March 19 – Happy Birthday Clyde “Hack” Engle
Long before one-time Yankee Cesar Tovar became baseball’s multi-position man, the honor belonged to Clyde Engle. Engle was only an outfielder when the Dayton, Ohio native broke into the big leagues with the New York Highlanders in 1909. That was also long before the Knick’s Hall of Fame guard made the name “Clyde” cool again, which explains why Engle was also well-known by his nickname, Hack.
The 25-year-old rookie had an excellent first season for New York, earning a starting berth in manager George Stallings’ outfield and leading the team in hits (137) doubles (20) and RBI’s (71). But those early Highlander rosters were like the diapers of a baby with diarrhea, they were being changed constantly. By the first month of Engle’s second big league season, the team had changed its entire starting outfield and the no-longer-needed Engle was sold to the Red Sox in early May of 1910.
It would be in Beantown where Hack would establish his reputation as one of baseball’s most versatile position players. The Red Sox played him in every position of the field except pitcher and catcher. It was his ability to field them all well that kept him on those very talented pre World War I era Red Sox teams for five and a half seasons, until he jumped to the rival Federal League in 1914.
His most famous moment came when he pinch hit for Boston during the tenth inning of the sixth and final game of the 1912 World Series. It was Engle’s fly ball, hit off of Giants’ legend Christy Matthewson that was dropped by New York outfielder Fred Snodgrass. Engle would eventually score the winning run and Snodgrass’s fielding lapse would be referred to with lament by the New York sports media for years after.
After a season and a half of play in the Federal League, Engle made one final and brief appearance in the big leagues with Cleveland before retiring as a player. He got into college coaching first as the head varsity guy for the University of Vermont and then as the freshman baseball coach at Yale. It was while serving in the latter position that he suffered a heart attack and died on the day after Christmas in 1939, at the age of 55.
He shares his birthday with another Yankee who died at an even younger age.