Harlond Benton Clift
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 180 lb.
- Debut April 17, 1934
- Final Game September 20, 1945
- Born August 12, 1912 in El Reno, OK USA
- Died April 27, 1992 in Yakima, WA USA
The transition into modern day third basemen, boppers with solid glove work, began with Harlond Clift and his debut in 1934. He was a top third baseman in the 1930s, whiling away for twelve seasons on some truly wretched St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators clubs.
Clift began his baseball career playing semipro ball in Yakima, Washington, in 1931 (according to a January 1982 interview in Baseball Digest). Originally a shortstop, he was discovered by a Browns scout and played in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1932. After playing for the San Antonio Missions in 1933, he became a regular at third base for St. Louis in 1934 as a 21-year-old. In his rookie campaign, he was third in the American League with 10 triples and began a streak of five straight seasons with 100-plus runs scored.
Harlond cranked up his batting line up in 1935 to the tune of .295/.406/.436, then batted .302/.424/.514 in 1936, drawing 115 walks and scoring an amazing 145 runs while belting 40 doubles, 11 triples and 20 home runs. In 1937, Clift hit .306/.413/.516 with 103 runs scored and 118 RBI and earned a trip to the All-Star Game. He also established a new major league record for home runs by a third baseman with 29. The next year, 1938, he batted .290/.423/.554, once again driving in 118 runs while scoring 119 and walking 118 times, beginning a five season streak of 100-plus walks. He clubbed 34 homers, third-best in the AL and broke his prior record for third basemen that would not be broken again until Eddie Mathews topped it in 1953. He also led American League third basemen in fielding, a feat he repeated in 1940, his final 20-home run season. In 1942, he finished second in the league with 39 doubles but had fallen precipitously from his power peak. Though he was still getting on base, his line was down to .274/.394/.399 in 143 games.
Late in the 1943 season, batting only .232/.329/.301 during a season in which many of the regulars had been called into action during World War II, Clift was dealt to the Washington Senators. A fall from a horse the following year limited his playing time, appearing in only 12 games. Clift hit just .211/.349/.307 in 1945 with 8 home runs and 53 RBI, his final big league campaign.
After his major league days, he played two seasons for the Yakima Stars of the Western International League, hitting over .300 each time. He was a player-manager for half of the first season and all of the second, never bringing the club home higher than a fifth-place finish.
For his career, Clift batted .272/.390/.441. He drew over 100 walks in six different seasons, finishing his career with 1,070, tying him and Keith Hernandez for 93rd all-time (through 2019). He scored over 100 runs seven times, finishing with an identical 1,070, placing him among the top 300 players of all-time. The most similar player, as of 2020, is super utility man Ben Zobrist.
Following his playing days, Clift was a Detroit Tigers scout. He also owned a ranch with 50,000 acres. He was deeply disheartened by the loss of the Senators and the Browns due to moves in subsequent years, once remarking that he was now a man without a team. Clift's son, Harlond Jr., followed in dear ol' dad's footsteps, playing four seasons in the minors as a pitcher, including at Yakima in 1958. Harlond Sr. died at 79 in 1992.
- AL All-Star (1937)
- AL Bases on Balls Leader (1939)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1936-1938 & 1940)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1938)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1937 & 1938)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 7 (1934-1938, 1941 & 1942)
Year-by-Year Managerial Record
|1946||Yakima Stars||Western International League||50-38||5th||replaced Spencer Harris (21-31) on June 19|
|1947||Yakima Stars||Western International League||59-95||8th|