Nov 29, 2009

The Legend of Brooklyn's Clyde Sukeforth

Clyde Leroy Sukeforth was born November 30, 1901 in Washington, Maine. He certainly wasn’t a star player (.264 lifetime hitter) but he was involved in some classic baseball events for the Brooklyn Dodgers & New York Giants.

He was a career backup catcher, first in Cincinnati from 1927-1931, seeing action in over 100 games in his last season there. He damaged his eye in a hunting accident but still continued to play baseball. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and backed up Al Lopez for four seasons. He hit awful averages, after a .234 season he dropped to .086 then .163 in his last season. But during the man power shortage of WW II he got another chance to play nine years later, hitting .294 in 51 at bats in his final season of play (1945).

 
After playing he became a long time Dodgers coach and scout working closely for Branch Rickey. He was coach for both Jackie Robinson & Roy Campanella at the minor league level working closely to ease racial tensions within the club & the communities. Sukeforth was the only other person present in 1946 when Rickey told Jackie Robinson his plan for integration the next season. As the 1947 began, Leo Durocher was still the Dodger manager; he got suspended for the first few games of the season.


Sukeforth took over the helm as interim manager, and goes down in history as the manager of the first integrated team in MLB history as Robinson made his debut. The Dodgers won the game. Sukeforth did not want the job for the whole season and Burt Shotton took over. He was Shotton’s brains, helping him call the shots leading Brooklyn to a pennant.

In the 1951 famous Giants- Dodgers Playoff series, it was Sukeforth who was in the bullpen warming up pitchers in the last inning. As manager Chuck Dressen called the pen, he told him Carl Erskine’s curve was hanging and Ralph Branca was ready. He had caught both pitchers over the past few innings and felt Branca had better stuff. The rest is history as Branca came in & gave up the final blow to Bobby Thomson, the HR sealing the pennant for the Giants.
Sukeforth was let go after the season. He went to work for the Pirates and was key in drafting Roberto Clemente away from the Dodgers in the Ruke Five Draft. He again declined the major league level manager position, this time with Pittsburgh. He coached there until 1962 then scouted for the Braves throughout the sixties. He lived a very long life, passing at the age of 98 in Waldoboro, Maine in 2000.
In the famous Norman Rockwell painting Game called because of rain there is more Sukeforth lore. The illustration focuses on three stern umpires deciding whether the baseball game should be called on account of rain, in the background are two other baseball figures. It is Clyde Sukeforth, who is suppose to be the Brooklyn player on the left.

1 comment:

Bill Lindie said...

An excellent example of "How one man can make a difference" ...

"Over the Hill"... Bill