Monday, April 23, 2012

Before The Thrill, There Was The Ripper

The other day, we were looking at our collections of SF Giants jerseys and we finally came across our mid-80s Giants home jersey, with CLARK #22 on the back of it. Now, you've seen this jersey at every home Giants game honoring Will "The Thrill" Clark. However, before the Nuschler ever came along, there was another CLARK #22, and he was and if not more of an offensive threat than The Thrill was.

Now, for those of you that that were born in the last few decades, there was an outfielder for the Giants by the name of Jack Clark. His nickname, and aptly so was "The Ripper" for the simple fact that he was just a pure slugger. He would make baseballs bleed, and the pitchers cringe, he was George Foster & Reggie Jackson bundled into a skinny frame kid that happened to play for a club that was a perennial doormat of the National League West.

Clark was a homegrown Giant, he was drafted in the 13th round of the 1973 amateur draft out of Gladstone High School in Covina, California. Clark would spend the next four years in the minors, with brief stops in The Show as a September callup in 1975 and '76.  His first Major League appearance was on September 12, 1975, and in his first at-bat he pinch hit for catcher, Mike Sadek, and walked before eventually scoring. It wasn't until 1977 that Clark made the club out of camp and would start an eight-year run as the starting right fielder. During his time with the Giants, Clark batted .277, with 163 home runs, 595 RBI, and a .359 OBP.

His greatest season with the Giants was in 1978, where he batted .306, with 25 home runs, and 98 RBI and having a .358 OBP, .537 slugging percentage. He would also earn his first All-Star appearance that year, and finished 5th in the National League MVP vote. Keep in mind that he did all of this as a 22 year old kid.

His other impressive season was in 1982, where he batted .274, with 27 home runs, and 103 RBI. He would finish seventh in the NL MVP vote. After the 1984 season, Clark was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, and help lead the RedBirds to the 1985 World Series where they ended up losing to the Kansas City Royals. In his final year (1987) with the Cards, he compiled his best statistical season when he belted 35 home runs, 106 RBI, and leading the league in walks, OBP, Slugging, and OPS. He would also earn his fourth All-Star appearance and finished third in the MVP ballot.

Clark would end up spending the next five seasons between the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox. His last game was on August 28, 1992, when the Red Sox played against the California Angels. He was 0-for-3 in his last game. In his 18 year career, Clark compiled 340 home runs, 1180 RBI, and a career batting average of .267. Make no mistake about it, he played when pitchers dominated and there is no question if he played today he would rank among the most feared and lethal offensive weapons.

After his playing career ended, Clark would serve as a batting coach for a number of clubs before joining the broadcast rank. He now has his own radio show, Sports Night, on KTRS in St. Louis.

So next time you see a CLARK #22 jersey, don't just think of The Thrill, but remember there was another CLARK #22, and his nickname was "The Ripper."

1982 - Jack Clark at Dodger Stadium

Jack Clark - Younger Years


Rich Herrera said...

a fun fact about Clark 22, the reason Will the Thrill got 22 was that Mike Murphy had an old Jack the Ripper 22 and he was able to use the jersey for the Thrill

Paddy said...

I've always been kind of irritated to see players not named Clark wearing #22.

I actually wanted to name my first son, born in '83, Jack, but my wife wouldn't go for it. But we did name our second son Will, as Clark (#2) rounded third after hitting that home run off Nolan Ryan.

My fun fact on Clark (#1) is I read he had the the motto "See Ball, Hit Ball" written inside his helmet to remind himself to keep it simple at the plate.