Starred on UBC's great 45/46 Hall of Fame basketball team. Led T-Bird football team to '45 Hardy Cup. Later played pro basketball, pro baseball and pro football with Calgary and Edmonton.
One of this province's most versatile athletes, Reg Clarkson joined UBC's basketball team in 1944 complimenting an already strong team featuring the likes of Sandy Robertson, Ron Weber, Ole Bakken and fellow newcomer Pat McGeer. Clarkson had been a standout high school athlete at Vancouver College and was able to make the Thunderbird basketball team as a freshman, quickly becoming known for his ability to hit the long shot.
The youngster started slowly but by mid season was challenging Robertson as the top game point scorer. The powerful Maury Van Vliet coached UBC Thunderbirds went 11–1 in the Vancouver League earning the right to meet the defending Canadian champion Pat Bay Fliers for the BC championship. Clarkson and his UBC "cagers" defeated Pat Bay to win the BC title but because of exams could not go any further toward their quest for a national crown.
In the meantime, because UBC did not field a football team this season, Clarkson was unable to display his talents in a campus sport in which he was as equally proficient as basketball. He did however share goal keeping duties with the Thunderbird hockey team, competing in the local inter-city league, a role he played again the next season. He also, after basketball and hockey in 1944/45, swung into action on the soccer pitch in time to help UBC in the Imperial Cup playoffs. According to the Ubyssey, Clarkson"... has played for Varsity on several occasions and can handle any position on the field."
The next year, 1945/46, was an exciting time in UBC sport and it saw the UBC Thunderbirds, who were too strong for local basketball competition move into the Pacific Northwest Conference, an all U.S. university league. This Bob Osborne-coached team led by Robertson, McGeer, Harry Kermode, Ritchie Nichol and Clarkson became the first Canadian team to be crowned champion of a US inter-collegiate conference. It had a 9-1 record plus impressive non-conference victories over the Harlem Globetrotters, the very highly rated Victoria Dominoes, the University of Washington, Oregon and Washington State.
For the first half of this same 1945/46 session Clarkson was punting and running the football for the resurrected UBC football team. He along with the likes of Herb Capozzi led the Greg Kabat-coached team to the 1945 Hardy Cup, winning the two-game Western championship series against the Alberta Golden Bears. Clarkson personally scored 20 of UBC's 36 points in the UBC Thunderbirds two victories. It is interesting to note that Clarkson played one of these Hardy Cup games during the afternoon, a game in which he scored both Thunderbird touchdowns in a 17-1 win, then that very evening hit the floor with the UBC Thunderbirds basketball team to face tough US competition. Something you don’t see anymore!
For financial reasons Arts student Clarkson chose to leave UBC for the next few years, taking advantage of his athletic skills to bolster his financial situation. And he was able to do this in a big way. He quickly turned professional in no less than three sports. The Vancouver Hornets basketball team, Vancouver's first professional basketball team, featured Reg Clarkson in 1946/47. That same year, the summer of 1946, he signed a pro baseball contract and launched his career with the Vancouver Capilanos of the Westem International League. He starred with them again in 1950 but in 1947 was able to advance as high as Double A Fort Worth in the Dodgers organization.
In 1948 he achieved Class A all-star status playing with Pueblo under manager Walter Alston. Finally, during this break from his studies, Clarkson's football skills were showcased as he was able to make the Edmonton Eskimos football club in 1949 subsequently traded to the Calgary Stampeders in 1951.
In 1946, after his second year at UBC, Reg was selected as Vancouver's Athlete of the Year. He had helped take UBC to the Western Canadian Football championship the previous fall, had led the UBC Hall of Fame Basketball team to the Pacific Northwest title that spring and in the summer had embarked upon his pro baseball career, hitting .333. He closed the year by playing professional basketball. Quite a year!
Following his six years of pro baseball, football and basketball, Reg returned to UBC to earn his BA in 1956. In 1963 he attained his bachelor of Social Work and in 1964 his Masters of Social Work, his fourth profession as it were, assisting the province's underprivileged until his retirement.
"They should erect a statue of this guy outside the gym,” exclaims Dr. Pat McGeer. "There has never been anyone like him." Clarkson was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1974 as an all-round athlete and in the UBC Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1945/46 Varsity basketball team.
Although he played just two years on campus he participated in four varsity sports making quite an impact. One Hardy Cup in football (the other year there was no team), one BC championship in basketball and one US basketball league championship. Reg was a supporter of UBC athletics throughout the years and was often seen at banquets and functions. Maybe they should erect a statue of this guy!
This Inductee is also in the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Researched and written by Fred Hume, UBC Athletics Historian