Cardinals.12

St. Louis began the 1962 season with seven outfielders, including future Hall of Famer Stan Musial. Of the seven, Clemens had the least major-league experience. Within this crowded environment he played in parts of 48 games, starting 15 and batting .237. In mid-July, the Cardinals sent him to the Atlanta Crackers in the International League, where he stayed for the remainder of the season.

Shortly before he was sent to Atlanta, Clemens and his wife, Ginny (they were married in 1961), became parents of a son, Theodore Williams Clemens – named after Ted Williams. Not only did he and his wife like the name Ted, but Williams had always been his boyhood baseball idol.13 (As of November 2008 Doug and Ginny had three children and seven grandchildren.14)

At Atlanta, Clemens helped the Crackers on the team’s march to victory in the Junior World Series. After languishing in sixth place for most of the season, the Crackers gained a playoff spot by finishing in third place, won the league championship by defeating Toronto and Jacksonville, then won the Junior World Series against Louisville of the American Association in seven games, with Clemens driving in the decisive run in two of the games. The 1962 Atlanta team included Ray Sadecki, Tim McCarver, and Phil Gagliano, all teammates on the 1964 Cardinals.15

As the 1963 season began, Clemens again faced stiff competition for an outfield spot with the Cardinals. Over the winter the team had acquired slugging outfielder George Altman from the Chicago Cubs. In late March Clemens was sent to Atlanta. Playing mostly in the outfield but also appearing in 34 games at first base, he hit.278 and matched his career high in home runs (13). He made an unassisted double play when he made a difficult catch of a liner in left-center and ran to second base to double off a baserunner who had left the base thinking the ball wouild fall in.16 When the Crackers’ season ended, Clemens returned to the Cardinals and played in five games at the end of the season.

Clemens started the 1964 season with the Cardinals, sharing time in left field and right field with Charley James, Johnny Lewis, Carl Warwick, and Mike Shannon. Before being traded to the Cubs Chicago in the Lou Brock deal on June 15, he played in 33 of the Cardinals’ first 58 games. He hit .205 with one home run and nine RBIs.

The trade to Chicago upset Clemens, particularly when he saw several of his former teammates in the Cardinals’ minor-league system (McCarver, Sadecki, and Shannon) play in the 1964 World Series. In his five years, he played in 93 games for St. Louis and batted.217.

With the Cubs Clemens appeared to be moving into a regular spot in right field, but his progress was abruptly interrupted when he broke the little finger on his left hand when he was hit by a throw while trying to break up a double play. He went on the disabled list on August 27 and he did not return until September 27. In 54 games for the Cubs he batted.279, for an overall .252 batting average.

Clemens won the Cubs’ starting right-field job in spring training of 1965 by hitting .406. But when the season began he started slowly. His batting average stood at .234 by the end of May. From the beginning of June to the end of August, it ranged between.228 and.266. He tailed off in September and October and finished the year at .221 for the 72-90 eighth-place Cubs. But he reached personal highs in games played (128) and hits (75). He had two four-hit games, one against the Cardinals.

“To be honest,” he recalled in 2004, “the Cubs gave me a great opportunity in 1965. It was my best opportunity to play on a regular basis. I wish the results were better. I just did not produce. The pitchers at the major-league level have better control, regardless of what the count is. They nibble and get pitches that may be a little off the plate. They get to know you and determine what your weaknesses might be. I just wasn’t getting the hits. But I did the best I could.”17

In January 1966 Clemens was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Wes Covington. For Clemens it was a homecoming. His family lived within driving distance of Philadelphia. They could watch him play. He always loved the Philadelphia area and followed the Phillies as a youngster.

