John J. Clements
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 8½", Weight 204 lb.
- Debut April 22, 1884
- Final Game October 2, 1900
- Born July 24, 1864 in Philadelphia, PA USA
- Died May 23, 1941 in Norristown, PA USA
"Where would the Phillies have been this season without Allen and Clements? ... The latter's clever catching prevented opposing clubs from accomplishing much in the way of run getting. The Phillies' pitching would not have cut much of a figure, had they had a less competent catcher to back them up, as he made them effective by his superb coaching. He told them by signs where to pitch every ball and by his fine throwing held runners so closely to their bases that they could not get around unless by consecutive hitting or through errors by the fielders. The team took a bad tumble when Clements was disabled and unable to play, as during his absence the pitchers did very poorly. But for the accident to Clements and Myers' lay-off the Phillies probably would have captured the league pennant." - Philadelphia Ledger, September 1890
Jack Clements was the last left-handed catcher to play regularly in Major League Baseball. He was also the greatest to fill the niche, becoming the first catcher, left- or right-handed, to catch 1,000 games during a 17-season career. Although he occasionally played in right field or elsewhere, the vast majority of his appearances were at catcher. He was an above-average hitter who was sometimes among the league leaders in batting average or slugging.
Jack was born in 1864 in Philadelphia. At 19, he broke in with the Philadelphia Keystones of the short-lived Union Association, playing for old-time catcher Fergy Malone. Jack was one of the strongest hitters on the team, batting .282/.317/.429 with 3 home runs in 41 games. In August, he moved on to the Philadelphia Quakers of the National League. While he did not hit as well for them initially, it was the beginning of a 14-year stint with his hometown team.
Jack became the regular catcher in 1888, batting .248 in 86 games. In 1890, he took a major leap forward, batting .315/.392/.472 in 97 games and serving a brief stint as player-manager. For the first time, he was among league leaders in batting average, finishing third, and finished second in slugging percentage. He was among the leaders in both categories in 1891, hitting .310/.380/.426 in 107 games, and while his batting average went down in 1892 and 1893, he was still one of the top sluggers in the league. He belted 17 home runs in 1893, finishing second in the NL, with a very solid .285/.360/.489 line in 94 games. In 1895, he had his season of seasons, battering pitching to the tune of a .394/.446/.612 line, slugging 13 home runs and finishing in the top three in the league in both batting average and slugging percentage. His .394 batting average remains a single-season record for a catcher.
After a .359/.427/.573 line in 57 games in 1896, Jack's hitting slipped substantially in 55 games in 1897 (.238/.305/.378). He was traded, in a deal that involved six other players, to the St. Louis Browns, at the time in the National League. He was a regular one final time in 1898, then briefly with the terrible Cleveland Spiders in 1899. In 1900, he spent some time with Providence in the Eastern League, playing his final 16 big league games with the Boston Beaneaters managed by Frank Selee. He hit pretty well, .310/.370/.405, but his time was up.
Upon his retirement, Jack held the single-season and career marks for home runs by a catcher, marks that were later obliterated by Gabby Hartnett. In 1,160 games, he batted .287/.348/.421 with 619 runs scored and was one of the lone 19th century stars to retire with more home runs (77) than triples (60).