The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

July 5, 2012

McLain returns to Clinton

Baseball great played here 50 years ago

CLINTON — Two-time American League Cy Young winner Denny McLain had not thrown a pitch in Clinton for 50 years.

That is until Wednesday night when the last man to win 30 games in a Major League Baseball season threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the LumberKings’ 8-6 win over Beloit.

McLain, who pitched in 16 games for the Clinton C-Sox in 1962, was at the game to promote a new book and an upcoming reality show. He spent much of the night telling stories, weighing in on the state of baseball, signing autographs, posing for pictures and meeting fans.

“We did a book tour three or four years ago,” McLain said. “This time we wanted to visit most of the parks that I played in. The most gratifying thing that’s happened is the number of people I met here who I knew from when I played here 50 years ago.”

McLain said he thought the turnout was terrific and he had a great time at Ashford University Field and revisiting Clinton the past two days.

One fan bought a photo of McLain doing his signature high leg kick and told McLain he loved watching that.

“I look at it now and my ass hurts,” McLain said. “My wife has promised me something very near and dear to my heart if I can do it again before I die. Every time she says that, I say, ‘Let me try.’ So, here I am in Iowa.”

McLain spent much of his time joking with the fans who came to talk to him.

One woman asked him to sign her ticket stub and said she wanted to see how small he wrote.

“Ma’am, nothing I do is small,” McLain replied. The former Detroit Tiger great is not what would be considered a small man by anyone.

McLain started his professional career in Harlan, Ky., in the Appalachian League.

“I went to Harlan and threw a no-hitter my first game,” McLain said. “I knew I was in the wrong league then. I struck out 16 or so. Then I pitched four or five days later and lost 1-0, I think. I struck out 16 again.”

McLain, a Chicago native, then moved closer to home and joined Clinton.

“I had a great time here,” McLain said. “Nobody has more good times than I do when I go someplace. Nobody who ever played here had more fun than I did here. Nobody.”

McLain struck out 93 batters in 91 innings with the C-Sox. He said he was very impressed with the changes made at Clinton’s ballpark and the city.

“It’s a dramatic change,” McLain said. “Now they can shower. We couldn’t shower. We had no hot water. Most of us would go back to the apartments to shower.

“The town has changed so dramatically on the riverfront, it’s unbelievable. For the better, of course. It’s jobs, it’s employment, it’s helped the economy.”

McLain, who was imprisoned for racketeering among other crimes, stayed at the Wild Rose during his time in Clinton.

“They put me in the casino; they know I’m going to leave all my money here,” McLain said.

McLain’s new book is a chronicle of the 1968 season, when he won the MVP and Cy Young and led the Tigers to the World Series title. His reality show is scheduled to premiere around Thanksgiving on Bravo.

“I’m about to go back into television and radio again,” McLain said. “The opportunities that have come our way because of baseball are incredible. I thank God every day. I certainly stepped on a couple of them. I’ve always respected the people who’ve supported this game — fans, players, umpires, whoever — and it comes back to help once in a while.”

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