Pittsburgh Pirates Countdown: Top Five First Basemen
By David Hill
5. Donn Clendenon (1961-1968)
A three sport star at Morehouse College, Clendenon actually had offers to play for the Cleveland Browns, the New York Knicks and the Harlem Globetrotters. Instead, he chose to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, in part because his stepfather was Nish Williams, the former Negro League catcher and manager. The Pirates were certainly glad that he made that decision.
During his time in Pittsburgh, Donn Clendenon was a solid first baseman, generating decent power despite playing in the era of depressed batting statistics known as the 1960’s. Overall for the Pirates, Clendenon produced a .280/.332/.443 batting line with 106 home runs and even stole 81 bases. Even though these statistics may not appear to be impressive, they were good enough for a 119 OPS+ during that time frame.
Although he was not an All-Star, Clendenon did finish second the the Rookie of the Year balloting in 1962. He also consistently ranked in the top ten in multiple offensive categories, such as triples and RBI. Clendenon was also a stellar defensive first baseman, among the league leaders in range factor, double plays and assists.
Unfortunately, Donn Clendenon is best known for what he did after leaving the Pirates, as he was the MVP of the 1969 World Series when the Mets improbably defeated the Orioles. Clendenon produced a .357/.438/1.071 batting line with three home runs, leading the Mets to victory.
Next: A true power hitter