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Clint Hartung

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Clinton Clarence Hartung (August 10, 1922 – July 8, 2010) was a right-handed pitcher and right fielder in Major League Baseball who played with the New York Giants from 1947 to 1952. His name has become associated with promising rookies who have undistinguished careers. His pro nicknames were "The Hondo Hurricane" and "Floppy."

Originally signed for the Minneapolis Millers, Hartung played for the Eau Claire Bears of the Northern League for two months in 1942, hitting .358 and winning 3 games as a pitcher. He was then drafted into the U.S. Army where he spent the duration of World War II, playing on military teams, often against other drafted pros. Here he went 25-0 as a pitcher and averaged 15 strikeouts a game, and batted .567. A year before his demobilization, the Giants signed him for $35,000, a very high sum, and expectations were proportionally high: Sportswriter Tom Meany later said of him, "Rather than stop at the Polo Grounds they should have taken him straight to Cooperstown" -- the Hall of Fame.[1]

In 1947 he finally debuted in the major leagues, but his performance under these conditions quickly proved less stellar. His first season he only managed 9-7 pitching and .306 hitting. In 1948 his stats declined to 8-8 and .179; his pitching never recovered, and 1950 was his last year in that job for the Giants, while his hitting did recover somewhat but he never achieved anything like his earlier numbers. As with some other phenoms, he was noted for doing much better in spring training than he would in the regular season. His fielding was never good, and reportedly he was unable to hit curveballs.

After 1950, he was relieved of his duties as a pitcher and was switched to the outfield -- a very rare position shift in the major leagues. Hartung was the 11th player in history whose first homer in the majors was as a pitcher to later hit a home run as a position player; the previous player to do so was Babe Ruth, but the next was not until Rick Ankiel repeated the feat in the 2000s.[2][3] He was at least present, though passively, as the pinch runner at third base in the 1951 play known as the Shot Heard 'Round the World.

In 1954 he was traded into the minor leagues, playing for the Havana Sugar Kings of the International League, the Cincinnati Redlegs, and the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League.

He played for the Sinton Oilers in Sinton, Texas in the summer of 1956, the same year Don Larsen pitched his perfect World Series game against the Dodgers.

The baseball statistical reference by Bill James commemorates Hartung with its "Clint Hartung Award", for the most overhyped rookie of each decade (and honors him with one for the 1940s)[4], and baseball-themed musician Terry Cashman wrote a song called "The Hondo Hurricane".

Clint Hartung died at his home in Sinton, Texas July 8th, 2010.

Notes Edit

  1. New York City Baseball: The Last Golden Age, Harvey Frommer
  2. Kevin Baxter. "The reinvention of Rick Ankiel", Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-02.
  3. Derrick Gould. "Early Anks: Reb, Rube & Ruth, before Rick",, August 17, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-02.
  4. Bill James (2003). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Simon and Schuster. “Clint Hartung Award: Clint Hartung, a spring training phenom in 1947, was promoted as having superstar ability either as a pitcher or a hitter. He had a modest career, and his name has become synonymous with the over-hyped prospect who fails to live up to his clippings.”

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