Friday, August 10, 2012

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Clint Courtney, Oriole #6

Clint "Scrap Iron" Courtney was a catcher in the big leagues from 1951-61, and spent a majority of his career with the St. Louis Browns/Orioles franchise. He followed the team from St. Louis to Baltimore prior to the 1954 season and became one of the original Orioles; he even played in the new franchise's very first game against the Tigers in Detroit on April 13, 1954. By my numbering system, he was the sixth player to appear in a game with the franchise (four other players batted in the top of the first, making them Orioles #1-4, then I used the other player's position numbers to determine the rest of the debuts, and since Clint was the catcher (position #2) he is Oriole #6.) He hit the first home run in Memorial Stadium history and would play with the Orioles over three separate stints in 1954, '60, & '61.

Clint earned the nicknames "Scrap Iron" and "The Toy Bulldog" due to the combination of his feisty, combative style of play and his relatively small stature. He was often involved in fights on the field and accrued a number of fines during his career. He is also regarded as one of, if not the first, catchers to wear glasses on the field. In 1960, he became the first catcher to use an over-sized mitt to better catch the knuckleballs thrown by Hoyt Wilhelm; the unique mitt's invention is frequently attributed to then Orioles manager, Paul Richards.

After his playing career ended, Clint became a coach and manager, mainly in the Braves' farm system. During his time as the manager of the Richmond Braves, the team was on a road trip to Rochester, New York, when Clint suffered a fatal heart attack while playing ping pong with one of his players. He was only 48 years old at the time of his death. RIP Clint.

It took me quite a few years to track down a signed copy of Clint's 1954 Bowman card. It is the only Orioles card of his that came out during his lifetime, so I'm very glad to have this signed copy in my collection. I got it at a reduced price because the card is trimmed, but all I care about is that it's signed, so it works just fine for me. While writing this post, I noticed that Clint's jersey says Oriole's, as opposed to Orioles. Not a big deal, but just interesting, to me at least.

To briefly explain the misspelled/made up title of these weekly posts: Every Friday, I profile a former Oriole who has passed away. I've substituted the word unpossible for impossible as an homage to a line from "The Simpsons". Young Ralph Wiggum, who is not very smart, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible." 

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