24.9.05

Clint Courtney

During his career, catcher Clint Courtney was known as a very intense competitor and a brawler. Well, he had a good reason to be in a bad mood. He played most of his career with really bad teams and lost a staggering number of games.

Courtney started his career by playing just one game with the 1951 Yankees, a team that went 98-56 and won the World Series. In the offseason, he was traded to the lowly Saint-Louis Browns. With the Browns, he had the chance to play regularly… and to lose regularly. In 1952, the Browns finished 64-90. In 1953, they sinked to 54-100. In 1954, the team became the Baltimore Orioles... but ended up 54-100 once again.

During the winter, the Orioles traded Courtney to the White Sox, a much better team at the time. But the bespectacled catcher played just 19 games for Chicago and then was traded to the Washington Senators, another perennial bad team. The White Sox finished the 1955 season 91-63. Courtney and the Senators ended up 53-101.

Courtney played for the Senators from 1956 to 1959, suffering through 59-95, 55-99, 61-93 and 61-93 seasons. The deliverance came in 1960. Traded to the Orioles just before the start of the season, Courtney played 83 games as a backup catcher and pinch hitter. The Orioles finished 89-65. Finally, he was a winner. During the off season, the Orioles traded him to Kansas City A’s, yet another perennial losing team. The A’s went 61-100 in 1961, but Courtney didn’t have to live through that. He played just one game for the A’s and then was sent back to Baltimore. He didn’t play much for the Orioles, was released in July and retired. The Orioles finished the season 95-67.

Courtney wasn’t a bad player. He’s a career .268 hitter with a .339 OBP, just about league average for his era. Being a lefthanded hitting catcher, he was a useful platoon player. In 1960, he was the first catcher to use an oversized mitt to catch a knuckleballer, the great Hoyt Wilhelm.

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