Hockey player, baseball player, baseball coach
“He’s what Canadian baseball players are all about,” Justin Morneau once said of him. “He brings fire and energy.”
Richard Keith “Stubby” Clapp was born on February 24th, 1973 in Windsor. He attended Kennedy Collegiate before moving over to Riverside High. Batting left and throwing right, he starred at third base for the Riverside Royals and the Windsor Selects. An all-round athlete, Clapp was also a promising hockey player in his hometown, playing Junior”B” for the Windsor Bulldogs. Said Clapp: “I chose baseball because it chose me…A baseball scholarship was offered to me in Texas [Texas Tech University] and it paid for more of an education than what a hockey scholarship was going to…”
In 1996, the St. Louis Cardinals selected Clapp in the 36th round (1,058th overall) of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. He worked his way through the system and spent three seasons in AAA Memphis before getting the call in 2001. In 23 games with the Cardinals, Clapp had five hits, including two doubles. The MLB record book officially lists him as a second baseman, but he also pinch hit and played in left field. In St. Louis, he played under Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa, and with sluggers Mark McGuire and Albert Pujols.
Clapp was well regarded in Memphis: during his four years with the Redbirds (1999-2002) he was fondly referred to as the “Mayor of Memphis”; in his last year there, the 5-foot-8 Clapp was featured on a kids’ growth chart; he also had the singular distinction of having his own bobble head. Stubby was known for doing a back flip every time he took the field. He was popular in Syracuse too, as he was wherever he played. He retired in 2006. In 911 minor league games, Clapp hit .270, had 48 homers, 50 triples, 196 doubles, 365 RBI, and 83 steals. He pitched in three games: in 2.1 innings, he gave up two hits and no earned runs.
Back home, Clapp is perhaps best remembered for his clutch performance at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, where he spanked a bases-loaded single in the 11th to beat the highly favoured American team and put his side into the semi-finals. (Canada eventually won the bronze.) Other international stints included playing for the national junior team in 1991, a world tournament in 1994, the Olympics in 2004 and 2008, the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, and coaching the gold-medal winning team at the Pan Am 2015 games. “I don’t think,” said Stubby of his playing for Canada, “there are words or a solid phrase to describe what it means to wear the maple leaf on your chest. It’s a special opportunity every time and it leaves chills on your arms every time you pull the jersey over your head.”
Post-retirement, Stubby Clapp has held coaching positions within the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays’ organizations. He is currently a batting coach with the minor league New Hampshire Fisher Cats.