On Feb. 20, 1941, Clyde Wright was born. He would go on to win exactly 100 games in his major league career. But what does that have to do with his son Jaret and with Mel and Todd Stottlemyre?
Clyde Wright was born in Tennessee, just a few months before Pearl Harbor. Luckily for Clyde, by the time he was old enough to be cognizant of such things, America was on the path to victory; VE Day came just a few months after his fourth birthday. By the time college rolled around, Wright was ready to go to Carson-Newman, in his hometown of Jefferson City, Tenn.
Wright had a star career at Carson-Newman (the Eagles, if you’re wondering) and was drafted by the Angels. He tore through the minor leagues, at one level posting an ERA under two, and was soon called up to the big club. The team’s general manager hailed him as a “left-handed Don Sutton.” The comparison came not only from Wright’s level of talent—well, perceived level of talent, as it would turn out—but from his style. Like the great Dodger, Wright worked primarily off his curveball, throwing both a fast and slow variety.
While Wright may have had a similar repertoire to Sutton’s, it became clear over his first few years in the league that he did not have his talent or results. Wright won just 20 games his first four years in the league, 10 of them in 1968. Despite his 10-6 record that year, Wright actually posted his worst ERA of his early career. His good fortune would change in 1969, when Wright went 1-8 with a 4.10 ERA. His career appeared to be on the rocks.
Convinced by teammate Jim Fregosi to play winter ball, Wright spent the time attempting to develop a reliable complement to his curveball/fastball combination. He settled on a screwball and the results were immediate. In 1970, he won 22 games with a 2.83 ERA, both career bests. He also threw a no-hitter in June. Wright’s performance was good enough to net him sixth place in the All-Star voting and the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Wright’s win-loss record suffered in 1971—17 defeats topped his 16 wins—but he again kept his ERA under three and placed 10th in the league in innings. The next year saw a rebound to 18 wins, and while his ERA held steady at 2.98, changing league conditions meant that was now a below-average performance. Wright lost 19 and 20 games the next two years. His final major league year, 1975, he won four games (against six losses) for the Rangers. Those four wins brought Wright to exactly 100 for his major league career.
Wright would go on to pitch in Japan (where he was known as “Crazy Righto” after a confrontation with his manager) and battled alcoholism. He triumphed over his demons and today runs the Clyde Wright Baseball School.
In December of 1975, shortly after his major league career ended, Wright’s wife, Vicki, gave birth to a son, Jaret. In the early days, it looked as though Jaret Wright would be a sure bet to have a greater career than his father. At age 21, he won eight games for the Indians plus three more in the playoffs, and left Game Seven of the World Series with a lead. He won 12 games in 1998 and eight more in ’99, but began having arm troubles.
From 2000 through 2003, Jaret Wright never threw more than 56 innings or won more than three games in a season. In 2004, he rebounded with the Braves, winning 15 games and earning himself a three-year contract with the Yankees. He won 16 games in two years in the Bronx, but was perceived (to some degree rightly) as a disappointment and was sent to Baltimore this past offseason for a reliever.
To this point, Wright has failed to top his father in either single-season or career victories, although, with 68 lifetime wins at age 32, if Jaret’s arm holds up, he has a decent shot at besting his father’s 100 career wins.
But even if Jaret manages only to match Clyde’s total, that will be a noteworthy accomplishment. Only one pitching pair of father and son has both won 100 major league games: Mel (164) and Todd (138) Stottlemyre. (Not surprisingly, their combined win total—just over 300—is also tops all-time, a record that the Wrights are unlikely to approach.)
Some father-son combinations have come close. Jim Bagby Sr. won more than 100 games and while Jim Bagby Jr., unlike his father, made an All-Star team, he fell just three wins short, denying them their chance to be the first 100-win father-son duo. Dizzy Trout came close to winning 200, but should have passed some of those on to his son, Steve Trout, who finished 12 wins shy of 100.
The Colemans, Joe Senior and Junior, both made it to All-Star teams, but Joe Sr. lost three years to World War II and was often ineffective, falling well short of 100 wins. The Colemans are representative of the pairings with one member over 100 and the other far from. That group includes the Ellsworths (Dick and Steve, with Steve not even appearing in 100 games), the Lees (Thornton and Don, with Don well under) and the Navarros (Julio and Jamie, with Julio being short).
Finally there are those pitching pairs where neither member is over 100 wins, like the Borbons (Pedro Senior and Junior), the Queens (Mel Senior and Junior) and the Bacsiks (Mike Senior and Junior, neither of whom has reached 10 wins).
Having suffered through watching Jaret pitch for the Yankees the past couple of seasons, it seems unlikely to me he will earn the necessary wins, especially if he spends much of his career with teams as unremarkable as the Orioles project to be this year. If he can overcome both my doubts and his own inability to last into the sixth inning, however, and get those 32 wins, Jaret will propel his family name into rare company in baseball history.