#70 - Mark Clear, - RH Reliever
The Angels won the American League West for the first time in 1979. Slugger Don Baylor was named the American League MVP. Angel Reliever Mark Clear finished 19th in A.L. MVP voting that year. But I've always had the feeling that they wouldn't have made it without him. It wasn't his 14 saves and it wasn't his 11-5 record (still among the top ten Angel single season Winning %). It was the feeling of destiny created by a guy who always seemed to have two runners on base representing the tying and winning runs and finding a way out of it. Destiny or heartburn, Clear paved the way for many an Angel fan's ability to cope with dramatic relief efforts instead of pleasant 1-2-3 Ninth Innings.
Rob McMillin of the 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog delves into the details...
You have to wonder about a guy who gets drafted at age 18 whose club immediately gives up on him. That was Mark Clear's story, an eighth-round pick (171st overall) in 1974 who spent one year in the Phillies' organization. Released just after spring training in 1975, the Angels picked him up the following June as a free agent, and he immediately began beavering away in the Halos' minor leagues. Struggling for another three years in single-A and AA ball, a light went on for him in El Paso: his prolific walks declined somewhat, but his strikeouts soared.
Immediately going into the Angels' bullpen, his wicked curveball was matched only by his shaky control, walking 68 batters to the 98 he struck out in his rookie season. Nonetheless, his early work was dominant, posting an otherworldly 0.53 ERA in 1979 spring training that caused the club to release reliever 11-year veteran Ken Brett despite owing him $165,000. "They never really told me I'd made the team," Clear later said. "I came to the park and they had a suitcase with my name on it." He made sure the Angels wouldn't regret that decision, following up his remarkable spring training with a 2.75 ERA over his first three months in the Show, an effort that earned him an All Star berth along the way to the Angels' first AL West division title. He led the pen in innings pitched (109) and strikeouts that year.
Clear came back the next year with similar numbers to his 1979 campaign, and was widely regarded as untouchable when he was traded on December 10, 1980, along with third baseman Carney Lansford and Rick Miller, for 30-year-old shortstop Rick Burleson and 29-year-old third baseman Butch Hobson. Both would turn into busts; Burleson played in 253 games over five seasons with the Angels, while Hobson had only two years left in the majors, only one of them with the Halos. Meanwhile, Clear would earn another All Star trip with Boston.
After three tours of Milwaukee from 1986 to 1988, Clear missed all of 1989 thanks to elbow surgery in March, and re-signed with the Angels as a free agent the next year. He signed for a minimal contract, and suffered the indignity of being sent to AAA Edmonton just after spring training; he pitched in four games before he finally retired.