Fred Clarke

Position: Outfielder
Teams: Louisville Colonels, 1894-1899; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1900-1915
Manager: Louisville Colonels, 1897-1899; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1900-1915

Fred Clarke is among the few members of the Hall of Fame who could justifiably have been selected as either a player or a manager.

When he relinquished the Pittsburgh reins at the conclusion of the 1915 season, he possessed a then-record 1,602 man­ager­ial wins. A few days earlier, on September 23, Pittsburgh fans organized a “Fred Clarke Day” at Forbes Field. Clarke came out of retirement to play a few innings, collecting his 2,675th hit to conclude his career with a .312 batting average (a mark that probably would have been higher had he not possessed the dual job of playing and managing for much of his career).

Hall of Famer Fred Clarke
Fred Clarke won 1,602 games as a manager and hit .312 for his career as a player.

The Iowa-born Fred Clifford Clarke (1872-1960) made his entry into baseball when he took a delivery job with a Des Moines newspaper managed by Ed Barrow, the organizer of the “Newsboy’s League.” A minor-leaguer by 1892, Clarke was shipped north by Savannah in the Southern League in 1894 when Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Louisville club in the National League, offered to get the Georgia team out of the red in return for the contract of their star left fielder.

Clarke had the most auspicious debut of any major-leaguer. Facing Philadelphia’s Gus Weyhing on June 30, 1894, he was a perfect ­­5-for-5 with four singles and a triple. Reality set in, however, and Clarke wound up hitting just .268 in his inaugural season.

Louisville was a poor team, but Clarke played well for them. In 1897, when the Colonels finished 11th, he hit a personal-high .390. Named the team’s manager midway through that season, he immediately clashed with a brash rookie pitcher named Rube Waddell, who quit the team in response. Another rookie, Honus Wagner, won Clarke’s instant admiration.

In 1900, after Louisville was dropped from the National League, Dreyfuss was given the Pittsburgh franchise and allowed to keep any of the Colonels’ players he wanted. The owner retained Clarke and Wagner as well as pitcher Jack Chesbro and a somewhat chastened Waddell, who had returned to the fold in 1899.

It took Clarke a year to blend the new Louisville blood with the incumbent Pittsburgh talent. Beginning in 1901, he skippered the Pirates to three consecutive pennants, then won again in 1909 after narrowly missing the flag the previous year. He retired to his ranch in Kansas following the 1915 season.

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945, Clarke died 15 years later in Winfield, Kansas, just a few days before what would have been his 88th birthday.

Here are Fred Clarke's major league managing totals:

1,602 1,181 40 .576 2,829

Here are Fred Clark's major league totals:


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