Friday, July 28, 2017

Horace Clarke (#263)

Here is Yankees’ 2nd baseman Horace Clarke. Horace played for the Yankees from 1965-74, and is one of 3 Yankees (along with Mel Stottlemyre and Roy White) to bridge the gap between the Mantle/Maris/Ford era and the Munson/Nettles/Murcer/Piniella era.

Clarke (a native of the US Virgin Islands) began his career in 1958 with the Yankees’ Class-D team in Kearney, Nebraska. After six seasons as a shortstop, he switched to 2nd base in 1964 (his 2nd season in triple-A).

Horace began the 1965 season in triple-A, but made his Yankees’ debut in mid-May, playing in 51 games that year, including 21 starts (mostly at 3rd base).

Long-time shortstop Tony Kubek retired after the 1965 season, so the Yankees moved 3rd baseman Clete Boyer to SS for the first half of the 1966 season, then Clarke started almost every game at shortstop during July and August. In September Horace moved over to 2nd base (replacing the soon-to-retire Bobby Richardson) to make room for September call-up Bobby Murcer.

Clarke was a fixture at 2nd base for the Yankees from 1967 through 1973. Over that 7-year period, he played more games (1059) and started more games at one position (1017) than any other Yankee. Roy White was a distant 2nd with 985 games played and 875 outfield starts.

After playing sparingly (9 starts) over the first 2 months of the 1974 season, Clarke and pitcher Lowell Palmer were dealt to the Padres at the end of May. Horace finished out his 10th and final season as the Padres’ 3rd-string 2nd baseman, behind Derrel Thomas and Glenn Beckert.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Jose Pagan (#482)

Jose Pagan had 2 careers – first as an every-day shortstop for the Giants (1961-64), then as a top-notch utility infielder and pinch-hitter for the Pirates (1965-72).

Pagan began his career in the New York Giants’ farm system in 1955. After 4 seasons in the low minors, he was promoted to AAA Phoenix in 1959, and by early-August made his major-league debut.

After playing parts of 5 games in April 1960, he played most of the season with triple-A Tacoma, returning in late-September to start the season’s final 10 games at shortstop.

Pagan was the team’s regular shortstop from 1961 to 1964. In 1962 he started 164 (of the team’s 165) games there! In the final month of 1964 he shared the post with Jim Davenport, but was back as the everyday shortstop at the start of the 1965 season. That is, until he was traded to the Pirates in late-May for shortstop Dick Schofield.

Jose never had a position of his own with the Pirates, who had Gene Alley, Bob Bailey, and Willie Stargell firmly entrenched at Jose’s positions (SS/3B/LF). He did manage to start most games at 3rd base during June/July/August 1966 while Bailey was out of the lineup. Mostly he was a pinch-hitting specialist and backup at those 3 positions for the next several seasons.

From 1970-72, he had dropped shortstop and outfield from his repertoire, but started 113 games at the hot corner over those 3 seasons in relief of Richie Hebner.

The Pirates released Pagan in October 1972, but he was signed by the Phillies the following month. The Phillies were rolling out a rookie 3rd baseman for 1973 (Mike Schmidt) so maybe they wanted a veteran mentor and insurance policy at 3rd base.

Turns out, that Schmidt guy was the real deal after all, so Pagan only made 8 starts at 3B in his final season, but did play in 46 games. The Phillies released him in early-August.

After his playing career, Jose was a coach for the Pirates from 1974-78, and later managed minor-league and winter-ball teams.

He passed away in 2011 at age 76.