Clarence Eugene Wright was born December, 11th, 1878 in Cleveland, Ohio. During the summer of 1892, at the age of thirteen, Wright moved with his family to a brand new city near Akron called Barberton. In the mid to late 1890’s, Wright would dominate the sandlot baseball leagues pitching for several different Barberton teams.
“Big Gene” stood six feet and two inches tall and was not a finesse pitcher. Wright would not offer a curve ball or change up to opposing batters. Wright only offered a high leg kick and a blazing fastball that mowed down would be hitters with regularity. One of Wrights teammates was a hard hitting third baseman named Lynn St. John. St. John starred on Barberton sandlot baseball teams and also on the Barberton YMCA football teams. St. John would later gain fame at Ohio State where the St. John Arena is named in his honor. Another teammate was an outfielder named John McNamara who, in 1906, would become Mayor of Barberton.
In 1901, Wright was signed to a minor league contract with Dayton of the Western Association. In October of that year, “Big Gene” made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Superbas, later known as the Dodgers. He then played the 1902 season with Cleveland and split the 1903 season with Cleveland and the St. Louis Browns. Wright’s major league career came to an end after spending the 1904 season with the Browns. He finished his career with a record of 14 wins, 26 losses and a 4.50 Earned Run average. He struck out 140 opposing batters. He played several more seasons in the minor leagues making stops in Boise, Idaho, Los Angeles, California and Spokane, Washington. He then returned to Barberton and lived a quiet life.
Wright’s much younger kid brother, Art Wright, was a star athlete at Barberton High School in the early 1920’s and later with Mercer College in Georgia. Art was taken in the first class of the Barberton Sports Hall of Fame in 1979. He is also the namesake for Wadsworth High Schools’ Football Stadium.
For Gene, however, no such accolades would be forthcoming. Clarence Wright died on October 28th, 1930 at the age of 51. Despite playing major league baseball, Wright is not a member of the Barberton, Summit County or Greater Akron Baseball Halls of Fame.
Barberton High School has produced great athletes for well over a century. But before there was high school sports in the Magic City, there were many talented baseball and football players in the 1890’s. Chief among them was Clarence Eugene ‘Big Gene” Wright, Barberton’s forgotten major leaguer.