Clinton Clarence Hartung
(Floppy or The Hondo Hurricane)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 215 lb.
- High School Hondo High School
- Debut April 15, 1947
- Final Game September 28, 1952
- Born August 10, 1922 in Hondo, TX USA
- Died July 8, 2010 in Sinton, TX USA
Clint Hartung has become the symbol of the over-hyped player who doesn't live up to expectations. He was supposed to be a Hall of Fame level two-way player, but instead is remembered as a bust. This is inaccurate, as he did have some success in the majors, but people frequently overlook the good to focus on the bad.
Hartung played six seasons in the majors, all of them with the New York Giants. He was primarily a pitcher in 1947, exclusively a pitcher in 1948 and 1949, primarily a pitcher in 1950 and exclusively an outfielder (mostly right field) in 1951 and 1952.
In his best year as a pitcher, he went 9-7 with a 4.57 ERA on team whose ERA was 4.44 (the 1947 Giants). As a hitter, he had 14 home runs in 403 at-bats during his major league career, and with the 1947 Giants he hit .309 (on a team that hit .271).
Minors and Service
After a top high school career in Hondo, TX, Hartung debuted in the minor leagues in 1942 as a 19-year-old. Playing most of the season for Eau Claire, he hit .358 with 12 home runs in 66 games, and as a pitcher had a record of 3-1 in six appearances. He also played a few games for Minneapolis, with more success as a pitcher than as a hitter.
He then missed the next four years to military service. While in the service he had tremendous success against what was viewed as major-league level competition. However, a lot of the major leagues had left the service by the time he found his greatest success, so th level of competition he faced was in fact diluted. Life Magazine of February 24, 1947 touted his great career and expected future. Time Magazine of March 17, 1947 also featured him.
He was bought by the New York Giants in 1946 for $25,000 plus four players.
Hartung came to the majors amid such hoopla that one observer said all Hartung had to do was sit still and he'd make the Hall of Fame. Clint hit home runs during spring training, adding fuel to the fire.
Clint was 24 years old when he made his major league debut for manager Mel Ott. He pitched fairly well during the 1947 season as one of four regular starters (he won his first four games). While Larry Jansen was the team's big star with a 21-5 record, Hartung was more successful than fellow pitcher Monte Kennedy, who went 9-12 with a 4.85 ERA, while Hartung was 9-7 with a 4.57 ERA. The other starter, Dave Koslo, had a 15-10 record but his ERA was 4.39, not much different than Hartung's ERA.
As a hitter that first year, he hit .309 and slugged .543. It was a team that hit well, with a team slugging percentage of .454 (with their home stadium being the Polo Grounds). Nevertheless, Hartung's batting average was higher than any of the regular position players. His rookie year was also 39-year-old Ernie Lombardi's last year in the majors, one in which he hit .282 for the Giants.
Hartung's 1947 season was a decent-enough start to a major league career, and if Hartung had moved forward from that rookie year, he would be remembered as a star. However, in his second year, 1948, he stayed pretty much the same as a pitcher, with a similar win-loss record (8-8) and ERA (4.75). The team ERA, however, dropped to 3.93 and Hartung's ERA was the highest among the starting pitchers. As a hitter, he slumped to .179 without power, granted that the team batting average dropped to .256.
In 1949 the team ERA again dropped, this time to 3.82, while Hartung's again went up, to 5.00. His record of 9-11 wasn't terrible, though, given that most of the starters were under .500 on a team that went 73-81. As a hitter his .191 average was again below average, but he had four home runs on a team whose home run total was dropping each year.
1950 marked a year when the team improved, going 86-68, and the team ERA again went down to 3.71. Hartung's ERA went up to 6.61 as he had only 20 appearances as a pitcher, with more than half of those appearances in relief. He gave up nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. As a hitter, though, he had a great year, batting .302 on a team that hit .258. He slugged .605 on a team that slugged under .400. However, he had only 44 at-bats.
That hitting performance in 1950 undoubtedly got manager Leo Durocher thinking that Hartung should be a position player instead of a pitcher, and so in 1951 and 1952 Hartung became a back-up outfielder. He did very poorly in 1951 but somewhat better in 1952 when he slugged .385 on a team which slugged .399.
Hartung's greatest contribution to the history books was that he was on third base when Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World, a three-run homer. Hartung was pinch running for Don Mueller, who had hurt his ankle sliding into the base moments earlier: he thus scored the first of the three runs, ahead of Whitey Lockman and Thomson.
Hartung was again in the minors from 1952 to 1955. In 1952 and 1953 he played for Minneapolis, showing power (27 home runs the first year and 19 the second year). In 1952 he dominated a team that was full of former/future major leaguers while in 1953 other players were the top stars.
The Texas Monthly article mentions Don Mueller (who was Hartung's roommate) and Bobby Thomson as thinking that the Giants rushed Hartung along. The Giants needed some talent in 1947, having finished in last place in 1946, and so they took advantage of Hartung's celebrity and success in service ball. However, as Thomson pointed out, Hartung would have benefited from more time in the minors, since he had only had the one year (1942) there. Hartung also had to deal with the media in New York City, probably a tougher place to play ball than anywhere else.