Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


Bill Clemensen


Date and Place of Birth: June 20, 1919 New Brunswick, New Jersey

Died: February 18, 1994 Alta, California

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Unknown
Military Unit: USAAF

Area Served: United States

Major League Stats: Bill Clemensen on Baseball-Almanac


William M “Bill” Clemensen was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on June 20, 1919, and the family moved to California when he was still young. Baseball was in young Clemensen’s blood – his cousin, Larry Doyle, had played second base with the New York Giants, and Bill Clemensen became an outstanding pitcher at Santa Cruz High School, with a local American Legion junior team, and San Jose State University.


In 1937, determined to get a tryout for his son, Clemensen’s father drove 440 miles from Santa Cruz to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training camp in San Bernadino. The journey was worthwhile. The Pirates were impressed with the youngster and signed him to a minor league contract. In 1937, he was 16-10 with the Hutchinson Larks of the Western Association.


The hard-throwing right-hander was with the Knoxville Smokies of the Southern Association in 1938. He joined the Pirates for spring training in 1939, and in March, Clemensen returned to California with the Pirates and pitched against the San Francisco Seals in a pre-season exhibition game.


Clemensen was with the Pirates for the start of 1939, making 12 unmemorable appearances mostly in relief. He spent the remainder of the season with the Gadsden Pilots of the Southeastern League.


In 1940, Clemensen was with the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League subject to 24-hour recall by the Pirates. The call did not come that year but he was invited to spring by the Pirates in 1941. In May, however, he was optioned to the Albany Senators in the Eastern League but recalled in August. Clemensen made two appearances in 1941. On September 28, 1941 – the last day of season – he beat the Reds 3-2, denying Bucky Walters his 20th victory. It was to be Clemensen’s last game before entering military service.


In 1942, Clemensen looked to be a part of the Pirates' regular season roster, but in April he was inducted into the Army.


Clemensen served with the Army Air Force and was based at Davis-Monthan Army Air Field in Tucson, Arizona in 1943. He was player-manager of the baseball team and was involved in an unusual incident in July 1943. In a game against Marana Army Air Field, Clemensen’s team was leading 15-2 after three innings, but Marana scored seven runs in the seventh and tied the game in the ninth. Clemensen then came into pitch and in the fifteenth inning he felt so confident that he decided to allow a Marana pitcher who had left the game in the ninth inning, to return to the mound because the team had run out of pitchers. Clemensen’s team scored two runs against the Marana pitcher but Marana came back with three to beat Clemensen, 21-20.


On August 5, 1945, Clemensen pitched a no-hitter for Davis-Monthan over Tucson American Legion in a 3-0 win.


Clemensen made his one and only post-war major league appearance on April 21, hurling two shutout innings in relief against the Reds. He spent the remainder of the season with the Columbus Red Birds of the American Association. In 1947, Clemensen joined the Sacramento Solons.


Bill Clemensen passed away on February 18, 1994 in Alta, California. He was 74 years old and is buried at Memorial Lawn Cemetery, Sacramento, California.


Created March 18, 2007.


Copyright © 2015 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.