No list of great all-round BC athletes would be complete without the name of the immensely talented Reginald ‘Reg’ Clarkson, who excelled at both the amateur and professional levels in baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and lacrosse.

Born in Victoria in 1925, Clarkson grew up in a large athletic family of six brothers and two sisters. Their father encouraged the children to play sports and Clarkson remembered from an early age the family would always get a new soccer ball each Christmas. The Clarksons could often be found playing three-a-side soccer, touch football, scrub baseball, basketball, lacrosse, even roller hockey.

“It seemed like every day of the week we had a different sport that we would play,” Reg recalled in a 1980 interview with the BC Sports Hall of Fame. “On Saturdays and Sundays, we would play several sports: hockey in the morning, soccer in the afternoon, and basketball in the evening. I think that had a tremendous influence on my development as an athlete and developing some expertise in quite a few different sports.”

Clarkson’s involvement in organized sport began in 1938 at age 13 while playing goalie for a Victoria midget lacrosse team coached by future fellow BC Sports Hall of Famer Jim Kearney, later a revered sportswriter with the Vancouver Sun. At Victoria’s tiny St. Louis College, he played football, soccer and basketball, leading the school to a BC U-16 basketball championship in 1940 (as Reg scored 37 points in the championship victory over Penticton) and a U-18 BC championship in soccer in 1942. St Louis College was so small—Reg’s graduating class was only eight members—to fill out the rosters of their sports teams and be able to compete in local leagues, they often had to pick up students who had quit school. In 1942-43 Reg attended Vancouver College where he continued playing football and basketball for the Fighting Irish.

In 1943, Clarkson began attending UBC where over the next two years he would earn his Big Block playing Varsity soccer, basketball, football, and hockey. Highlights include playing on the 1945-46 UBC Thunderbirds basketball team, considered by many to be among the greatest in UBC history, and starring as the feature running back on the Thunderbird football team that won the 1945 Hardy Cup as Western Canada university champions. In the two-game championship series versus the Alberta Golden Bears, Clarkson scored 20 of UBC’s 36 points. His versatility—and busy sports schedule—were never demonstrated better than when after scoring two touchdowns in one of these Hardy Cup games in the afternoon that same evening he suited up for UBC on the basketball court.

In 1946, Clarkson left university and signed professional contracts in basketball, baseball, and later football. His UBC accomplishments combined with early forays in pro baseball and basketball were enough for him to be named Vancouver’s Athlete of the Year for 1946 by the Vancouver News-Herald.

Starting with basketball, Clarkson played with the Vancouver Hornets in 1946-47, Vancouver’s only pro basketball team before the NBA’s Grizzlies came to town fifty years later, joining future fellow BC Sports Hall of Famers Doug Peden, Norm Baker, George ‘Porky’ Andrews, and Art Chapman. Later, Clarkson returned to the amateur basketball ranks serving as playing coach on the 1949-50 Edmonton Mercurys and playing a key role on the 1950-51 Vancouver Clover Leafs that won the Canadian national championship. He would also coach basketball teams at Vancouver College and in Calgary.

On the ball diamond, Clarkson played pro baseball with minor league teams around North America regularly batting over .300. In Vancouver in 1946, he played center field for Bob Brown’s Capilanos in the Western International League, batting .333. At the same time Clarkson managed to suit up for one Senior A lacrosse match as goaltender with the Richmond Farmers before Brown kiboshed that fearing injury to one of his star players.

Although raw and inexperienced at the pro level, the Brooklyn Dodgers saw potential and signed Clarkson. He spent the 1947 season in Single-A Pueblo and Double-A Fort Worth under manager Walter Alston. Playing left field, Clarkson batted .335, finished as runner-up for the batting title, and was named a league all-star. Somehow that same year closer to home he also managed to play Senior A soccer with Victoria United in the Intercity League.

Battling arm problems the following year, he spent time with three teams in the Dodgers organization: Mobile, Fort Worth, and Santa Barbara. In 1949, he played semi-pro ball in Alberta with the Edmonton Motors Cubs who won the league championship. As their second baseman, Clarkson was named to the league’s first all-star team leading the league in home runs, hits, doubles, triples, runs scored, stolen bases, and a .382 batting average. His performance earned a return to pro ball with the Vancouver Capilanos again in 1950, where he batted .326 with a career high 191 hits in 144 games.

And we can’t forget about football, the sport that Clarkson himself said came most naturally to him. The Edmonton Eskimos Western Interprovincial Football Union (later the CFL’s West Division) signed Clarkson in 1949 and he played under rookie coach Annis Stukus, who later coached the BC Lions in their inaugural season. Clarkson played both ways as everyone did in those days, halfback on offense and defensive back on D.

“I got $100 a game to play that year and I thought that was pretty good,” Clarkson remembered years later. “I can always remember going home and telling my brothers that I got paid to play professional football. They couldn’t believe it. It seemed unreal that anybody would pay you that much money to play. The following year I got closer to $500 a game for the season.”

After two seasons in Edmonton, Clarkson was traded to Calgary in 1951 for the legendary Normie Kwong. He started with the Stampeders as well, but while there he suffered knee and ankle injuries that forced him to the sidelines. While injured he became seriously ill with rheumatic fever that left him in the hospital for several weeks and needed another several months to fully recover. The illness damaged his heart and unfortunately the professional athletic career of one of BC’s greatest all-round athletes came to an end at just the age of 26.

Clarkson took the opportunity to go back to university and complete his degree. He later earned a Masters degree in Social Work and devoted much of his remaining life to assisting the underprivileged, especially ensuring at-risk children had access to sports. He also worked to improve recreational facilities in prisons.

Clarkson later took up golf and became an avid golfer for fifty years, developing a five handicap and contending at regional championships on Vancouver Island. He played almost daily until his final round in January 2012, just a few months before his passing at the age of 86. As usual, Reg won his final match and shot below his age.

Clarkson had earlier earned induction into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.