Summer of ’74 Project #2 – Clyde Wright

Photo Feb 25, 11 01 12 PM.jpg

1974 Topps #525, signed via TTM

This was actually a card that I had gotten signed well before I started this 1974 project. My true cardboard love has always been the Milwaukee Brewers and the bulk of my TTM requests go out to current or former Sudsmen. I think I got this card signed in 2014… I also think I had confused Wright with David Clyde when I sent it… but anyway. Wright played just a single year with the Brewers, although he was also featured as a Brewer in the 1975 set. Milwaukee traded for Wright just after the end of the 1973 season, enough time for Topps for paint a horrifying blue cap on his head and try to pass him off as a Brewer. At least they used a picture that leaves Wright looking sufficiently mortified.

Wright was the prize return for the Brewers in ten-player deal that sent two-time All Star catcher Ellie Rodriguez and four others to the Angels. Pitcher Skip Lockwood also went to the Angels in the deal. Lockwood had been the last member of the 1969 Seattle Pilots still active with the Brewers. The Brewers had high hopes for the big deal. After the swap, Brewers GM Jim Wilson told the Milwaukee Journal, “We this with this deal we’ve got a chance to be a real contender and truly make a run for it next year… this could put us over the top.”

It was certainly a rosy assessment for a 74-win team that had just acquired a soon-to-be 33-year-old pitcher with a roughly league-average ERA the previous two seasons. The Brewers hoped that Wright would be able to return to his 1970 form, when the lefty won 22 games, threw a no-hitter, and finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting.

Wright was penciled in as the Brewers #3 starter for 1974. He started out hot, opening with a 3-0 record and a 1.38 ERA through the first few weeks of the season. He leveled off quickly and by the middle of the summer had become little more than a rubber-armed innings-eater on a Brewers team that – somehow – had remained in contention in a weak AL east. On July 16, after an 8-inning 4-earned run win over the Twins, the Brewers sat just two games behind the front-running Red Sox. Albeit with a 46-44 record (which actually would have good enough for a part of first place in the NL East).

That sunny Tuesday after would be a high point for the Brewers and Wright in 1974. The Brewers won just seven of their next 25 and finished in 5th place, 15 games out of first. Wright appeared in 14 more games that year (some in long-relief), going 1-9 with a 5.56 ERA. He finished the year with career-high ERA and became the first (and still only) Brewer to lose 20 games. That December, the Brewers traded Wright to the Rangers for right-hander Pete Broberg. Wright pitched one unremarkable season for Texas before being released. Wright later pitched in Japan, where he gained a reputation as a bit of loose cannon. Early in his first season there, he refused to hand over the ball when his manager removed him from a game, instead firing it into the dugout and retreating to the clubhouse. After three years in Japan, during which he developed a drinking problem, Wright ended his professional career. He finally got clean in 1979 after his wife threatened to leave him. Clyde’s son, Jaret Wright, pitched for five teams between 1997 and 2007, and started two World Series games for the Indians as a rookie.

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