Born in Clear Creek: Clark Calvin Griffith

Elizabeth Davis

Clark Calvin Griffith is the only man in major league history to have been a professional player, manager, and owner for at least 20 years each.

The fifth of six children, Griffith was born to Isaiah and Sarah Anne (Wright) Griffith on Nov. 20, 1869, in Clear Creek in Cooper County. His father was killed in a hunting accident when he was small and his mother raised the children alone with the help of caring neighbors. When malaria hit Missouri, his mother feared an epidemic and moved the family to Illinois.

Griffith’s baseball career begin in 1891, pitching for the St. Louis Browns and Boston Reds in the American Association. In 1892 he pitched for the Chicago Colts. The pitcher’s box was then 55 feet from home plate. In 1893, it was moved back to 60 feet. Griffith adjusted better than most.

When Byron Bancroft “Ban” Johnson made plans for an American League, Griffith talked 39 players into switching to the new league for the 1901 season. Griffith himself signed up as a player-manager with the Chicago White Stockings and led them to the first AL pennant.

Griffith became manager of the New York Highlanders in 1903. His last year as a regular player was 1907, although he made brief appearances between 1909-1914 with the Reds and the Senators.

The tradition of having the President of the United States throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the seasons first Opening Day game was started by Griffith in 1910 with President Taft.

When Griffith became manager of the Senators in 1912, he bought 10% of the team. In 1919, William Richardson bought 40% of the team and Griffith bought another 9%. An agreement between them allowed Griffith to vote Richardson’s shares, thus giving Griffith control of the team. Griffith was elected team president that November, and National Park was renamed Griffith Stadium.

Griffith resigned as manager in 1920 so he could spend all his time running the front office.

During World Wars I and II, there was talk of discontinuing baseball, but Griffith had the ears of President Wilson and President FDR. The games went on.

In 1946, the Old Timers Committee elected Griffith to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Clark Calvin Griffith was still owner of the Senators when he died Oct. 27, 1955, in Washington, DC. He was laid to rest in Ft. Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Maryland.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008. She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to