One of the best things about baseball is that more than any other sport it seems to attract some of the most eccentric characters the world can offer. Guys like Rube Waddell who in the middle of a game would wander away from the ballpark chasing the sound of fire engines, Bo Belinsky, the movie star chasing playboy who once jumped off the Red Sox team bus and tried to hop a plane to Israel without a passport, or one of my all-time favorite characters, Clyde "Pea Ridge" Day. There are so many things that make old "Pea Ridge" a first-class character that he is still talked about amongst old Brooklyn Dodger fans, even though he pitched but 22 games for them.
Back home in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Clyde Day was a champion hog caller. When he started out in the minor leagues fans soon learned of his other talent and started yelling for him to give a call. So it started every time the screwball pitcher struck out a batter he’d let loose a resounding hog call. "Whoee - whoee - whoee!" Day started milking the novelty and began hog calling from the dugout, too. While it bothered the hell out of the opposing team, it had the same effect on his teammates as well.
Day also liked to claim he was the strongest man in the game and he would take a teammates belt, strap it tight around his chest and breath in deep, breaking the belt in half. According to Richard Scheinin's book "Field Of Screams" his teammates soon tired of this particular trick and replaced the standard uniform belt with a horse harness. "Pea Ridge" inhaled deeply and promptly broke half his ribs.
Day was well traveled in his career and he pitched for 9 different teams in the minors in 6 leagues. One of the many teams "Pea Ridge" played for was the Omaha Crickets of the Western League. Years ago I was doing some research at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library on obscure Brooklyn Dodgers when I stumbled upon a great picture of Day taken while playing for the Crickets in 1928. This team must have one of the coolest jerseys I have ever seen, two big green crickets prancing across the chest. He also had a decent season that year, going 17-18 in 52 games for the Crickets. When it came time to do a card of old "Pea Ridge" I instinctively knew I would have to dig out that old photograph copy and draw him in that unique jersey.
“Pea Ridge” and his hog calls made it up to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1924 and after a 2-2 record and a horrendous E.R.A. of 6.30 he was sent back down to the minors. "Pea Ridge" had a few mediocre seasons and he had a second shot with Cincinnati and Brooklyn but just couldn't hold on in the big leagues. Clyde bumped around the minors and in 1932 after going 9-8 and pitching 145 innings with Minneapolis his arm was shot. He and his wife had just had a son and in a last ditch effort to save his livelihood “Pea Ridge” spent his life savings on an experimental arm surgery at the Mayo Clinic. It was unsuccessful. Despondent and drinking heavily “Pea Ridge” Day was visiting an old teammate in Missouri when he cut his own throat with a hunting knife on March 21, 1934.