During his three seasons with the Philies (1966-68), Clemens was primarily a pinch-hitting specialist. In 1966 he pinch-hit a major-league-leading 50 times in his 79 game appearances and had a.256 batting average.18

“As everyone knows,” he reflected in 2004, “pinch-hitting is one of the toughest jobs in the business. You either do or you don’t. You get up to the plate once every three days and that’s it.”19

For the Phillies, Clemens was a tireless offseason speaker at fan-related gatherings promoting both the team and baseball in general. On the field in 1967 he was unable to duplicate his 1966 hitting performance, and his batting average dropped to .178. He pinch-hit in 59 of his 69 games played. His bench role wore him down both physically and mentally. “Being a fringe player,” he commented, “sitting on the bench … that’s the hardest job in baseball. It gets a person down mentally … not to mention how it physically affects your timing.”20

At the beginning of 1968 the Phillies sent Clemens to San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, where he played in 104 games and hit .248. In mid-August, the Phillies recalled him and he played in enough games to qualify for a major-league pension.

Clemens thought about playing in 1969, but decided against it. A friend had offered him a job that allowed him to stay close to his family. He thrived in the business world and became the vice president of sales and marketing for General Machine Products. He retired in 2004.

Clemens spent parts of nine years in the major leagues. He played in 452 games and batted.229. He appeared as a pinch-hitter 185 times.

Reflecting back on his baseball career, Clemens told a baseball biographer, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who gave it his best shot, who tried to excel for the benefit of the team and himself.”21

 

This biography is included in the book "Drama and Pride in the Gateway City: The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals" (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), edited by John Harry Stahl and Bill Nowlin. For more information, or to purchase the book from University of Nebraska Press, click here.

 

Notes

1Lewis, Allen. “Clemens Hopes to Muscle Into Phils’ Outfield,” The Sporting News, April 2, 1966, p. 7.

2 Zimniuch, Fran. “Phillies: Where Have You Gone?” Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC, 2004, pp. 166-169

3 Lewis, Allen. “Ah, Peace at Last—Noisy Wes Departs; Quiet Doug to Phils,” The Sporting News, January 29, 1966, p. 22

5 Thorn, John, Pete Palmer, and Michael Gershman, eds. Total Baseball, Seventh Edition, Kingston, New York: Total Sports Publishing, 2001, p. 1481

6 Russo, Neal. “Big Noise in Minors, Clemens Bat Could Crash Card Lineup,” The Sporting News, March 7, 1964, p. 16

7 Lewis, Allen, “Clemens Hopes to Muscle Into Phils’ Outfield,” The Sporting News, April 2, 1966, p. 7.

8 www.baseball-reference.com, Doug Clemens Minor League Statistics and History.

9 Yerkov, Melissa. “Memoirs of a Major Leaguer, Northeast Times; www.northeasttimes.com Clemens.html, November 2008.

10 “Pilots Select Seven Amarillo Players for Texas All-Stars,” The Sporting News, July 12, 1961, p. 38

11 Stockton, J. Roy. “Speedy Birds Revive Hope for New Model of St. Louis Swifties,” The Sporting News, March 28, 1962, p. 28

12 Kahan, Oscar, “Capsule Comments Pinpoint ’62 Eye-Poppers,” The Sporting News,April 18, 1962, p. 10

13 “International Items,” The Sporting News, August 11, 1962, p. 40

14 Yerkov, op. cit.

15 Carrico, Johnny, “Crackers Cap Merriwell Feats With JWS Triumph,” The Sporting News, October 13, 1962, p. 29

16 “Unassisted DP By Outfielder,” International Items, The Sporting News, September 28, 1963, p. 25

17 Zimniuch, op. cit., p. 168

18 Kelly, Ray. “Phils Keep Clemens Out of School,” Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, September 22, 1967, p. 57

19 Ibid.

20 Lewis, Allen, “Phils’ Clemens Rips Fringe Label With Clouting Spree,” The Sporting News, September 21, 1968, p. 13

21 Zimniuch, op. cit.

Individual Memberships start at just $45/year

Become A Member Today

When you join SABR you are making a statement of support for baseball history. You are joining a worldwide community of people who love to read about, talk about and write about baseball.