Thrill of Success: Will Clark debuts on Today’s Game ballot

Written by: Craig Muder

From his days as a collegiate star at Mississippi State, Will Clark seemed destined for greatness – with a left-handed swing that was revered throughout the game.

Today, Clark is a candidate for baseball’s greatest honor – as a member of the Today’s Game Era ballot at the Hall of Fame.

Clark is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Today’s Game Era ballot that will be considered by the committee on managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The 16-person committee will vote on Dec. 4 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md.

The 10 candidates on the Today’s Game Era Committee ballot are: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Davey Johnson, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire, Lou Piniella, John Schuerholz, Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner and Clark. Any candidate who receives votes on at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2017 on July 30.

Nobody attacks the game with more fury.

former Giants president and general manager Al Rosen

A native of New Orleans, Clark was born on March 13, 1964 and shined as an amateur, winning the 1985 Golden Spikes Award at Mississippi State and excelling for the United States Olympic Baseball Team the year before.

The Giants took Clark with the second overall pick in the 1985 MLB Draft, and he broke camp with the Giants in 1986 as their starting first baseman. He homered off future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in his first big league at-bat on April 8, 1986 – and finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting that season despite missing more than a month with an injured elbow.

The legend of “Will the Thrill” was just beginning.

In five years with Texas, Clark hit .308 and earned his sixth All-Star Game selection. (Brad Mangin / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The next season, Clark hit a career-high 35 home runs to go along with 91 RBI and a .308 batting average, finishing fifth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting. From there, Clark solidified his reputation as one of the game’s best first basemen. From 1988-92, he was named to five straight NL All-Star teams, finished in the Top 5 of the NL MVP vote three times, won two Silver Slugger Awards and also picked up a Gold Glove Award.

And in the fall of 1989, Clark stepped onto the national stage at the NLCS, hitting .650 with two homers and eight RBI in the Giants’ five-game win over the Cubs, earning the series MVP honors.

“He has a tremendous ego and desire,” said former Giants president and general manager Al Rosen. “Nobody attacks the game with more fury.”

Will Clark was named to the All-Star Game six times in his career and won a Gold Glove Award in 1991. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Clark left the Giants via free agency following the 1993 season, continuing to put up stellar numbers with the Rangers. In five years with Texas, Clark hit .308 and earned his sixth All-Star Game selection, then signed with the Orioles when his contract expired prior to the 1999 campaign.

“I have fun on the field, but the name of the game up here is winning,” Clark said. “If I didn’t enjoy it, I couldn’t play the game all-out like I do.”

In 2000, the Cardinals – looking for a substitute for the injured Mark McGwire – brought Clark to St. Louis in a trade deadline deal. The 36-year-old Clark responded by hitting .345 with 12 homers and 42 RBI in just 51 games, helping the Cardinals advance to the NLCS.

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“As far as I’m concerned, that was as much fun as I’ve ever had playing baseball,” said Clark of the 2000 stretch drive. “It was just an absolute joyride.”

Batting a chronic elbow problem, Clark retired following the 2000 season with a .303 batting average, 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI in 15 seasons.

“I was able to walk out on top,” Clark said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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