Clint Courtney

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Clinton Dawson Courtney
(Scrap Iron or The Toy Bulldog)

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Biographical Information[edit]

“Clint Courtney was only tough on the outside. Inside, he was a soft, compassionate human being, more outspoken than he should’ve been at times perhaps, but with uncommon understanding and honest concern for others which always transcended the rough exterior he chose to show the world.” - Milton Richman, UPI, June 17, 1975

Widely regarded as the first catcher to wear eyeglasses in the big leagues, Clint Courtney played eleven seasons exclusively in the American League. Often the center of controversy, he was nicknamed "Scrap Iron" because of his tough, gritty approach. A furious competitor, he was often in fights and fined frequently. One of the original Baltimore Orioles of 1954, he spent three tours of duty with the O's during his career.

Courtney started playing baseball as a youth in rural Louisiana (articles from his early career mistakenly say his start came while in the Army as a young man). He started professionally in the Arizona-Texas League and moved to the Texas League where his manager was Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby recommended that the St. Louis Browns obtain him from the New York Yankees, for whom Clint played once in 1951. He came very close to winning the 1952 American League Rookie of the Year Award for the Browns, instead winning the honor from The Sporting News after batting .286/.349/.395 with 24 doubles in 119 games. The first of his celebrated big league fisticuffs came that year with perhaps the most fiery man in big league history, Billy Martin. After spiking Billy in the 2nd inning of a Browns/Yanks affair on July 12th, Clint took a hard tag on a stolen base attempt in the 8th, leading to a series of punches being thrown. He was fined $100 and suspended three games.

Scrap Iron vs. The Yankees: Round II occurred on April 28, 1953. Gil McDougald, a former minor league teammate of Clint's, jarred a ball loose in breaking up a double play in the 10th inning of a Sportsman's Park battle. In the bottom half, Clint sought justice, clobbering Phil Rizzuto in breaking up a double play which led to a 17 minute free-for-all that saw Billy Martin jump on his back and Allie Reynolds claim victory. This brawl cost Clint $250, but he was not about to play any other way. In July, he and Detroit Tigers catcher Johnny Bucha tussled. He worked some magic with the bat that month, setting off a back-to-back-to-back barrage of home runs against, who else? The Yankees. On July 16th, Clint, followed by Dick Kryhoski and Jim Dyck, took Johnny Sain deep in the 1st inning of an 8-6 victory. After a .251/.302/.330 season that year, the Browns' last season, Clint was along for the ride to Baltimore in 1954, slugging the first home run in Memorial Stadium history with a blast off Virgil Trucks on April 15th. Clint hit .270/.323/.360, striking out only 7 times in 437 appearances, a total that remains an Oriole record.

The arrival of Gus Triandos had Clint on the move to the Chicago White Sox for 1955. Under the employ of Frank "Trader" Lane, he was bound to move sooner or later. Sooner it would be, to the Washington Senators that year in a package for Jim Busby. This, despite hitting .378/.467/.541 through 19 games. Clint combined for a .309/.366/.411 line, batting .300 again as part of a .300/.362/.445 line for 1956. He cooled down to .267/.346/.414 in 1957, but he rallied for a career high 134 games in 1958, hitting .251/.332/.344 with a personal best 8 home runs and 62 RBI. He fell way off in 1959 (.233/.308/.296 in 72 games) after missing much of the year battling the mumps. He moved back to Baltimore for the 1960 season, becoming the first catcher to use an oversize mitt to handle Hoyt Wilhelm and his knuckleball on May 27th against - you guessed it - the Yankees. In a final season, he caught 23 times between the O's and the Kansas City Athletics. Courtney finished his career a .268/.339/.366 hitter and was impressive at squelching the stolen base, throwing out 41% of base stealers.

After his playing career, Courtney was a Houston Astros coach in 1965. He was managing the Richmond Braves in 1975 when he died suddenly, and the previous year he had been one of the top candidates to take over the reins of the major league Atlanta Braves, a job which went to Clyde King. He had managed three other farm teams for the Braves prior to Richmond: the Shreveport Braves in 1970; the Western Carolinas League champion Greenwood Braves in 1971; and the Savannah Braves in 1972 and the first part of 1973 before taking over in Richmond. In June 1975, Richmond traveled to Rochester for a series with the Rochester Red Wings. On Father's Day 1975, Courtney was playing table tennis with several of his players at the team hotel when he suffered a heart attack. He died at the hospital the next morning, only 48.

Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1970 Shreveport Braves Texas League 55-67 7th Atlanta Braves replaced Lou Fitzgerald (3-9) on May 3
1971 Greenwood Braves Western Carolinas League 85-38 1st Atlanta Braves none League Champs
1972 Savannah Braves Southern League 80-59 2nd Atlanta Braves
1973 Savannah Braves Southern League 34-23 -- Atlanta Braves -- replaced by Tommie Aaron (37-45)
Richmond Braves International League 35-50 8th Atlanta Braves replaced Bobby Hofman (18-43) on June 15
1974 Richmond Braves International League 75-65 3rd Atlanta Braves Lost in 1st round
1975 Richmond Braves International League 29-30 -- Atlanta Braves -- replaced by Bob Lemon on June 16

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