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Will Clark

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William Nuschler Clark, Jr. (born March 13, 1964 in New Orleans, Louisiana) is a former first baseman in Major League Baseball best known for his years with the San Francisco Giants from 1986 to 1993. He was recognized by his peers as being one of the best clutch players of his time and possessed a fiery intensity.

He earned the nicknames of "Will the Thrill" (a name given to him by his classmates at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, where he played both varsity baseball and varsity basketball) as well as simply "The Thrill"[1] and "The Natural" because of his natural gifts as a player.

Clark was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in August, 2008.

He currently works in the San Francisco Giants front office[2] after spending five seasons as an advisor for the Arizona Diamondbacks.[3]

OlympicsEdit

Main article: Baseball at the 1984 Summer Olympics

Clark played a starring role for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team that yielded such future major leaguers as Barry Larkin and Mark McGwire. During the five-game Olympic tournament, Clark batted .429 with three home runs and eight RBI

CollegeEdit

Playing for Mississippi State University, Clark was noted for his oft-imitated "sweet swing," said to be among the best in baseball. In 1985, The Sporting News named Clark an All-American and he later won the Golden Spikes Award from USA Baseball. A teammate of Rafael Palmeiro, the two were known as "Thunder and Lightning".

Major leaguesEdit

San Francisco Giants (1986–93)Edit

Clark was drafted with the second overall pick in the 1985 Major League Baseball Draft by the San Francisco Giants.[4] In his inaugural major league at-bat on April 8, 1986, Clark debuted with a home run&mdash off Hall of Fame member Nolan Ryan.[4] A few days later, Clark also homered in his first home game at Candlestick Park (he debuted at age 22, wearing the number 22, playing first base). An elbow injury cost Clark 47 games in his rookie season.[4] Clark finished his rookie year with a respectable .287 batting average.

File:Bat Boy.jpg

Over the next six seasons, Clark would establish himself as the premier first baseman in the National League. In his first full season in 1987, Clark had a .308 batting average. Clark was voted the starting first baseman for the NL All-Star team every season from 1988 through 1992. In 1988, Clark was the first Giants' player to drive in 90 or more runs in consecutve seasons since Bobby Murcer from 1975-1976.

His finest season was in 1989, when he batted .333 (losing the batting title to Tony Gwynn on the final day of the season) with 111 RBI. Clark finished second in the NL Most Valuable Player voting to Giants teammate Kevin Mitchell.

In 1989, Clark and the Giants defeated the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. In Game 1, Clark had already hit a solo home run. Prior to a subsequent at-bat, Cubs' catcher Joe Girardi went to the mound to discuss with Greg Maddux how to pitch to Clark. From the on-deck circle, Clark watched the conversation and read Greg Maddux's lips saying "fastball high, inside." The first pitch was a fastball high and inside which Clark sent into the street beyond right field for a grand slam home run. Following this, pitchers began to cover their mouths with their gloves when having conversations on the pitchers mound. (The Chicago Tribune's front page the next day paid tribute to his performance with a headline of "Clark's night on Addison.")[5]

In Game 5 of the series, Clark faced Cubs closer Mitch Williams with the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning. After an epic at-bat, with several two-strike foul balls keeping the duel alive for several minutes, Clark singled to center field to drive in two runs, breaking the tie, eventually sending the Giants to the World Series. Clark's efforts, which included a .650 batting average and two home runs, resulted in him being named NLCS MVP. The Giants went on to face the Oakland Athletics in the 1989 World Series, but were swept in 4 games. In the only World Series appearance of his career, Clark failed to contribute significantly at the plate, with no runs batted in and a .250 batting average.

Clark had become a very durable player since his rookie year injury, setting a San Francisco record with 320 consecutive games played from September 1987 through August 1989.[4] However, a string of injuries cut into his playing time in the early 1990s and diminished his production. Clark drove in just 73 runs in 1992, the lowest total since his rookie year.[6]

Clark's contract with the Giants expired after the 1993 season. Although Clark was a popular star and a fixture in San Francisco baseball, the Giants were unwilling to offer a long-term contract to a player with recent injury problems coming off two mediocre seasons.

