The Ray Clark family has pledged $10,000 to the McDonald County High School baseball program. The donation was presented to the McDonald County Schools Foundation during a brief ceremony on Sept. 7 at the baseball field.
The pledge is to be awarded in increments of $500 over 20 years, according to communications director Ken Schutten.
"We are so honored to do this," said Raylene Clark Appleby, daughter of Ray Clark.
Clark was born and raised in Anderson and attended Anderson High School (now McDonald County High School) in the 1940s. According to a news release, Clark was a member of undefeated baseball and basketball teams during those years that gained recognition throughout southwest Missouri. He went on to play baseball for Drury University and ended up signing with the Boston Red Sox, the release said. Later on, he joined the New York Yankees as a shortstop. An injury prematurely ended his professional baseball career. However, he became a successful entrepreneur in the Springfield area, operating Excel Manufacturing along with two partners, the release said. He recently died at age 94.
Randy Smith, vice president of the McDonald County Schools Foundation, said, "It's a great honor for the foundation to be a part of this. It's a feel-good story of a young man making it big with the Yankees and the Red Sox and helping out the student-athletes."
Gary Wasson, president of the foundation, said, "I think it's really neat. It's kind of her (Appleby's) heart to see kids play that couldn't afford it, and that's what's holding them back, and now we can help them."
Smith added, "I'm sure they'll make the most of it and get things that will help our athletes."
Athletic director Bo Bergen said, "It's a very meaningful donation. It's not just a money figure; there's a lot of legacy. Not a whole lot of people probably know about Ray and the legacy he had. This is a way to put that under the microscope and allow future athletes to succeed."
Head baseball coach Heath Alumbaugh said, "It's very humbling for our program. Something totally unexpected. We talk to our kids about leaving a legacy. This is an example of a gentleman that made it to the big leagues and then contributed to the community that helped him get there."
He estimated that, at an average of 30 students in the program per year, 500 to 600 students would benefit over 20 years.
Raylene Clark Appleby said she wanted to present the donation "because of my daddy's love of baseball."
"All his life, he was fortunate. He played with the minors in the early 50s, then with the Red Sox and the Yankees. He had and amazing career until he had a severe injury."
"He was born and raised in Anderson, and this seemed the perfect way to honor him with a long-term legacy set up for equipment or travel expenses," she said. "It's under the direction of my cousin, Dick Clark, and the athletic director, Bo Bergen."
Asked about her father's personality, she said, "My daddy was honorable, strong character, loved the Lord, hard-working, devoted to his family, great sense of humor and loved sports, especially baseball."
She said he played for the New York Yankees for about five years. He had a severe break in his ankle and part of his leg that ended his baseball career.
"It's a shame," she said. "Today, they probably could have fixed it."
She added, "He enjoyed seeing all the people at the high school reunions. He never missed. The last time he came, there was one lady and Daddy. When he came back, that's all he could talk about."