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David Clyde: The Can’t Miss Prospect Who Did Miss

Even though 40-plus years have passed, David Clyde’s name is never far away when Major League Baseball’s draft rolls around.

The Texas schoolboy first achieved fame as the No. 1 pick of the 1973 draft. But he is most remembered as a cautionary tale about the dangers of being rushed to the major leagues. Oh what could have been.

Knowledgeable baseball fans know Clyde’s story, while there are those in Tampa who got to know him before he burst onto the national stage. That would be the South Palomino Colt League All-Stars. They faced the hard-throwing southpaw on his own turf in the summer of 1971.

South Palomino brought together kids from Plant and Robinson high schools. Friendships were bonded between the two factions while baseball skills were honed in Colt League games. A talented South Palomino All-Star team had advanced to the World Series in 1970 in Lafayette, Ind., which stoked the fire for a return in 1971.

“We went to Lafayette when I was 15 and I wanted to go back when I was 16,” said Tim Norrid, who played on the team and later played six seasons of Triple-A ball in the Indians organization. “We were cruising. It looked like we would get there.”

They breezed through several tournaments before landing in a regional played in Houston. Bill Ferrell remembered flying in an airplane for the first time to get to Houston and how the team coached by local legend Lou Garcia reached the winner’s bracket.

“We had to get beat twice to not go to the World Series,” Ferrell said. “My parents had already bought their tickets to go.”

The Houston team rose from the loser’s bracket to earn a rematch with South Palomino, which had beaten them earlier in the tournament.

“We’re thinking no way Houston beats us twice,” said Johnny Brown, who was on that ’71 team and later played professional baseball in the Indians organization.

Just one problem: Clyde’s American Legion team lost the same week.

That freed up Clyde to join the Colt League All-Star team of which he also was a member.

“He was like a myth,” Brown said. “We figured if he was that good, there was no way his American Legion team would lose. But they did.”

Clyde started the first game against South Palomino and his team took a big enough lead that they were able to take him out so he could start the next day, which he did. With Clyde again on the mound, the Houston team beat South Palomino for a second time to advance to the World Series.

“He was a stud,” Norrid said. “You didn’t see guys who threw that hard back then.” Of course, radar guns weren’t around to measure the speeds pitchers were throwing then. Suffice it to say, Clyde’s fastball got on hitters in a hurry. “No doubt he was special or he wouldn’t have been the top pick in the draft.”

Clyde went 18-0 at Houston’s Westchester High School in 1973, enticing the Texas Rangers to draft him with the first pick. After giving him a $125,000 signing bonus, the Rangers brought him directly too the major leagues to try and help boost the home attendance.

Three weeks after Clyde’s high school graduation, he started for the Rangers on June 27, 1973 in front of 37,000 fans at Arlington Stadium. He won that night and he picked up the decision in his second start. Sadly, Clyde’s career made a turn for the worse after that.

Clyde eventually found himself in the Indians organization, which afforded Norrid the opportunity to visit with Clyde. “We talked about playing against each other. He remembered.”

By 1979, David Clyde was out of baseball, forever to be remembered as the can’t miss prospect who did miss.

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©2020 by Bill Chastain. Photo credits: Jill Doty Photography