Texas Rangers (1994–1998)Edit

The Texas Rangers signed Clark to replace his former Mississippi State teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, at first base. Clark maintained a high level of offensive production, finishing below .300 only in 1996. Injuries limited his playing time to 123, 117 and 110 games from 1995 through 1997. Clark put together his most productive season in seven years in 1998 (.305, 23 HRs, 41 2Bs, 102 RBIs) but, following the 1998 season, the Rangers re-signed Rafael Palmeiro, effectively ending Clark's days with the team. Clark responded by signing a two-year deal with the Orioles, once again replacing Palmeiro at first base.

Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals (1999–2000)Edit

Clark joined the Orioles for the 1999 season, and spent nearly two years with the club, but was plagued by injuries. The lone bright spot of those seasons was collecting his 2000th hit on June 15 versus the Kansas City Royals.

Clark was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals near the end of the 2000 season, acquired in part to play in place of the injured Mark McGwire. A rejuvenated Clark (.964 OPS) helped the Cardinals defeat the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. In the NLCS, the Cardinals faced the New York Mets, who would go on to win the pennant. Clark performed better in these playoffs years. After announcing that his retirement would come when the Cardinals' playoff run ended, Clark went 1 for 3 in his final game on October 16, 2000.

LegacyEdit

On the basis of his performance between 1987 and 1991, Clark appeared to be headed for a Hall of Fame career. Clark did rebound from his mediocre 1993 season to turn in productive years in the American League, but he never was the "impact player" that he had been in his earlier years with the Giants, mainly due to his lack of interest in maintaining his level of fitness.

Clark's final statistics of 284 home runs, 1205 RBI, and a .303 batting average (.881 OPS) underscore an excellent baseball career. However, the ten baseball players that Baseball-Reference ranks him as "most similar" are Edgar Martínez, Cecil Cooper, John Olerud, Paul O'Neill, Bob Johnson, Ellis Burks, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Reggie Smith, and Jim Bottomley.[6] Of those ten, only Bottomley is in the Hall of Fame (Bottomly played from 1922 until 1937),[7] though Martinez is a likely Hall of Famer and Smith is arguably deserving[8]. In 2006 Hall of Fame balloting, Clark received only 23 votes, 4.4% of the total, which withdrew him from consideration from future ballots as he did not receive the required 5% threshold to stay on.[9]

Clark is also a direct descendant of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that is a part of major United States history.

ReputationEdit

While considered an incredibly talented player, Clark had a reputation of being very cocky and arrogant. In 1989, following a game at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs, Clark responded to an 8 year-old fan's request for an autograph with "Hell no". Roger Craig, the Giants manager at the time, observed the incident and offered an autograph to the young fan. Another reported incident occurred when a Giants bat-boy once asked him for an autograph, Clark reportedly replied, "You have two choices: No, or fuck no."

Will Clark was also capable of acting like a good guy. In August 2008, he made a Cystic Fibrosis patent's day. John Clark Packer, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, and grew up idolizing Will Clark got the opportunity to meet his hero at the Hilton Convention Center in Jackson,MS in 2008. Will reportedly signed items for Packer along with letting him sit at his table with his family during the dinner, and even inviting him down to visit his home in Baton Rouge, LA. Will Clark was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on August 1, 2008. [1] [10]

HonorsEdit

  • National League All-Star 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 [6]
  • American League All-Star 1994 [6]
  • MVP of the 1989 National League Championship Series
  • Two-time National League Silver Slugger Award at First base (1989 and 1991).
  • 1991 National League Gold Glove Award at First Base.
  • On July 4, 2006, Clark was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in its inaugural class.
  • Inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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