AUTOGRAPHED PHOTO - Click to enlarge
With his flair for the dramatic, one could imagine seeing Will Clark as an action star in some blockbuster movie like ‘Star Wars’ or ‘War of the Worlds.’ The fact is – he captured the attention of baseball fans with an enthusiasm for winning seldom seen in professional sports. Well-known for his intense stare and sweet left handed swing, Will Clark retired abruptly after the Cardinals playoff run in 2000, ending a 15-year career that started in San Francisco, and included stops with the Texas Rangers, the Baltimore Orioles, and the St Louis Cardinals. Will Clark seemed to approach the game like a warrior dropped from a helicopter to secure first base, and was often called, ‘a man’s man.’
In college, Clark played at Mississippi State University where he won the Golden Spikes Award in 1985 as the best amateur baseball player in the country. That year, he was drafted with the second overall pick by the Giants. On July 4, 2006, Clark was inducted into the first class of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
A fan favorite wherever he played, Clark homered to dead center off of Nolan Ryan in his first major league swing, leading the Giants to a 8-3 victory in the Astrodome on April 8, 1986. Will Clark was also a model of consistency, collecting 10 .300 seasons in his 15-year career. Acquired by the Cardinals on July 31 2000, to play first base for the injured Mark McGwire, Clark lived up to his nickname ‘the Thrill’ in his first at bat with the team, hitting a game winning homer. Clark's retirement caught the Cardinals by surprise, considering how well he played during the team’s final two months and in the NL playoffs that year. He hit .345 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs from August 1 on, including a robust .345 in the post season games.
‘In every player’s career, sooner or later, you’re going to have to make a decision to move on,’ said the 36-years old, six time All-Star first baseman at the time. ‘The first part of my life was based on being a baseball player. The second part is going to be based on being a daddy and a husband.’ Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said, we were looking forward to having Will Clark come back. Everybody knows what he added to our club the second half really put us over the top.’ ‘I can still hit, I can still play, field my position,’ said Clark. ‘But also at the same time, this is the right time for me to exit baseball.’ Will Clark had a .303 lifetime batting average, with 284 HRs, and 1,176 RBIs. In 1989, Clark hit .333 with 29 homers and drove in 109 runs while on the San Francisco Giants. Probably his most memorable moment came during Game 1 of the 1989 National League Championship Series against the Cubs when Clark delivered a massive 4th inning Grand Slam off of Greg Maddux over the right-field Wrigley Field wall off of Greg Maddux that keyed the Giants' 11-3 win. Clark ended the game 4-4, with 2 Homers, and 6 RBIs. It was later reported that Clark was tipped off of the key pitch by reading Maddux's lips at a conference on the mound.