He was famous for his glasses, bow legs, and wearing a helmet playing the field. He also became the symbol for the New York Yankees teams of the late '60s and early '70s that took a downward turn.
But Horace Clarke would overcome this to gain a measure of respect from Yankee fans.
The native of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed with the Yankees in January of 1958. Like many others, he figured that he would be playing baseball in October regularly. Little did he know that he would be coming to the Bronx just as the Yankees dynasty was beginning to crumble.
After playing part time in 1965 and 1966, Clarke became the team's second baseman in 1967, following the retirement of Bobby Richardson. He would hold the job for seven years. His best overall season was 1969, when he set career highs in batting average (.285), runs batted in (48), and stolen bases (33).
But it would be what he did in 1970 that gained Clarke his greatest notoriety when he broke up three no hitters in the ninth inning.
The first was on June 4 at Yankee Stadium against Jim Rooker of the Royals. Clarke lead off with a single, scored the tying run, then knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the twelfth with a sacrifice fly.
On June 19 in Boston, his leadoff single denied Sonny Siebert of a no no. Number three occurred in Detroit on July 2, when Clarke's one out infield hit ruined Joe Niekro's no hit bid.
Clarke's time with the Yankees ended on May 31, 1974, when he was sold to the San Diego Padres for $25,000. He retired after the season. He would later work for the U.S. Virgin Islands government, as well as for the Royals as an assistant scout. He would also come back to the Bronx frequently for Old Timer's Day, where the fans would greet him with a nice warm round of applause.
As someone who grew up on those Yankee teams, I realize that Horace Clarke wasn't Rogers Hornsby. At the same time, he wasn't the bum he was made out to be either. It wasn't his fault he played for the Yankees when he did.