By Alfredo Alvarez (Twitter: @AlfreAlvarez3)
Miami–Today I was watching a highlights reel from last season in Major League Baseball. They were playing the 4th homers in a game by Scotter Gennett, in June, and J.D Martinez in September. And then the name of Jay Justin “Nig” Clarke came to mind.
Clarke began his professional career in 1902, with Corsicana Oil Citys, in the Texas League. On July 14th, his name would enter the annals of history, when he hit eight home runs in ten at-bats in a 51-3 victory over Texarkana Casketmakers. Because in Corsicana they banned baseball on Sundays, the game was played in Ennis, Texas, on a field that had a fence in right field, about 210 feet from the home plate.
While some doubt Clarke’s home run record, the feat was later witnessed by the official scorer (under oath) and by several fans and players who were in the game. During the 2 hours and 10 minutes of play, Oil Citys collected 59 hits, including 20 homers.
Nig Clarke Bio and career in the Majors:
Jay Justin “Nig” Clarke, was born on December 15, 1882, in Canada, although he grew up in Michigan. His position was catcher. In 1905, he was called up to the Majors by the Cleveland Naps. His Major League career was not at all spectacular, like that one July afternoon. He played with the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Naps, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates, for 9 seasons in which he only hit 6 homers. However, Clarke hit 358 in 1906.
Clarke’s major league years witnessed a wonderful game. On October 2, 1908, Clarke, caught the perfect game of Addie Joss, at that time only the fourth in the history of baseball. Clarke had a well-deserved reputation as an outstanding defensive catcher.
On August 1, 1917, Clarke enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. While serving, he reached the rank of corporal and served in Brest, France. In 1918, while serving in the infantry, Clarke filed a petition for military naturalization and became a citizen of the United States. One year later he was discharged, returning to the Majors in 1919.
After Clarke caught his last game for the Pirates in 1920, he returned to the minor leagues where he played a total of 11 seasons, with a lifetime average of 275 with 19 homers in the minors and played until he turned 43. In June of 1929, Clarke rejoined the Marine Corps, serving until August 1932.
After being discharged, Clarke built a house in River Rouge, a suburb of Detroit, where on June 15, 1949, he was found dead.
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