Clifford Calvin Irons appeared in only one documented game for the Philadelphia Stars. The game took place in Philadelphia on July 6, 1934, and Irons shared mound duties with another teenager, Bernard Blackwell.1 Irons was described in a newspaper account of the game as a “first-rate twirler” from Bryn Mawr High School, but he actually attended and played baseball for Haverford High.2 The Stars and these two young moundsmen defeated the Mitchell Athletic Association of Philadelphia in a nonleague tilt, 6-2.3 Neither teenage hurler ever appeared in another game for the Stars.
Irons was born in 1913 in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, a suburban community about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. His father was a farmer, but shortly after Irons was born, the family moved 20 miles southwest to Haverford. Irons and his family lived on Preston Avenue in a working-class enclave of Haverford, a community that is part of the historically affluent Main Line of Philadelphia. In mid-October of 1918, when Irons was just 5 years old, both his father and an uncle died within days of each other from influenza during the height of the historic pandemic. That same week, influenza claimed the lives of more than 4,500 Philadelphians, and over the course of the pandemic, at least 12,000 died in the Philadelphia area.4 After the death of his father, Irons’ widowed mother split the family in two. Clifford and his brother, Arthur, were eventually sent down the street to live with their maternal grandparents, while his sister, Lillian, lived with their mother.
Despite this family trauma, Irons managed to attend school and compete in sports. He was a member of the predominantly White Haverford High’s track team and excelled at the broad jump.5 At the same time, he was Haverford’s star relief pitcher and earned the nickname Whip for his quick delivery and late-inning heroics.6 In 1932, before he finished high school, Irons had taken on some extracurricular duties as a relief pitcher for a local amateur nine, the Main Line Tigers, a “fast Negro outfit,” and “one of the strongest clubs in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.”7 In 1933, Irons’ senior year, Haverford finished as the runner-up to first-place Lower Merion in their suburban prep-league championship.8 After graduation, he rejoined the Main Line Tigers.
In late June 1934, the week before he pitched for the Stars, Irons was in the lineup for the Tigers for a tilt against the Baltimore Pirates in nearby Bryn Mawr.9 It is likely that Irons’ participation in high-school and suburban baseball leagues caught the attention of Ed Bolden and the Stars and resulted in Irons’ recruitment. Irons was 19 years old when he pitched in his one and only game for the Stars.10 He made the most of his brief foray into Negro League baseball and helped the Stars defeat the Mitchell Athletic Association of Philadelphia, 6-2.11
After finishing his cup of coffee with the Stars, Irons continued to play for suburban amateur nines for two more years. In 1935 he played his last baseball for an amateur aggregation, pitching for the Wayne Black Hawks.12 Unfortunately for Irons, his career on the mound did not end on a high note. In June 1935, Irons and the Black Hawks lost 7-1 to the Royersford Needleworks team in Pottstown.13 Irons’ retirement from baseball came around the same time as his marriage to Goldie Brown, with whom he had at least four children.
Irons lived in the Haverford area throughout the 1940s, working as a laborer and apartment superintendent until approximately 1950, when he relocated his family to North Philadelphia. Irons worked for Owens-Illinois Forest Products Division’s corrugated box factory in Bristol Township, northeast of Philadelphia, in Bucks County.14 He remained with Owens-Illinois for more than 20 years.15 Irons died in Philadelphia in January 1975 at the age of 61.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Negro League statistics and records were sourced from Seamheads.com.
Ancestry.com was used to access census, birth, death, marriage, military, immigration, and other genealogical and public records.
1 “Philly Stars Garner Two During Week,” Baltimore Afro-American, July 14, 1934: 19.
2 “Philly Stars Garner Two During Week.”
3 “Philly Stars Garner Two During Week.”
4 John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (New York: Penguin Random House, 2005), 370; Department of Health and Charities of the City of Philadelphia, “Monthly Bulletin,” November 1918: 3.
5 “Haverford Easy Winner in Delco Tests at Lansdowne,” Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, Pennsylvania), April 24, 1933: 12.
6 “Lower Merion Tossers Defeat Norristown Foe to Cart Off Section 1 Laurels,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 1933: 18.
7 “Dover Pros Defeat Main Line Tigers,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 1932: 41; “Baltimore Pirates in Holiday Bill,” Baltimore Afro-American, June 30, 1934: 19.
8 “Lower Merion Tossers Defeat Norristown Foe to Cart Off Section 1 Laurels.”
9 “Philly Stars Garner Two During Week.”
10 “Philly Stars Garner Two During Week.”
11 “Philly Stars Garner Two During Week.”
12 “Needleworks Leading 7-1 as Rain Halts Tilt,” Pottstown (Pennsylvania) Mercury, June 18, 1935: 5.
13 “Needleworks Leading 7-1 as Rain Halts Tilt.”
14 Scoop Lewis, “Buildings on the Rise in Bristol Township,” Bristol (Pennsylvania) Daily Courier, October 16, 1965: 4.
15 “Proudly We Hail,” Bristol Daily Courier, October 23, 1963: 16.
Clifford Calvin Irons
, 1913 at Montgomeryville, PA (USA)
January , 1975 at Philadelphia, PA (USA)
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