The Rangers’ Icarus

Among folks have a certain age in North Texas, saying you were present for the major league debut of David Clyde is akin to what folks say about Woodstock: A lot more people say they were there than who likely were even able to physically fit in that stadium.
I think I was actually there. But, see the above sentence. Memory is a funny thing.

I do remember David Clyde’s debut quite clearly. Here is my autographed picture of David Clyde.

As I continue my World Series week of reminisence, we should most definitely incude the joy/heartbreak drama of David Clyde…for it too is one of the DNA strands inside every OG Rangers fan who still can’t dare to trust we might win this year.

Because…we know the story of David Clyde.

David Clyde was a teenage pitching phenomenon here in Texas in 1973. He was 18-0 in his high school career, and just 17 when he caught the eye of big league scouts. The Texas Rangers, our new local team, desperate for heroes and a story, drafted him first overall and immediately threw him into the major leagues without any kind of mental, physical, or emotional training.

To read the papers, and even to talk to adults like my Father, David Clyde’s debut would be something like the coming of Luke Skywalker. That night was indeed the first sellout in Texas Rangers history.

He was now just eighteen.

By the age of just 24 —an age when many players only then make their big league debut— David Clyde was retiring and out of the game.

Like I said, I don’t brag about being at Woodstock —too young for that— but I am pretty confident we were part of the 35,000 that game. I know I saw him pitch, maybe a couple of times, in those two years.

Something about the time– the years 1973 and 1974 were so rich in my boyhood memory. The music of the pre-disco 70s, the ballplayers whose cards I traded, they got burned into my brain like few other years ever before or ever since.

For Clyde, though, it was because he was young, that he rocketed to superhero status for myself, Kevin, and John…as we fungoed endless baseball back and forth in our seemingly endless front yards, on seemingly endless summer nights.

The David Clyde mythology was strong because he really was like us. We were kids, and he was a kid.

He was only a year or two older than Robbie Lomax’s older brother. Which meant he could have easily been one of those slightly older neighborhood boys who endlessly terrorized us; engendering not an anticipatory joy, but an existential dread, about what being “a teenager” meant…as was obviously, terrifyingly now, just about to happen to us all.

But in the summer of 1973, we were all still on the cusp of that. And here was a different teenager. One we could admire.

We were still kids who dreamed of making the big leagues.

Our parents didn’t have to say “You could be President some day…”
What would that mean, anyway?

Our Fathers said, “You could be David Clyde some day…”

How could we deny it was true?
It clearly was true.

So in that endless boyhood summer, we rode our bikes down to Preston Hollow Park, playing on the two ballfields for hours, until the Sun fell.

Those two Preston Hollow Park ballfields are still there, although one does not appear to have been kept up in years. And while those two small ballfields survive, our childhood neighborhood did not.

Between that endless summer of 1973 and today, old Preston Hollow has become new Highland Park North, and the ranch style home and big front yards of our endless youth have been replaced by zero lot McMansions, and far too copious and increasingly questionable landscaping.1

Whatever else they do today for fun, I am quite certain the kids of today’s Preston Hollow cannot play fungo across three endless front lawns, as we once did. (As if kids today would consider that “fun” anyway…)

And like those ranch style homes, David Clyde was also soon forgotten too, in all the but minds of the few faithful. I honestly did not recall what became of him and had to look it up.

As it turns out, the Rangers did honor the 50-year anniversary of his debut, earlier this year. But having endured FIVE shoulder surgeries (one quite recently) he couldn’t even throw out the ceremonial first pitch that day.

Associated Press

Baseball eventually learned its lesson. And I suppose, upon reflection, so did we. Making the major leagues was a lot harder than our parents, and Ranger’s management, had pretended it to be. Clyde went from “The New Hope” Skywalker legend, to the cautionary tale of far too many others.

We North Texas kids never had to study Icarus in school, because we had David Clyde.

Only two other players since have made the immediate jump from high school to the major leagues.
Two in, what? Hundreds of thousands, now?

Other young potential stars, like Robin Yount and A-Rod, were somehow developed in ways that didn’t destroy their bodies and minds quite so quickly.

Even our current-day awe of twenty-one-year-old Evan Carter somehow feels different. He *seems* to have his head on his shoulders…I hope this is true…and feels to me like the second coming of Ian Kinsler on the bases.
I hope we don’t screw this up.

Clyde’s Wikipedia page somehow offers me a sense of beautiful longterm hope:

“He(Clyde) worked in his father-in-law’s lumber business in Tomball, Texas for 20 years, which he called one of the best periods of his life, giving him a “peace of mind”. He retired in 2003 as vice president of the company and worked as a coach for a local youth baseball team. He is now a caregiver for his elderly father.”

There is something deeply beautiful in this last sentence, yes? Well after the glare of the spotlight left him, honestly, this is the David Clyde we should all remember, and what no doubt makes him a hero.

As for what David Clyde himself thinks baseball should learn from his experience? In an interview around the time he was honored by the Rangers earlier this year, a reporter asked him.

“The biggest thing, and I think baseball has learned from it,” said sixty-eight-year-old David Clyde, “is let’s not do that again…”


  1. It has been the strangest thing to be here in Dallas, and watch the slow-motion destruction/recreation of my boyhood neighborhood these past five decades.
    Even more poignant: to serve, as an adult pastor, BACK IN PRESTON HOLLOW…for seventeen year front row seat for this transition.
    While it’s factually true that most of my boyhood friend’s homes have been gone for decades, strangely, my friend Kevin’s, and our’s, persisted for years.
    Our old house was finally raised and redone only about three years ago. Kevin’s Mom actually just died this Spring and, as a beautiful outlier, lived her entire life in that same house, decades after all the rest of us had long ago left Preston Hollow to what it has become now.
    Kevin is slowly, methodically, going through the old house now. ↩

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