Will Clark

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William Nuschler Clark Jr.
(Will The Thrill)

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Biographical History[edit]

"There's no doubt Will comes to play every day and he plays hard." - Tom Glavine

“I regard a lot of our guys as indispensable, but if I had to pick one, it would be Will Clark. In addition to his natural ability, he has the charisma that puts people in the park.” - Roger Craig

Nicknamed "Will The Thrill", first baseman Will Clark hit .303/.384/.497 and was a six-time All-Star over a 15-year career.

Originally selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the 1982 amateur draft, Clark did not sign. Instead, he went to Mississippi State, where he rose to stardom along with teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen. Clark and Palmeiro were known as "Thunder and Lightning" and together, they powered the Bulldogs offensive attack while developing an overwhelming dislike for each other. During his college years, Will was a member of the 1984 Olympic team (along with Mark McGwire and B.J. Surhoff). The following year, he won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player, while Mississippi State reached the College World Series. For his collegiate play, he has been inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame, the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame (playing during the summer of 1983) and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Clark was selected by the San Francisco Giants with the second overall pick, behind Olympic teammate B.J. Surhoff, in the 1985 amateur draft. This was one of the most talented draft classes in history, featuring players such as Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bobby Witt and Gregg Jefferies, as well as Surhoff and Palmeiro. He was signed by scout Ken Parker and made his pro debut with the Fresno Giants on June 21st. Clark hit a home run in his first pro at-bat (on his first swing no less), and hit .309 with 10 homers and 48 RBI in 65 games.

Clark was ready for the majors at the start of 1986 and was the Giants Opening Day first baseman. He immediately showed he belonged, hitting a home run in his first at-bat (once again on his first swing) on April 8th, off future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Despite missing more than a month due to injuries, he hit .287 with 11 homers in his rookie campaign and finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. In 1987, Clark hit .308/.371/.580 with 35 home runs, and the following year, he led the NL with 109 RBI, en route to a 282/.386/.508 line, with an NL best 100 walks and 27 intentional passes coupled with 102 runs scored. He had perhaps his best season in 1989, when he hit .333/.407/.546 with 23 homers and 111 RBI, leading the NL with 104 runs scored. The Giants won the NL West, and Clark was runner-up for the NL MVP to teammate Kevin Mitchell. In the NLCS, he went an amazing 13-for-20 (.650/.682/1.200) with 2 home runs, but he hit just .250/.294/.313 in the World Series that was interrupted by an earthquake. Near the end of that season, he signed a $15 million, four-year contract that put him among the highest paid players in the game. He put together another excellent season in 1991, hitting .301/.359/.536 with 29 home runs and a career-high 116 RBI, leading the NL in slugging percentage.

After the 1993 season, Clark became a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers, where he replaced former college teammate Palmeiro at first base in a no doubt awkward situation. Although his numbers were not quite as good as with the Giants, he did hit over .300 in four of his five years with the Rangers, and the team reached the postseason in 1996 and 1998. He signed with the Baltimore Orioles after the 1998 season (once again replacing Palmeiro as the team's first baseman). An early season highlight came when he scored the winning run against Pedro Luis Lazo in first game of the 1999 Baltimore Orioles-Cuban National Team Exhibition Series. He struggled with injuries that summer, appearing in only 77 games (but still hitting .303). Midway through 2000, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jose Leon. Even though he did extremely well with his new team, hitting .345/.426/.655 with a 166 OPS+, he announced his retirement at the end of the year, finishing his career with a .303 average, 284 home runs and 1,186 runs scored.

In the 2006 Hall of Fame voting, Clark received 4.4% of the vote in his first year on the ballot. He needed 26 votes to stay on the ballot, but got only 23. He finished ahead of Dwight Gooden, who got 3.3%. In 2017, he was placed on the Veterans Committee ballot looking at players and executives from "Today's Game" era. He received less than five votes, but was again considered by the Veterans Committee in 2019, falling short. It was announced by the Giants that his number 22 would be retired during the 2020 season. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was pushed back by two years, until July 30, 2022.

At one point, Clark owned a restaurant with Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 6-time All-Star (1988-1992 and 1994)
  • 1989 NLCS MVP
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1991)
  • 2-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1989 & 1991)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1991)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1989)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1991)
  • NL RBI Leader (1988)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1988)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1987-1989, 1991, 1998 & 2000)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1987)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1988, 1989, 1991 & 1998)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1988 & 1989)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Haft: "Will in-depth numbers support Clark's cause? Giants star first baseman among 10 considered by Hall of Fame committee", mlb.com, November 29, 2016. [1]
  • Bob Kuenster: "Baseball Profile: Will Clark, San Francisco Giants", Baseball Digest, July 1989, p. 55 [2]
  • Nick Peters: "The Chill & the Thrill By the Bay", in Zander Hollander, ed.: The Complete Handbook of Baseball: 20th Anniversary Edition 1990, Signet Books, New American Library, New York, NY, 1990, pp. 16-27. ISBN 0-451-16449-0
  • Manny Randhawa: "Still the Thrill: 22 years later, Clark remains one of a kind", mlb.com, March 13, 2022. [3]

Related Sites[edit]