John Gibson Clarkson (July 1, 1861 – February 4, 1909) was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He played from 1882 to 1894. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Clarkson played for the Worcester Ruby Legs (1882), Chicago White Stockings (1884–1887), Boston Beaneaters (1888–1892), and Cleveland Spiders (1892–1894).
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963.
Clarkson compiled a career 328-178 record, placing him twelfth on the MLB list of all-time wins. Clarkson pitched over 600 innings in a season twice and won a career-high 53 games in 1885. In MLB history, only Charles Radbourn has won more games in a single season (59 in 1884). In just five seasons from 1885 to 1889, Clarkson won 209 games.
Clarkson had a wide variety of curve balls and was considered to be a calculating, scientific pitcher who carefully analyzed every hitter's weaknesses. Hall of Fame hitter Sam Thompson said of Clarkson: “I faced him in scores of games and I can truthfully say that never in all that time did I get a pitch that came where I expected it or in the way in which I guessed it was coming.”
At the time Clarkson retired from the game, he was the winningest pitcher in National League history.
Aside from being a great pitcher, Clarkson was also a fair hitter. His 24 career home runs (in the deadball era) ranks 7th on the all-time MLB home run list for pitchers. He also had 232 career RBIs and 254 runs scored.
Total Baseball ranked Clarkson as the fourth best pitcher of all time behind Hall of Famers Cy Young, Christy Mathewson and Lefty Grove, though Bill James ranks him much lower, at No. 42, in his The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.
After the 1893 season, Clarkson went on a hunting trip with his close friend Charlie Bennett, who had been his catcher from 1888 to 1890. Bennett got off the train in Wellsville, Kansas and when he tried to reboard, Bennett slipped and fell under the train’s wheels. Bennett lost both of his legs in the accident. Clarkson witnessed the incident, and it was said to have severely affected his already unstable nature.
In 1894, Clarkson pitched his final year in the major leagues, playing his last game on July 12, 1894 and finishing 8-10 in 18 starts for the Spiders.
Clarkson's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963 was by the Veterans Committee.
Worcester Ruby Legs (1882)
Chicago White Stockings (1884-1887)
Boston Beaneaters (1888-1892)
Cleveland Spiders (1892-1894)
Career highlights and awards
National League pitching Triple Crown (1889)
Twelfth on all-time MLB wins list
NL ERA champion: 1889
NL wins champion: 1885, 1887, 1889
NL strikeout champion: 1885, 1887, 1889
Six 30-win seasons (1885–1889 and 1891)
53 wins in 1885 is second most in MLB history
Two seasons with 600 innings pitched (1885 and 1889)
HOF, Veterans Committee, 1963