Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Great Names in Baseball: Dad Clarkson
Professional baseball has always had its share of related players. From Hall of Fame brother duos like Paul and Lloyd Waner1 to father-son pairings like The Griffeys to multi-generational sets like the Boones, families have contributed to the game's rich history.
The late 1800s and early 1900s saw a trio of Clarkson boys, all of whom pitched in the majors with very different results. The oldest, John Clarkson, was an 1880s superstud for the Chicago White Stockings2 and the Boston Beaneaters, winning as many as 53 games in a season. The youngest, Walter Clarkson, threw for the New York Highlanders and for the Cleveland Naps3 in the 1900s, but he never found lasting success in the big leagues.
In between them came Arthur Clark(e)son, more famously known as Dad Clarkson. The moniker strikes one as odd, since he wasn't even the oldest of the pitching brothers. Because I can't find any results regarding his nickname on the first two pages of the Google search I did, I think it's only fair to start the rumor that he had more than 75 illegitimate children in each of the many cities of the National League4. When Dad's ol' team rolled into town, he'd spend his meager per diem on a section of bleachers for the children. Dad stopped by the section before his starts to promise to bean the hometown team's superstar if one of them would be a darling runt and fetch him a fifth of "Pitcher's Tonic" and the finest toothache drops the closest pharmacy offered. The only time the children were ever happy was when good ol' Dad planted one off Hugh Duffy's forehead. And when Duffy came to, he never once thought of fisticuffs, for although Dad Clarkson was a scrawny chap, men and [Dad's] children alike understand the rule that a serious mustache is not to be trifled with5.
Oh wait, I didn't even talk about Dad's actual career. In six seasons, Clarkson pitched for four different teams, finishing his major league career with 39 wins and 39 losses. While never an ace, he pitched respectably as a fourth starter on the 1893 St. Louis Browns and on the pennant-winning 1895 Baltimore Orioles, where he likely pitched to Boileryard Clarke at least once. His big-league career ended in 1896, though he reappeared in 1900 as a member of something called the Anaconda Serpents6 in the obscure and likely dangerous Montana State League7.
Dad Clarkson lived in the shadow cast by his Hall of Fame brother John Clarkson, although Dad outlived him by a year. And while John's legacy of masterful pitching is enshrined in Cooperstown, Dad Clarkson's millions of living descendents still cry a tear of joy anytime a hitter is beaned in anger.
1 It's worth noting that the Waners had pretty awesome nicknames, too: Big Poison (Paul) and Little Poison (Lloyd).
2 Oddly enough, the White Stockings eventually became the Cubs. And then the Chicago White Sox were born when the American League was formed in 1901.
3 And what an exciting team the Naps were! They were actually named for their superstar player/manager Napoleon 'Nap' Lajoie.
4 Makes you wonder why Wilt Chamberlain was never nicknamed "Dad." At least, he was never nicknamed that in public; inevitably, some people somewhere called him that.
5 Please note the inclusion of the word "serious." Ironic mustaches deserve to be trifled with plenty. Any encounter between Dad Clarkson and one of his hipster-mustache-wearing descendants bypasses the word "fight" and goes directly to "flogging"5A.
5A Does that make what I'm doing "blogging about flogging?"
6 Anaconda is a city in Montana, although "city" is a loosely used word. According to the Keeper Of All Things, Anaconda has fewer residents now than it did when Dad Clarkson pitched there in 1900. Also, the baseball club owner apparently enjoyed redundant names.
7 The Montana State League is certainly an interesting place for someone from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to end up. The league featured only four teams: the Serpents, the Great Falls Indians, the Helena Senators, and the Butte Smoke Eaters7A.
7A No matter how hard I try, I will always want this to have been the Smokey Butte Eaters7B.
7B Yes, I know it's pronounced "beaut," but it's much funnier to read it as "butt." I will not apologize to the residents of that Butte. Wakka wakka wakka!