Donn Clendenon was a 6’4” first baseman from Neosho, MO. Born July 15th, 1935, he signed his first pro contract with the Pirates in 1957. He split that first season between two “D” level clubs, the Salem Rebels in the Appalachian League (.275 in 46 games) and the Jamestown Falcons of the New York Penn League (.239 through 51 contests).
1958 would see Clendenon earn a promotion to the “C” level Grand Forks Chiefs in the Northern League, playing the entire season with them and hitting .265 in 119 games with 12 triples and 10 home runs. In 1959, he progressed from the “C” level Idaho Falls Russets (.356, 15 triples, 15 home runs, 96 RBI in 105 games) to the “B” level Wilson Tobs of the Carolina League (18 games, .370 batting average). He joined the Savannah Pirates in the Southern Atlantic League in 1960, and hit .335 with 15 triples, 28 home runs, and 109 RBI in 137 games.
In 1961, Clendenon started his season with the Columbus Jets, the Pirates “AAA” affiliate in the International League. He hit .290 in 147 games with 22 home runs and 82 RBI. He was called up to join Pittsburgh for the first time to close out the season, playing nine games and going 11-of-35 from the plate. On September 30th, he went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBI in an 11-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates went 75-79 that season, sixth in the NL and 18 games behind the Reds for the pennant.
Clendenon split his 1962 campaign between the Jets (12 games, 16-for-40, four home runs, eight RBI) and the Pirates. He split time in Pittsburgh between first base and left field, batting fourth, fifth, and sixth in the order. On August 11th, he went 3-for-5 with a double, a homer, three runs scored and four RBI in a 10-6 win over the Chicago Cubs. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. The Pirates went 93-68, eight games behind the first place San Francisco Giants.
1963 would see Clendenon make the club to stay, playing in 154 games and leading the NL with 136 strikeouts. He hit .275 with 15 home runs, an NL eighth best 22 stolen bases, and 57 RBI. He played first base all season, appearing between fourth and seventh in the batting order. In a 4-3 win over the Cubs on September 17th, he went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBI. Pittsburgh finished up the season with a 74-88 record, in eighth place in the NL.
In 1964, Clendenon hit .282 in 133 contests, hitting an NL eighth best eight triples, an NL ninth leading 12 stolen bases, and 12 home runs with 64 RBI. He batted between third and seventh in the lineup. His best game of the season came in a losing record, as he went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, and a run scored in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs. The Pirates languished in mid-league, posting a vanilla 80-82 record and finishing the season in sixth place.
Clendenon seemed to turn a corner for Pittsburgh in 1965, hitting an NL tenth best .301 while playing in all 162 games. He clubbed a league seventh best 32 doubles, an NL second ranking 14 triples and 14 home runs with 96 RBI. He batted mostly fourth and fifth throughout the season. On June 15th, he went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI in a 10-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh was good, at 90-72, but still finished seven games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL crown.
1966 would see Clendenon keep his batting average up at .299 through 155 contests. He totaled career highs with 28 home runs and an NL eighth best 98 RBI. His .520 slugging percentage ranked him 10th in the league, while 10 triples placed him fourth. Again, he batted fourth through seventh as Pittsburgh’s every day first baseman. On May 3rd, he hit two home runs with four RBI as the Pirates dismissed the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4 in 12 innings. Pittsburgh was two games better than the previous year, at 92-70, but again missed the pennant by seven games behind the Dodgers.
In 1967, Clendenon’s batting average dropped to a then-career low .249 in 131 contests. He hit 13 home runs and 56 RBI. He batted four through six in the batting order. On May 3rd, he hit a three-run double in the bottom of the ninth, down by four against the Dodgers, helping the Pirates to a 6-5, 15 inning victory. Pittsburgh finished at 81-81, in sixth place in the National League.
Clendenon’s last season in Pittsburgh would be 1968. He hit .257 in 158, leading the NL with an embarrassing 163 strikeouts. He hit 17 home runs and a league sixth ranking 87 RBI. He played first base exclusively and batted fourth through sixth. In the second game of a doubleheader on July 31st, he went 3-for-4 with a walk, a triple, a home run, three runs scored and two RBI as the Pirates defeated the Reds, 10-1. Pittsburgh finished the season in sixth again, at 80-82. Just after the season, the Montreal Expos selected him with the 11th pick in the 1968 expansion draft.
Clendenon spent 38 games with the Expos before they sent him off to the New York Mets. In 281 games with New York, he hit .267 with 45 home runs and 171 RBI in two and a half seasons. He finished up his career in 1972 with the St. Louis Cardinals (61 games, .191).
All-Time Statline: Eight seasons, 982 games, .280/.332/.443, 986-for-3522, 442 runs, 149 doubles, 53 triples, 106 home runs, 488 RBI, 81 stolen bases, 277 walks, 840 strikeouts, 15.9 wins above replacement.
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