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Clendenon’s final home run

By Rori Francis Blakeney

Morehouse alumnus Donn Clendenon ’56, the most valuable player in the 1969 World Series where he hit three home runs to help propel the team known as the Miracle Mets to a five-game triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, died September 17 at his home in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 70.

A right-handed batter, he hit 159 home runs and had a career batting average of .274 in 12 seasons. Clendenon, a native of Atlanta, got his start at Morehouse where he played football, basketball and baseball, and ran track. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math and physical education.

Clendenon joined his teacher, Dr. James “Pinky” Haines, in becoming one of two athletes in Morehouse history to earn letters in four sports.

“Donn was a very gifted athlete, a court jester — a clown who would pull pranks— but he could back it up,” said Ted Sparks ‘56, one of his teammates.

“He kept up a lot of foolishness to relax and keep the guys focused. He had that leadership ability. I was captain of the baseball team, but Donn always wanted to take charge,” he said. “Donn ended up making the major league.”

Clendenon, the Mets’ first baseman, hit a home run paving the way for the Mets to tie the score in the seventh inning. Later in that game, the Mets scored two in the ninth for a 5-3 victory and the World Series championship. Clendenon had hit home runs in Games 2 and 4, and he finished the Series with 5 hits in 14 at-bats for a .357 batting average, four runs batted in and four runs scored. His three home runs and 15 total bases set records for a five-game series.

When Clendenon was lauded as M.V.P. of the ‘69 series, he deflected attention from himself. As he put it, “There is no most valuable player on this team - we’ve got lots of them.”

Clendenon made his major league debut with Pittsburgh in 1961 and remained with the Pirates until he was drafted by the Montreal Expos, an expansion team started in 1969. He was traded to the Mets in June 1969, played for them through 1971, then finished his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972.

After baseball, he earned a law degree from Duquesne University in 1978. He went on to practice law in Dayton, Ohio, and Sioux Falls, S.D., where he was general counsel for the Interstate Audit Corporation.

Click here for an interview with Donn Clendenon on Heroes of the Past.com.

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