One of baseball’s toughest competitors, a top hitter and daring baserunner, Clarke was the first successful boy manager. Discovered by Louisville owner Barney Dreyfuss in the minors, the lefthanded batter quickly dominated NL pitching to become one of the game’s early stars. Clarke went 5-for-5 in his first game (June 30, 1894), still a ML record. The left fielder’s playing style was compared to Ty Cobb‘s. Fearless and dynamic, he considered each season a war and each game a battle. In 1897 Clarke was made Louisville’s manager. Despite the added responsibility, he batted a career-high .390.
After the 1899 season, Clarke was one of the 14 players who went to Pittsburgh when Dreyfuss virtually merged the Pirates and Colonels. With the best players from both teams, Clarke’s powerhouse won 859 games in 1901-09 (.634 winning percentage). Clarke’s strong leadership, potent bat, and a star-studded lineup accounted for three straight NL pennants, culminating with the first World Series in 1903, which the Pirates lost to the Boston Pilgrims (Red Sox).
In 1909 Clarke guided Pittsburgh to a club-record 110 wins and hit two homers against Detroit in the WS, which the Pirates won in seven games. That was Clarke’s last great achievement. He had just completed four straight sub-.300 seasons as a hitter, after having hit over .300 ten times in his first 13 campaigns. Pushing sore, aging legs, Cap hit .324 in 1911, then virtually stopped playing, though he appeared in 12 games in 1913-15. After the 1915 season, he quit baseball and returned to his Kansas ranch.
Clarke retired among the all-time leaders in batting average, runs scored, hits, triples, and stolen bases. He was Pittsburgh’s most successful manager in both wins (1,422) and percentage (.595) and ranked among the all-time club leaders in games, at-bats, hits, triples, and stolen bases. In 1945 the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee enshrined him at Cooperstown. His brother Josh Clarke spent five years in the ML.