Clayton Laws Kirby, Jr. (June 25, 1948 – October 11, 1991) was a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher for the San Diego Padres (1969–73), Cincinnati Reds (1974–75) and Montreal Expos (1976).
He was born in Washington, D.C. and attended Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round of the 1966 draft, however, in October 1968 he was chosen in the expansion draft by the Padres, who would begin play in 1969 along with the Expos.
He made his Major League debut at age 20 with the first-year Padres on April 11, 1969 as the Padres fell at home 8-0 to the San Francisco Giants. The first major league hitter he ever faced was Willie Mays, who walked, as Kirby gave up three earned runs in four innings. Although he led the National League in losses that year with 20 (with seven wins), he had a respectable 3.80 earned run average in 35 starts with 215.1 innings pitched.
A year later on July 21, 1970, Kirby was working on a no-hitter against the New York Mets after eight innings, but trailed 1-0 as the Mets scored in the first inning on a walk and two stolen bases by Tommie Agee and a ground out. Manager Preston Gómez had Cito Gaston pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the eighth, denying him a chance to complete the no-hitter. Relief pitcher Jack Baldschun then gave up two runs and three hits in the ninth for a 3-0 loss. That season, Kirby posted a 10-16 record with a 4.53 ERA. The next two years Kirby excelled but received little run support, with numbers of 15-13, 2.83 (with 13 complete games) in 1971 and 12-14, 3.13 in 1972. In 1973 his record fell to 8-18 with a 4.79 ERA.
In November 1973 Kirby was traded to the Reds and the move paid off for both as Kirby went 12-9 with an ERA of 3.28. In 1975 he helped lead the Big Red Machine to the National League title as he went 10-6 with an ERA of 4.72 in 19 starts. The Reds later won the 1975 World Series, but Kirby did not play in the series.
In December 1975 he was traded to the Expos, and in the 1976 season he fell to 1-8 with an ERA of 5.72, and it was his final major league season.
In his eight seasons in the Major Leagues, Kirby played 261 games (239 started) and had a 75–104 record with a 3.84 ERA, 42 complete games, eight shutouts, 1,548 innings pitched and 1,061 strikeouts.
Following his baseball career, Kirby was acting tournament chairman for the annual Major League Baseball Players Alumni (MLBPA) Washington Metropolitan Area Charity Golf Tournament. The event, which benefited the American Lung Association, was part of the "Swing With the Legends Golf Series."
He died of a heart attack in October 1991 in Arlington, Virginia at age 43.
By Dean Hanley
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