Fred Clarke

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Fred Clifford Clarke

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10½", Weight 165 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1945

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Biographical Information[edit]

“I attribute my success to fate... Life is a funny game, and a little thing, almost a trifle, may make a splash in your affairs so big that the ripples from it will be felt as long as you live.” - Fred Clarke, to the New York Herald, 1911

"Are you going to take that?" - player-manager Fred Clarke, to a young Honus Wagner, who had been knocked around on the basepaths by the 19th century Baltimore Orioles, inducing Wagner the next time to blast right through fielders blocking his path


Hall of Famer Fred Clarke played 21 seasons in the majors, hitting .312 while stealing 509 bases in his career. He also managed for 19 seasons, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to four National League pennants and a World Series crown. He was considered a tough competitor, an aggressive baserunner, and a manager who communicated a positive attitude to his players.

Born and raised in Iowa, Clarke began his pro career as a 19-year-old and hit .311 in 54 games with the Savannah Modocs of the Southern Association in 1894. He was soon spotted and acquired by the Louisville Colonels of the National League. He made his major league debut on June 30th of that year, going 5-for-5 in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. In 76 games for Louisville, he hit .274 and would be a regular in the bigs for nearly the next twenty years. In the middle of the 1897 season, Colonels owner Barney Dreyfuss named Clarke the team's manager at age 24. He hit .390/.461/.530 that summer with 122 runs scored, but the club finished 11th in the 12 team NL.

The National League downsized to 8 teams in 1900, and Louisville was one of the teams that did not survive. Owner Dreyfuss had purchased a stake in the Pittsburgh Pirates in the interim and took Clarke plus all of the team's stars with him, including Honus Wagner, Deacon Phillippe, and Rube Waddell. Fully fortified with talent, Clarke led Pittsburgh to a second place finish in his first year on the Allegheny. The Pirates captured the NL pennant in 1901 and repeated as champs in 1902. Despite losing star pitchers Jack Chesbro and Jesse Tannehill to the upstart American League in 1903, he led the club to a third straight National League title, hitting .351/.414/.532 to support his own cause while leading the league in slugging percentage and doubles (32). That fall, the Pirates fell to the Boston Americans in the inaugural World Series in 8 games.

The Pirates continued to post winning records throughout the first decade of the 1900s, but Clarke's performance declined somewhat once he hit his 30s. He did hit .309/.371/.412 in 1906, while leading the NL with 13 triples. Pittsburgh again reached the World Series in 1909, facing Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers, and came out victorious in seven games, Clarke belting 2 home runs with 7 RBI. Cap hit .324 as a 38-year-old in 1911, but after that season played sparingly. He remained the Pirates skipper through the 1915 season, after which he retired. He later returned to the club as a coach in 1925 and 1926.

Although a worthy Hall of Famer, Clarke's career was overshadowed by that of his prized player, Honus Wagner, who was his teammate almost his entire career: 1897 until 1915. Clarke rarely led the league in offensive categories, partially because Wagner was doing it a lot. He never led the league in batting, but he was second twice, once behind Wagner, and once behind Willie Keeler. Clarke's 160 point score on the Gray Ink test shows that he was frequently in the top ten in the league. The most similar player to Clarke is George Van Haltren, not a Hall of Famer. Seven of the ten most similar players are in the Hall, with the most similar Hall of Famer being his contemporary, Jesse Burkett.

Clarke's brother, Josh, was his teammate at one point, and he was also the brother-in-law of Chick Fraser. His first baseball card appearance was the 1903 E107 Breisch Williams.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1903)
  • NL OPS Leader (1903)
  • NL Doubles Leader (1903)
  • NL Triples Leader (1906)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1909)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 5 (1897-1899, 1901 & 1902)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 2 (1897 & 1899)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1897)
  • Won a World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1909
  • NL Pennants: 4 (1901-1903 & 1909)
  • Managed one World Series Champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1909
  • 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 2 (1902 & 1909)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1945

Preceded by
Jim Rogers
Louisville Colonels Manager
Succeeded by
last manager
Preceded by
Patsy Donovan
Pittsburgh Pirates Manager
Succeeded by
Nixey Callahan

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1897 Louisville Colonels National League 35-54 11th Louisville Colonels replaced Jim Rogers (17-24) on June 16
1898 Louisville Colonels National League 70-81 9th Louisville Colonels
1899 Louisville Colonels National League 75-77 9th Louisville Colonels
1900 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 79-60 2nd Pittsburgh Pirates
1901 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 90-49 1st Pittsburgh Pirates League Champs
1902 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 103-36 1st Pittsburgh Pirates League Champs
1903 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 91-49 1st Pittsburgh Pirates Lost World Series
1904 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 87-66 4th Pittsburgh Pirates
1905 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 96-57 2nd Pittsburgh Pirates
1906 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 93-60 3rd Pittsburgh Pirates
1907 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 91-63 2nd Pittsburgh Pirates
1908 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 98-56 2nd Pittsburgh Pirates
1909 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 110-42 1st Pittsburgh Pirates World Series Champs
1910 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 86-67 3rd Pittsburgh Pirates
1911 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 85-69 3rd Pittsburgh Pirates
1912 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 93-58 2nd Pittsburgh Pirates
1913 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 78-71 4th Pittsburgh Pirates
1914 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 69-85 7th Pittsburgh Pirates
1915 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 73-81 5th Pittsburgh Pirates

Records Held[edit]

  • Hits, in first game, 5, 6/30/1894

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ronald T. Waldo: Fred Clarke: A Biography of the Baseball Hall of Fame Player-Manager, McFarland, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7864-5933-9

Related Sites[edit]