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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Royce Clayton celebrated bigs call, saw 17 seasons

Royce Clayton 1990 San Jose Giants card
Royce Clayton had been named the top prospect in the minor leagues by The Sporting News earlier in 1991, but Clayton still didn't expect his call-up to come so soon, The Los Angeles Times wrote that September.

He got the call and it was time to celebrate, The Times wrote. But Clayton was alone.

"No one was there," Clayton told The Times. "I ran out back and celebrated with the dogs. I paced up and down saying to myself, 'I'm going to the show, I'm going to the show.' "

It was a celebration that began a major league career that would span 17 seasons and end on another celebration, watching his teammates win the World Series.

Clayton was originally taken by the Giants in the first round of the 1988 draft, directly out of high school. Clayton had committed to USC, but the Giants' offers proved too much for the 18-year-old, taking the $195,000 and signing, The Times wrote.

Clayton made the Giants in 1991, playing in nine games that September, going 3 for 26. He returned for 1992, spending a good portion of the year with San Francisco, hitting .224.

By 1993, the shortstop was in the majors for good, stealing 11 bases, batting in 70 and hitting .282. In 1995, Clayton stole 24 bases while hitting .244. He also batted in 58, four of those coming in a May game against the Padres.

"I know I don't have to hit the ball out of the park to drive in runs," Clayton told The Associated Press after the game. "The RBIs were out there and I'm aggressive."

But by 1996, Clayton had moved on, traded to the Cardinals. The shortstop was also given the almost impossible task of replacing the aging Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Clayton did an adequate job at short for the Cardinals, hitting .277 with six home runs and 33 stolen bases in 1996. He stayed through mid 1998, but his efforts weren't good enough. Some Cardinal fans even blamed his arrival for forcing Smith into retirement earlier than he wanted to, according to The New York Daily News.

Clayton left St. Louis, traded to Texas, becoming the Rangers' everyday shortstop. Clayton then made way for another top player, Alex Rodriguez. Clayton was traded to the White Sox for 2001, a prospect Clayton looked forward to, according to The AP.

"Once I found out I was traded to the White Sox, I was basically overwhelmed," Clayton told The AP in December 2000. "I was very positive about going to a place where I could win. That was my first and foremost concern."

Clayton still had seven seasons left in the big leagues. He would spend that time with eight different franchises. There were two years with the White Sox; one each with Milwaukee, Colorado and Arizona; then partial years with Washington, Cincinnati, Toronto and Boston.

Clayton started 2007 with the Blue Jays, but he was released in August. He soon signed on with Boston, coming on in September to play his last eight games in the majors. He didn't play in the playoffs, but he was there for the ride, and there when the Red Sox won, according to The Providence Journal.

"There's no better feeling in the world," Clayton told The Journal. "I've played a long time to get to this point. I've worked extremely hard and this is what you play for."

Clayton has since gone on to other pursuits, including a small part in "Moneyball." In 2012, to The Arizona Republic, Clayton looked back on his career.

"I don't look back with any regrets," Clayton told The Republic. "I played my ass off. I never cheated anybody. People can say whatever; I know I'm not going to the Hall of Fame. But a lot of guys did a lot of different things and I never had to do that, and I stayed in the league 17 years. I can tell my kids that's what I did and that's what matters to me."
Originally posted Sept. 26, 2010; Updated 2013

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