Clint Hurdle

October 23, 2007

If the Red Sox had won their one-game divisional playoff with the New York Yankees in 1978, there’s certainly no guarantee that they would have beaten the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship series. They had a better record than the Royals that year, but the fleet Royals often seemed to give the Red Sox fits, especially on the artificial turf in Kansas City. In 1978, the Red Sox won three of their first four games against the Royals, but the Royals struck back to batter the Red Sox in five of their last six meetings. The turning point in the season series between the two teams came in late July when Royals rookie Clint Hurdle drove in six runs in a dominating 9-0 beating of the Red Sox. Though Hurdle didn’t have a chance to inflict further damage on the Red Sox in the playoffs, he provided evidence that he may well have done so by hitting .375 in the Royals’ four-game loss to the pitching-rich Yankees. Two years later, Hurdle again performed admirably in a postseason defeat by hitting .417 in the Royals’ six-game loss in the World Series to the Phillies. By the time Kansas City finally broke through and won a World Series in 1985, Hurdle was still only 27 years old, but he was already two teams removed from the Royals, a fading journeyman who had been expected to be a superstar. He played in a few games that year for the up-and-coming Mets, who barely lost out in the divisional race to the St. Louis Cardinals. After that season he was drafted by the Cardinals in the 1985 rule 5 draft, which caused him to miss out on the Mets’ 1986 World Series campaign, then he signed back on with the Mets as a free agent just in time to watch the Cardinals leapfrog the Mets in the standings and win the 1987 pennant. At that point Hurdle called it a career, his 32 career homers and .259 lifetime batting average far short of the numbers predicted by the many pundits who upon his major league debut pegged Hurdle as the next Mickey Mantle.

I haven’t yet quite figured out how to deal with disappointment. Though I can’t really complain (I’m relatively healthy and have people to love, plus the team I routinely disappear into has made it to the World Series, so like any junkie in possession of good shit I really don’t care about anything else right now), I’d have to say my adult life has been characterized by some disappointment. Certainly no one ever thought I was going to be the next Mickey Mantle of anything, and on one level I didn’t ever really believe I’d amount to much either, but in the daydreamy realm where I have spent much of my life I believed that at some point I’d be writing and publishing novels, that I’d find a way to give back to the world the kinds of books that have kept me going as I stumble and nap and cringe through the days and weeks and years. It’s disappointing to me that this hasn’t happened, and I’m not that young anymore, definitely not young enough to ever be considered promising, so some days I wonder if I’m just swinging at pitches I can’t possibly hit. Clint Hurdle, like all athletes, must have come to a point in his career when he asked himself this question. It must have been a difficult question, especially for someone who was supposed to have creamed those pitches but who except for a few sweet days never did.


  1. 1.  I wanted to point out some recent reader comments on these older posts: Jose Morales (Twins), Sparky Lyle (Yankees), Fred Howard (White Sox), and Greg Luzinski (Phillies). Also, there have been a couple of late and interesting comments in the Chief Wahoo “What’s the Difference” post from last week. Plus my cousin Jamie, who I marvelled at when I was a kid for all the baseball trophies in his room, checks in with some thoughts about his team, the Phillies, in the “lowlights and miscellany” post in the About the Author section.

  2. 2.  Reposted from the last thread:

    And the Sox make it. I won’t go to any of the games, but I’ll have to check out the parade on November 3rd if it happens. The Admiral and I were up there in ’04 like you, Josh.

    The Game Chatter format isn’t that conducive to discussing the cards, although I think you use them as McGuffins anyways, but I had a few comments on the recent ones.

    Rick Miller: Married Pudge Fisk’s siter. I forget if that came up.

    Eck: Used to oil on 80-Weight. I remember him more as an A even though I was following the Red Sox from 78 to 84 with the intensity of a Talmudic scholar. The Spaceman had some good anecdotes about him in The Wrong Stuff.

    Jack Brohamer: His Broham Tom is a leading handicapper of Thoroughbrds and has authored a book titled Modern Pace Handicapping.

    Larry Andersen: Often wondered why people parked on driveways yet drove on parkways. The Baseball Uncyclopedia thinks that he ripped most of his material from Stephen Wright.

    El Tiante: Pretty damn similar to Catfish Hunter. I guess the WS rings are what got Hunter to Cooperstown over Luis. Guy was able to keep a cigar lit in the shower.

  3. 3.  Don’t need to weep for Clint – he’s got Jesus now.

    No worries about him.

  4. 4.  Davey Johnson was devastated to have lost Hurdle to the rival Cardinals in 86. Hurdle was a one time THIS YEAR’S PHENOM who had to take up catching in his mid-20s just to stay in the game. It was admirable sacrifice.

  5. 5.  Interestingly (at least to me) is that this is the same Clint Hurdle picture they used for this ’78 rookie card:


    I still remember his 1980 card. I looked at the great picture of it and thought, “He’s going to be a star for sure” purely because it was a good picture and he was a prospect. I think there are still a couple of MLB teams who operate that way.

  6. 6.  5 : I think you meant to link to this post when illustrating your point about Topps reusing Hurdle’s picture:


  7. It’s disappointing to me that this hasn’t happened, and I’m not that young anymore, definitely not young enough to ever be considered promising, so some days I wonder if I’m just swinging at pitches I can’t possibly hit.

    This may be the most accurate description of middle age I have ever read. And to think it was inspired by Clint Hurdle.

    How did I never discover your website and your writing before now? This is a beautiful, melancholy sentence.

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