This article was written by Dennis Degenhardt
Clarence Evans was a product of the District of Columbia’s school system, where he was a successful pitcher at Washington’s Armstrong High School. On May 25, 1937, the Washington Post reported that Evans pitched a one-hit, 12-0 shutout in a big win over Cardozo High of the South Atlantic Colored League, striking a blow in the defense of Armstrong’s “colored inter-high school baseball championship.”1 In going the distance, he also fanned 14 Cardozo batters. In 1938 he again hurled a 12-0 shutout while striking out 10 hitters against Bates High School at Annapolis, Maryland.2
As a native of the D.C. area, Evans had to be familiar with the Washington Homestead Grays, one of the Negro Leagues’ powerhouse franchises, which used Griffith Stadium as one of their two primary home fields (with their other home stadium being Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field). The Grays finished their 1948 home season with a doubleheader on Sunday, September 5, 1948, at Griffith Stadium on Buck Leonard Day, celebrating Leonard’s having spent 15 years with Homestead.3 With 6,000 fans in attendance, the team and fans honored their longtime captain and first baseman. They proceeded to win both games against two different teams, outlasting the Indianapolis Clowns 8-4 in the first game and defeating the Kansas City Monarchs 6-1 in the nightcap.
In the opener, the Grays threw Clarence Evans against the Clowns in what became his only appearance for the eventual 1948 Negro League World Series champions. The “product of the Washington scholastic ranks”4 was the winning pitcher, allowing four runs on nine hits in 7⅔ innings pitched. He surrendered four walks while striking out only one batter. At the plate, he was hitless in three at-bats. Evans had likely come to the Grays’ attention by word of mouth or by the process of scouting the local area’s talent. Since his only appearance for the Grays took place in his hometown on the last weekend of the season, he may have been a replacement player or may have been auditioning for the team with an eye toward securing a roster spot for the following season.
Evans did indeed remain with the Grays for part of the 1949 season when the team joined the Negro American Association. He was listed as one of the hurlers by the Baltimore Afro-American in a June 4, 1949, article, but he did not finish the season with the team, and was not included in later articles. No record exists of his accomplishments that season.
Nevertheless, the 1949 season was not Evans’ last campaign in professional Negro baseball. He was a member of the Washington Royals in 1951, the franchise that became the first Negro team to play in the City Series.5 The team’s best pitcher, Oswald Stewart Jr., the son of the team’s manager, won most of their games, but the team also had a clever knuckleballer, Clarence Evans.6
After his time with the Royals, Evans disappeared into history as mysteriously as he had come out of it. So little information about Evans exits that neither accurate birth records nor any death record can be located.
Clarence Evans has been one of the most elusive players to attempt to research. We know neither the date of his birth nor of his probable death, and very little of his life in between. An attempt to reach the basics through Ancestry.com resulted in over one million entries. We know too little about his life to significantly narrow the search terms. Thanks to SABR member Bill Mortell for his expert help in this regard. We each found several candidates who might be Evans, but nothing pointed back to what we know about baseball, high school, or the teams he played on.
1 “Armstrong High’s Nine Defeats Cardozo, 12-0,” Washington Post, May 25, 1937: 17.
2 “Armstrong High Defeats Bates,” Washington Post, April 30, 1938: X18.
3 “Buck Marks 15th Year by Winning,” New York Amsterdam News, September 11, 1948: 15.
4 Baltimore Afro-American, September 11, 1948.
5 Brian Bell Jr., “On the Sandlots,” Washington Evening Star, August 5, 1951: 37.
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