Monday, March 13, 2017

The Negro League Baseball History Fact For Today - James "Buzz" Clarkson

The baseball career of James Buster “Buzz” Clarkson, born 2/13/18 in Hopkins, South Carolina, covered a large amount of ground; not much different than his Negro League contemporaries.  It included stints in Negro League baseball, the Mexican and Canadian Leagues, and the winter leagues in Puerto Rico and Cuba; in addition to serving in the military (1943 – 1945).  In the 1950s, Clarkson also played Major League baseball and helped integrate the minor leagues. 

At 5’11’ and a solidly built 210 pounds, Clarkson could play any infield or outfield position.  He began his Negro League baseball career with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1937.   When Clarkson played shortstop for the Newark Eagles in 1940, fans selected him to participate in the Negro League East-West All Star game (scored a run).  He also played right field in 1949 All-Star Game while with the Philadelphia Stars (one hit and one RBI). 

Clarkson signed with the Boston Braves in 1950 as a third baseman.  After hitting over .300 in two minor league seasons, he made his Major League debut on April 20,1952, at 37 years old per Major League Baseball records.  Knowing being older may hinder their careers, many former Negro League players did not give their true age when signing with a Major League team.  His advanced age and the Braves having 20-year-old rookie Eddie Mathews at third base that year, the first of a 17-year Hall of Fame career, made Clarkson expendable.  In his only Major League season, he played in 14 games with the Braves that year hitting .200; five singles in 25 AT Bats (.200).

Spending the remainder of his career in the minor leagues, Clarkson became as one of the first African-Americans to play in the Texas League (Class AA); hitting 42 home runs in 1954.

To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown

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