Saturday, August 18, 2012

#210 Jack Clark - San Francisco Giants

Jack Clark is shown here on his 7th Topps card and it looks like a cold day at Shea Stadium.  After some rather bland cards earlier in his career, Topps pictured Clark in similar batting shots five cards in a row.  Check out Clark's '83 card and then his '81-'86 cards side by side:
I am pretty sure that is Darrell Evans waiting on deck.  If it is, then this is from a May 9, 1982 contest which ended with a Rusty Staub walk-off pinch hit home run.  It is the only game the Giants played at Shea in which Evans batted behind Clark.  

The  look pretty cool side by side but Topps shook things up in '87 and scored big with this awesome shot.

Player:  Jack Clark was a slugging RF/1B for 18 seasons in the big leagues.  He was drafted in the 13th round in 1973 and came up to the Giants just two years later.  Only 19 years old at the time, Clark had 4 hits in 17 at bats in a late season audition.  After a great season at AAA in '76, Clark played in 26 games at the tail end of the Giants schedule and hit .225/.277/.382.

Clark broke into the starting lineup and started in RF for the Giants in '77, batting .252 with 13 HR.  He busted out in '78 with a .306/.358/.537 line smashing 46 doubles and 25 dingers.  He made the first of four All-Star teams and finished fifth in the NL MVP race.

Over the next five seasons Clark would hit between 17 to 27 HR a year with batting averages from .268 to .284.  He topped 100 RBI for the first time with 103 in '82 and showed good plate discipline with 90 walks. 

He was thriving in '84 batting .320 when he was sidelined in June with a knee injury for the rest of the year.  The Giants thought Clark took to long to come back from injuries as they expected him back before the end of the season.  That coupled with his unhappiness playing in cold, blustery Candlestick Park led to an offseason trade to the Cardinals.

Clark made an immediate impact in St. Louis.  In a lineup surrounded by speedsteers, Clark played first base and was the main source of power supplying a .281/.393/.503 line in 126 games.  After missing time with a rib cage injury, he hit the deciding HR in the NLCS triumph over the Dodgers.  In the World Series, Clark and the Redbirds lost to the Royals with Clark involved in several memorable plays.

After missing over half of the '86 season, Clark returned with a monster season in '87.  He batted .286/.459/.597  with a career high 35 HR and 176 OPS+.  The season didn't end well as he was sidelined late in the year with an gimpy ankle.  Clark struck out as a pinch hitter in the '87 NLCS, was removed from the roster, and couldn't help the Cards in the World Series.

Clark was a free agent after the season and signed with the Yankees where the injury prone veteran was able to DH.  Although he didn't hit for average in NY, he got on base and drove in runs.  He didn't enjoy the AL and requested a trade after clashing with manager Lou Piniella. 

Traded to the Padres, Clark hit 25 and 26 HR in '89 and '90 and led the NL in walks both years.  After two years in San Diego, Clark signed with the Red Sox.  In Boston, he hit .249/.376/.466 in '91 but was neither healthy or productive in '92.  Released by the Red Sox in February of '93 his career was over when he tried but failed to catch on with the Expos.  Clark retired with 340 HR, a .267/.379/.476 line, and a robust 137 OPS+.

Flipside:  Clark hit 46 doubles in '78 but never topped 30 in any other season. 

Oddball:  The Giants drafted Clark as a pitcher but he quickly showed that his future in baseball wasn't on the mound.  The 17 year-old Clark pitched 15 innings in Rookie-ball and was torched for 24 runs.  Clark however was a good athlete and played two years at 3B before moving to RF his last year in the minors.

History:  Clark was on two pennant winners in his three years in St. Louis but never won a World Series.  He had run-ins with teammates who were otherwise known as nice guys such as Ozzie Smith and Tony Gwynn.  Labeled a malcontent, Clark was dogged by injuries most of his career and went through the embarrassment of filing for bankruptcy while he was playing in Boston.

Despite all that, Clark won two Silver Slugger awards, posted 50.1 WAR, and received MVP votes in six different seasons. 

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