Justin Clarke enjoyed a nine-year career as a catcher in Major League Baseball during the early years of the twentieth century. He was a pioneer in the use of shin guards for catchers.
Clarke was born in Anderdon Township, now Amherstburg, on December 15, 1882.
Although he moved to Detroit as a child in 1888, Clarke returned to Essex County to study and play baseball at Assumption College. Clarke developed his catching skills at Assumption while also playing semi-professional baseball in Michigan.
Clarke worked consistently in baseball in some capacity between 1902 and 1925, save for a two year-spell beginning in 1917 with the Unite States Marines Corps. Clarke was stationed in Brest, France, where he was attained the rank of corporal. Over a long and varied baseball career, he played, coached, and managed for several Major and Minor League clubs.
In 1902, at the age of 19, Clarke famously hit a staggering eight homeruns in a single game while playing with Corsicana in the Texas League. Clarke’s record, unique in professional baseball, still stands today.
Clarke played for the Cleveland Naps between 1905 and 1910. In 1906, his second season in the Major Leagues, Clarke drew level with George Stone of the St. Louis Browns for the American League batting title. Unfortunately, Clarke’s .358 average was ruled ineligible for the award as injuries had limited him to only 57 games that season.
On October 20, 1908, Clarke caught a perfect game while playing for the Cleveland Naps. The game, pitched by Addie Joss, was only the fourth perfect game thrown in MLS history.
After leaving the Naps, Clarke played for the St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring from the game in 1920. He had also suited up for the Tigers during a brief loan spell in 1905.
He exited the game with a career Major League batting average of .254.
Justin Clarke passed away at his home in suburban Detroit on June 15, 1949.