December 9, 1918: Clarence Beers
Clarence Beers' chance seemed like it may never come, but finally after he was nearly 30 years old, he finally got the call he had been waiting for his entire life. Starting his career in New Mexico, Beers was just 18 years old when he broke into professional ball. His first go around came with the Class-D Hobbs Drillers of the West Texas-New Mexico League. He struggled to a 7.71 ERA to go along with a 5-13 record across 147 innings there.
After taking an extra year off to mature, he was back at it in his age-20 season, catching on with the Pocatello Cardinals of the Pioneer League. This landed him in the Cardinals' organization and a step up in Class C. Beers was a workhorse, going 17-13 with a 5.39 ERA across 242 innings during the 1940 season. By 1942, he had worked his way up to Double-A with the Sacramento Solons, but like many other pro ballplayers, his playing career was put on hold so he could serve his country in the Second World War.
By the time the United States and Allied Forces had claimed victory, he had missed three full seasons. He returned to professional baseball in 1946 having lost half his prime to military service. Now, he was a 27-year-old nearing over-the-hill territory in the world of baseball. That didn't deter him as he split 1946 between Double-A and Triple-A pitching to a solid 3.08 ERA while watching his St. Louis Cardinals defeat Ted Williams and the Red Sox in the World Series.
While he was pushing 30, Beers had something to look forward to. He had been just one step away from the Cardinals roster and they had just won the World Series. Surely, 1947 would provide his shot. As Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers the following season, Beers was not in attendance. Had he made the team out of Spring Training, he would've gotten to pitch against Robinson and his Dodger teammates in Brooklyn in just Robinson's 13th career game.
Instead, Beers spent the 1947 season with the Double-A Houston Buffaloes. After going 25-8 with a 2.40 ERA across 266 innings there, it was clear he was ready for the next step. His chance came almost right away as he ended up with the big club by May. On May 2, 1948 in front of 15,000 fans at Sportsman's Park III, Beers finally had his number called. In relief against the rival Cubs in a game that was already 6-4 Chicago Cubs with runners on first and second, Beers was summoned out of the bullpen.
Within minutes, he may wish he would've stayed there. Single, wild pitch, double, error, groundout, intentional walk, passed ball, double, fly out is how the rest of the inning went. Beers had gotten out of the inning, but not before allowing seven total runs, two of which reliever Ken Johnson was on the hook for and five of which were tagged to Beers, though one was unearned. When he walked off the mound, he did so with a 13.50 career ERA. Sadly, that's where his career ERA would finish as he never got another shot despite showing such promise in Double-A during the 1947 season.
One look was all it took for management to decide he didn't have what it took at the next level. A true baseball lifer, Beers played five additional seasons in the minor leagues after that season, ending his career with the Double-A Beaumont Exporters. He spent time in the Yankees and White Sox organizations over his remaining years, always on the cusp of a call up as he pitched well in Triple-A. Still, the call never came and by the time he retired in 1953, he had spent half his life as a professional ballplayer or defender of his country.
Beers on December 6, 2002 just three days shy of his 84th birthday. His career may only show most the two outs he recorded in his only big-league game and the struggle he had while pitching for the Cardinals, but his full story, fairly told, is about a man who did everything he could to get to the mountaintop and once flung off in a matter of minutes, did everything he could to get back.