Clyde Sukeforth

Clyde Sukeforth
Born: (1901-11-30)November 30, 1901
Washington, Maine
Died: September 3, 2000(2000-09-03) (aged 98)
Waldoboro, Maine
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 23, 1926, for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
June 7, 1945, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
MLB statistics
Batting average .264
Home runs 2
Runs batted in 96
Career highlights and awards

Clyde Leroy Sukeforth (November 30, 1901 – September 3, 2000), nicknamed "Sukey", was a Major League Baseball (MLB) catcher, coach, scout and manager. He was best known for signing the first black MLB player in the modern era, Jackie Robinson, after Robinson was scouted by Tom Greenwade in the Negro leagues.

Eye injury impaired playing career

Sukeforth was born in Washington, Maine.[1] After two years at Georgetown University, followed by a year in the New England League with the Nashua Millionaires and the Manchester Blue Sox, he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a catcher in 1926. His best year was 1929 when he batted .354. Two years later he lost partial sight of his right eye from being hit by a shotgun pellet while bird hunting on November 16.[2]

He continued to play, but not as well, and in 1932 was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sukeforth, who batted left-handed and threw right-handed, appeared in 486 games over all or parts of ten big-league seasons (1926–34 and 1945 as a fill-in-during the World War II manpower shortage), compiling a batting average of .264 with two home runs and 96 runs batted in.

Witnessed Robinson's historic signing

Sukeforth managed in the Brooklyn farm system from 1937–42 with the Clinton Owls of the Class B Three-I League, the Elmira Pioneers of the Class A Eastern League and the Montreal Royals of the AA International League before his promotion to the Dodger coaching staff in 1943. In late August 1945, Sukeforth was the only other person in the room when Dodger president Branch Rickey told Robinson of his plans to sign him to a contract to play in Montreal in 1946. He had been sent by Rickey to Chicago, where Robinson's team, the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, was slated to play the Chicago American Giants, with the instruction to urge Robinson to come back with him to Brooklyn for a meeting with Rickey and the Dodgers. Sukeforth was officially listed as a coach on Brooklyn's major league staff at the time, but also performed scouting duties for the club.

In addition to serving on Leo Durocher's coaching staff and his scouting assignments for Dodgers president Rickey, he worked behind the scenes in 1946 to help create the new Nashua Dodgers of the Class B New England League. Sukeforth helped the Nashua team forge ties with the New Hampshire community, easing the racial integration of the league when Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe were assigned to that club.

Turned down two major league managerial opportunities

Sukeforth managed the Dodgers for the first two games of the 1947 regular season, replacing Durocher, who a week earlier had been suspended for the season by National League president Happy Chandler because of "conduct detrimental to baseball." In the process, he managed Robinson's first major league game. But Sukeforth and a fellow coach, Ray Blades, both turned down the opportunity to serve as acting manager for the rest of the season; ultimately, Brooklyn scout and longtime Rickey associate Burt Shotton assumed that role, and Shotton led the Dodgers to the 1947 National League pennant.

In 1951, when Dodger manager Chuck Dressen needed a reliever to face the New York Giants' Bobby Thomson in the ninth inning of the decisive third game of the National League pennant playoff, Sukeforth, coaching in the Dodger bullpen, passed over Carl Erskine and sent in Ralph Branca, who gave up Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world". Sukeforth resigned as a Dodgers coach,[3] then a few days later signed to be a coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates,[4] where Rickey was executive vice president and general manager, in 1952. There, as a coach and occasional scout, he played a role in the drafting of Roberto Clemente from the Brooklyn organization in the 1954 Rule 5 draft.

Once again passing up a Major League managing assignment after turning down the chance to succeed Pirate skipper Bobby Bragan[5] on August 3, 1957, Sukeforth retired as a coach at the end of the 1957 season.[6]

Late career

Sukeforth remained in the Pirates organization as a scout and occasional minor league manager through 1965. He then worked as a scout for the Atlanta Braves. Sukeforth died at the age of ninety-eight at his home in Waldoboro, Maine.[7]

In popular culture

In 42, the 2013 theatrical sports film about Robinson's breaking of the baseball color line, Sukeforth — played by actor Toby Huss — is portrayed as meeting Robinson at a rural filling station where the Monarchs' team bus had stopped (rather than the actual locale, Comiskey Park in Chicago), and urging Robinson to travel with him to Brooklyn for his meeting with Rickey. Another scene has Huss/Sukeforth (hitting fungos right-handed) teaching Robinson how to play first base, an unfamiliar position for the shortstop and second baseman, but the one Robinson played as a rookie in 1947. In addition, the on-screen Sukeforth, wearing uniform #40, is shown in one of the film's last scenes as the Dodgers' third base coach who congratulates Robinson on hitting a dramatic home run.


  1. "Clyde Sukeforth". Baseball-Reference.Com. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  2. "Sukeforth Certain Vision Not Impaired". The Sporting News. December 3, 1931. p. 2.
  3. "Sukeforth Quits As Dodger Coach in Surprise Move". Nashua Telegraph. Associated Press. January 10, 1957. p. 17. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  4. "Sukeforth Signed to Coach Pirates". Toledo Blade. January 27, 1952. p. 44. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  5. "Bragan Ousted". Sasakatoon Star Phoenix. Associated Press. August 3, 1957. p. 18. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  6. "Firing Coaches From Big Leagues Will Continue". Meriden Record. Associated Press. October 31, 1957. p. 9. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. Anderson, Dave (September 6, 2000). "Clyde Sukeforth, 98, Is Dead; Steered Robinson to Majors". New York Times. Retrieved 4 March 2016.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Clyde Sukeforth.

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 4/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.