July 9 – Happy Birthday Tex Clevenger
Tex Clevenger’s real first name was Truman. In Maury Allen’s book ”Where Have You Gone Yankees?” he told the author that Boston Red Sox second baseman, Johnny Pesky, gave him the nickname “Tex” when Clevenger was a member of the Red Sox organization in the early fifties. He had established himself as a very good relief pitcher during a five-year stretch with the lowly Senators that ended in 1960 when he was left unprotected in the AL expansion draft and selected by the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees got him and Bob Cerv from LA in a 1961 trade that sent Yankee reliever Ryne Duren out west. That happened to be the first trade ever made by the Angels’ franchise.
Houk then put Tex in Duren’s vacated spot in the Yankee bullpen but Clevenger’s first year in New York was a struggle. At the beginning of the ’62 season he found himself pitching in Richmond. When Houk brought him back up to the parent club that May, a reporter for the New York Times wanted to know why he wasn’t the same pitcher in pinstripes as he was when he was saving games for the Senators. Instead of evading the question, the plain-speaking Clevenger answered it honestly.
“There’s a sort of ease and relaxation when you’re with a second-division club that gets in your blood.” the right-hander explained. “Sure we all try to win but if you lose, well shucks, you’re with a club that isn’t expected to win too often so you just shrug it off. But when you come to a pennant-winner like the Yankees, boy that sure is a big difference. You suddenly find yourself with a club where every game means something and a lot of money can ride on every pitch if the game is close. Its something you have to adjust yourself to. I think things will be different for me this year.”
Clevenger did pitch better in ’62. He appeared in 21 games, won both of his decisions and got his ERA down to under three after it was near five during his first Yankee season. He also got his second World Series ring even though he didn’t pitch in either of those Fall Classics. That would be his last season as a Yankee and his final one in the big leagues. Houk sent him back to Richmond in 1963 and after staying there all year, he was released and decided to retire. He went on to own an auto dealership in California, where he still lives.