Clyde "Pea Ridge" Day (1899–1934)
Known as the “hog-calling pitcher” in a baseball career spanning the 1920s and early 1930s, Clyde Henry “Pea Ridge” Day transported his considerable talents, his hometown’s name, and a slice of the lively culture of the Arkansas hills onto the national scene. Day’s fun-loving showmanship and competitive spirit brought rare publicity to his hometown and home state.
Clyde Henry Day was born on August 25, 1899, the second child of James (Jim) and Elizabeth Day. Day’s family lived on a farm and operated a steam-powered sawmill three miles north of Pea Ridge (Benton County), near the Missouri state line. His birthplace is taken to be Pea Ridge, although family members think the actual birth may have taken place in McDonald County, Missouri, at the home of relatives. Uncertainty also remains as to the order of his name. Although his tombstone reads Henry Clyde Day, his name is listed on his son’s birth certificate is Clyde Henry Day.
Day attended school through sixth grade at the Sassafras School, a one-room rural school located just over a mile east of the Day family home, and then for a time joined in his father’s sawmill business.
From 1921 to 1924, Day played for minor league teams in Joplin, Missouri; Fort Smith (Sebastian County); Little Rock (Pulaski County); and Muskogee, Oklahoma. Somewhere early in his career, he acquired the nickname “Pea Ridge” Day, perhaps from the banter of opposing players or from cheering fans in the stands. Day’s fun-loving nature, energetic competitiveness, and inclination toward showmanship on the field made him an entertaining character and an exciting pitcher. Like many farm boys of his day, he had learned to call hogs—letting the hogs know to come in out of the woods for feeding, which requires a strong, carrying voice. Day carried his hog-calling into his performances on the mound. Often, after he struck out the last batter in an inning to retire the side, he would lay down his glove, cup his hands to his mouth, and let out a high-pitched “Yip Yip Yeeeee!” It became his trademark celebration of a strike-out.
On September 26, 1922, Day married Lois Woods, the daughter of John W. Woods and Frances Caldona Harris Woods. The couple’s only child, Charles, was born shortly before Day’s death.
Day’s major league debut came on September 19, 1924, when he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched seventeen innings in three games for the Cardinals that year, winning one and losing one, with a 4.58 earned run average (ERA). In 1925, he pitched in seventeen games for the Cardinals, winning two games and losing four, with a 6.30 ERA, and then was sent to Syracuse, New York. For the 1926 season, he was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and played in four games, with a 7.36 ERA. From 1926 to 1930, Day returned to the minors, with Syracuse; Los Angeles, California; Wichita, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Kansas City, Missouri. His best season was with the 1929 Kansas City Blues, with whom he achieved a 12–5 won/lost record and a 2.98 ERA. That year, the Blues won 111 games and lost only fifty-six.
In 1930, the year after his outstanding season with Kansas City, Day built a new auto service station in his hometown of Pea Ridge. In the off seasons, Day hunted, fished, and fashioned bows and arrows.
In 1931, Day got a second shot at the big leagues when he was signed by the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers). He pitched in twenty-two games for Brooklyn, winning two games and losing two, achieving his career best major league ERA of 4.55. The Brooklyn catcher, Al Lopez, in a press interview in 1931, told of Day’s one and only encounter with Babe Ruth. In an exhibition game with the Yankees, Day struck out two hitters who came to bat before Ruth, celebrating each strikeout with his hog call. As Ruth stepped up, the crowd, now excited, began imitating Day’s hog call. After two strikes, however, Ruth connected, lifting a drive far over the outfield fence.
Day played his final major league game with Brooklyn on September 21, 1931, and then went to Minneapolis and later Baltimore. He pitched 145 innings for the Minneapolis Millers in 1932, with a nine and eight record. But during the 1933 season, he developed severe pitching-arm problems and was unable to continue. Baltimore released him in August 1933. In a desperate attempt to restore his pitching career, Day arranged for a complex arm surgery at the Mayo Clinic. The operation cost him $10,000, an enormous sum in 1933. However, much to his dismay, the expensive surgery failed to restore the snap and resilience to his right arm, and he faced the end of his cherished baseball career.
In February 1934, Day’s wife gave birth to their son, to the great delight of Day. However, grieving the loss of the career in which he had invested himself, and facing an uncertain future, Day fell into despondency, his grief probably compounded by the death of his mother in 1929 and his father in 1932. Day began experiencing lapses of memory, possibly alcohol-related, and he made a trip to Kansas City to seek treatment in March 1934. While staying with his friend and former teammate Max Thomas, on March 21, 1934, Day took his own life by slashing his throat with a hunting knife, despite Thomas’s efforts to stop him.
Day’s funeral, held at the newly built First Baptist Church of Pea Ridge, was attended by an overflow crowd of 500 people. His gravestone in the Pea Ridge City Cemetery bears the epitaph, “An Immortal in Baseball.” In 1974, the Pea Ridge community dedicated the Little League Sports Complex in memory of Pea Ridge Day.
For additional information:
Crabtree, Jackie, et al. Pea Ridge, 1850–2000: Anchored to the Past…Rising to the Future. Rich Hill, MO: 2000.
“Pea Ridge” Day Display. Pea Ridge Historical Society Museum, Pea Ridge, Arkansas.
“Pea Ridge Day Stats.” Baseball Almanac. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=daype01 (accessed November 6, 2009).
Joe Jerry Nichols
Pea Ridge Historical Society
Last Updated: 04/21/2010