Clem Labine:

Clem Labine: "Always A Dodger"

by Richard Elliott

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Clem Labine was the "King of the Bullpen" so described by Robert Creamer of Sports Illustrated. He was baseball's premier 'closer' two decades before the term 'closer' was ever used. He led the League in 'saves' for years, a decade before 'saves' were even tallied. He was twice an All Star and three times a World Series Champion. As a Brooklyn Dodger, Clem ended with a Lifetime World Series ERA of a remarkable 1.65, and is a member of the Brooklyn Dodger Baseball Hall of Fame. As a rookie, he shut out the Giants in the second game of the iconic best-of-three 1951 playoffs. In the Dodgers' 1955 World Series Championship, he saved one game and won another. The following year, he pitched the day after Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series and outdueled Yankee ace Bob Turley for a 10 inning 1-0 victory, going the distance. And yet, though acknowledged by his peers as one of baseball's all-time greats, he is nearly forgotten by all except the most ardent of fans. He played with Jackie Robinson and Carl Erskine and Pee Wee Reese and Campy and Hodges and the Duke. He was one of them and they knew it, and all of baseball knew it. But the public recognition was never there. One time in New York, Chicago Cubs manager Bob Scheffing was asked by a reporter "If you had your choice of any one pitcher in the entire league, who would you pick?' 'Labine' Scheffing said, without hesitation." (Robert Creamer, Sports Illustrated June 3, 1957)

So why, we all ask. Why history's failure to acknowledge Clem's talents and contributions? I like Tommy Lasorda's explanation best of all;

"He played the game the way it was supposed to be played. He gave it everything he had, he got along with everyone and everyone loved him.....He was one of the finest pitchers to ever play the game...... but he was surrounded by too many stars."

Therefore, maybe it is time to talk about my friend Clem celebrate this Brooklyn Dodger Boy of Summer; this man of principle! Not just the athlete, but the husband, father, friend, and proud citizen of his little home town of Woonsocket, R.I.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940150856578
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Rick Elliott was born in N.Y.C. but moved with his family to Rhode Island when just a youngster. His dad was relocating to Woonsocket, Rhode Island to assist three brothers in the family business, Jacob Finkelstein & Sons. It was in Rhode Island where his father met Clem Labine, then a 16 year old in high school, working in the shipping room at Finkelstein's. It was here in Woonsocket where their lifelong friendship was forged.

When the Dodgers played their home games in Brooklyn, Rick was invited to attend with Clem's son JR, dozens of times each summer. Here, at the sacred cathedral of Ebbets Field, the two boys would play catch on the infield grass pregame, visit the dressing room postgame, and then sleep overnight at the Bossert Hotel, under the same roof as the author's beloved Dodgers. Rick attended Classical High School in Providence, and then graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Behavioral Psychology in 1968. After graduation, he joined the family business and worked with his father and Clem, who was, by then, General Manager of the Deerfoot Team and Award Jacket Division of Jacob Finkelstein & Sons. Rick's childhood hero had become his business associate, close friend, and confident. Clem had become, in many ways, a second father to the author.

After pressure from cheap imports forced the sale of the family business, Rick turned to homebuilding and constructed over 200 single family homes in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Florida for the next 26 years as Richard Elliott Builder, Inc. He retired in 2011. Clem and Rick remained very close friends until Clem's passing in 2007. The author had always believed that Clem's story was too extraordinary, and too magical, to be left untold. In retirement he has written "Clem Labine: Always a Dodger", in the hope that he can share Clem's magical, courageous and inspiring life with others.

Rick lives alone with his puppy, Miss Roshi, in Cumberland, Rhode Island, where he is now working on his next two manuscripts. He says he still misses his father, and his dear buddy Clem Labine, every single day of his life!

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