John Clarkson

John Clarkson

1B, P, 3B, OF
July 1, 1861
5' 10"
155 lbs
Major League Debut:
5-02-1882 with WOR
Allstar Selections:
1889 TC
Hall of Fame:


When baseball was played with a mound just 50 feet from home plate, John Clarkson was one of baseball’s best pitchers, relying on his devastating change of pace pitch. In his 12-year career, he won 327 games, while completing 94% of his starts. When he was sold to Boston in 1888 for $10,000, the ensuing outcry helped lead to the Players League revolt in 1890. After the mound was moved back to 60 feet, six inches, Clarkson failed to adjust and retired. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963, 101 years after his birth, and 81 years after he threw his first pitch in professional ball.

Best Season

He was 53-16 in 68 starts, with 10 shutouts. On July 27, he hurled a no-hitter, and enjoyed three winning streaks of 10-games or more during the season. The game of baseball, at this point in history, more closely resembled fast-pitch softball, which explains the amazing pitching records of that era.

Factoid 1

Clarkson once threw a lemon to home plate to demonstrate to a surprised umpire that it was too dark to continue the game.


Ingenuity. Clarkson was adept at skirting the rules while on the mound. For a portion of his career, he was known to wear a shiny belt buckle, which shined in hitters’ eyes. He also experimented with tricky deliveries and arm angles.


Speed. Clarkson was a finesse pitcher in the mold of Greg Maddux, relying on his wits. Ironically, it was his mind that eventually betrayed him. In 1906, while living in retirement in Michigan, Clarkson suffered a breakdown, was declared insane, and spent the rest of his life (four years) in-and-out of mental hospitals.

1963 Hall of Fame, Baseball History, Boston Beaneaters, Cap Anson, Chicago White Sox, John Clarkson, No-hitter
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