Lloyd Glenn McClendon played eight seasons in the Major Leagues and has managed two big league clubs, but his greatest success came in the Little League World Series in 1971.
Born in Gary, Indiana on January 11, 1959, he was the youngest of 10 boys in a family of modest means. Lloyd was big, strong and athletically talented and was a star pitcher in the Anderson Little League in Gary, a steel mill town located about 25 miles outside of Chicago. He was selected to the league’s All-Star team at 12 years old and had never travelled outside of northwest Indiana, an area known as the “Region”.
At that time, Gary featured a half-dozen Little Leagues within the area. Today there is only one. Anderson was one of four teams that qualified to play in the Indiana state tournament and the squad travelled to Peru, Indiana, where they beat New Castle Optimist, 8-6 in the semi-final and Terre Haute North, 3-0, in the final to qualify for the Central Region Tournament in Harvey, Illinois. There, Anderson beat Ottumwa National [Iowa], 3-1, and Alpena Huron Shores [Michigan], 7-0, to advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Eight teams from around the world had qualified for the tournament and each was outfitted with new uniforms, shoes and baseball gloves, which was eye-opening for McClendon, who had been playing with his older brothers’ hand-me-downs his entire life. In addition to Anderson Little League, participating teams included Augusta East [Maine, US East], Brockville, Ontario [Canada], Caguas-Gillette [Puerto Rico, Latin America], Gardenside [Kentucky, US South], Madrid, Spain [Europe], Wahiawa [Hawaii, US West] and Tainan, Taiwan [Far East].
The 1971 tournament was played using a single-elimination format [the current format is double-elimination] and featured two firsts—Gardenside, from Lexington, was the first team from Kentucky to qualify for the LLWS and Anderson was the first all-black team to compete in the event.
Gary opened with Lexington in the quarterfinal round, winning 7-2 behind two home runs by Lloyd McClendon, who was also intentionally walked once. McClendon took the mound against Madrid in the semi-finals and won easily, 7-0. He also hit two more home runs and was again intentionally walked on his third at-bat.
The 12 year-old masher had swung the bat four times and hit four homers in four official trips to the plate [walks do not count as official at-bats]. The team from Gary had earned a trip to the title game against Tainan, who was making their second appearance in the LLWS Finals in the last five years.
ABC began televising the championship game during their Wild World of Sports program [Daily Dose, July 8] in 1963 and the broadcast team in 1971 included Jim McKay along with Mickey Mantle, who had retired from the New York Yankees three years earlier. The telecast began with each player running out in front of the camera and announcing their name and position.
Mantle was Lloyd McClendon’s idol and he was so awestruck by the Hall of Famer’s presence that he blurted out his name and position then tried to run away quickly, prompting Mantle to say, “Wait a minute. Come back, come back!” At 5’8”, McClendon was the tallest and best player on his team. He took the mound for Anderson in the championship game and faced Tainan’s ace right-hander, Hsu Chin-Mu.
Prior to the game, Tainan City’s manager was asked if he would let Chin-Mu pitch to “Legendary Lloyd” or intentionally walk him, to which Taiwan’s skipper responded, “we would rather lose the game than our honor back home.” In the first inning, Chin-Mu walked the first two batters he faced and up came McClendon, who promptly knocked the first pitch he saw over the right-centerfield fence to give Gary a 3-0 lead.
Tainan had seen enough and elected to walk him in his final four trips to the plate. McClendon gave up one run in the third inning and four Anderson errors in the fourth inning allowed two more runs to score to tie the game, 3-3.
The score remained 3-3 through six innings, which is the end of regulation play in Little League, so the contest went to extra frames. McClendon was on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning when Tainan sent 14 batters to the plate and exploded for nine runs on six hits, four walks and numerous errors. The hard-throwing right hander cried after being lifted from the game despite striking out 12 batters and later called it the most difficult moment of his life to that point.
Tainan City went on to win, 12-3, in what is still the longest game in Little League World Series history. Chin-Mu pitched the distance and struck out 22 Gary batters to set a new LLWS record for strikeouts in a single game, eclipsing the old mark of 17. McClendon, who had now hit five home runs in five official at-bats while driving in 10 runs during the tournament, was on deck with two runners aboard when the final out was recorded.
Lloyd McClendon would go on to attend Roosevelt High School in Gary, where he was named captain of the varsity team as a freshman and made the All-State team as a senior. He earned a baseball scholarship to Valparaiso University, near Gary, where he batted .330, hit 18 home runs and drove in 73 runs. He was named All-Conference in 1979 and 1980 and was selected in the 8th round of the 1980 MLB Draft by the New York Mets as a catcher. In 1982, he was traded with two other players to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Tom Seaver and played there for two seasons before being traded to the Chicago Cubs.
He ended his eight-year playing career with the Pittsburg Pirates in 1994 to pursue coaching. McClendon managed the Pirates from 2001-2005 and managed the Seattle Mariners in 2014 and 2015. On Memorial Day Weekend of 2015, the Mariners faced the Tampa Bay Rays, who were managed by Kevin Cash. Cash played for Northside Little League in Tampa in the 1989 LLWS, marking the first time that two LLWS players had ever managed against each other in a Major League game.
“Legendary” Lloyd McClendon was inducted into the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum’s Hall of Excellence in Williamsport on August 26, 2006.