#CardCorner: 1984 Topps Jack Clark
And among the speedsters like Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and Tommy Herr, there was a first baseman who – when he was healthy – was the thunder among the lightning.
Hall of Fame Membership
Born Nov. 10, 1955, in the industrial Western Pennsylvania borough of New Brighton, Jack Clark spent most of his childhood in Southern California. A 13th-round selection – as a pitcher – by the San Francisco Giants in the 1973 MLB Draft, Clark went from high school to the Great Falls Giants of the Pioneer League at the age of 17, hitting .321 in 65 games after the Giants converted him to third base.
The next season, Clark hit .315 with 19 homers and 117 RBI for Class A Fresno, then hit 23 homers to go with 77 RBI for the Double-A Lafayette Drillers of the Texas League in 1975 as the Giants turned him into an outfielder. He made his big league debut for the Giants that year on Sept. 12, becoming the youngest player in the National League that season.
Clark appeared in eight games with San Francisco in 1975 and then 22 in 1976 following a Triple-A campaign where he hit .323 with 86 RBI and 111 runs scored for the Phoenix Giants. Now regarded as one the game’s top prospects, Clark made the Giants’ Opening Day roster in 1977 and hit .252 with 13 homers and 51 RBI as the team’s primary right fielder.
In 1978, Clark earned notice as one of the NL’s top young outfielders by hitting .306 with 25 homers, 46 doubles and 98 RBI while finishing fourth in the league with 318 total bases. He also recorded a hit in 26 straight games, a post-1900 record for any Giants batter.
“I have two goals,” Clark told the Los Angeles Times News Service. “The first is to play in the World Series, and the second is to hit .400. And I think I’ll do both – someday.”
But Clark played in only one postseason game after missing much of the month of September with an ankle injury. The Cardinals lost to the Twins in seven games in the World Series.
Clark finished third in the NL Most Valuable Player voting that season, his best-ever showing. He signed a two-year, $3 million contract with the Yankees as a free agent on Jan. 6, 1988, but his 27 home runs, 93 RBI and .381 on-base percentage that season didn’t deter New York from trading him to the Padres after just one season in the Bronx.
Clark hit 51 home runs in two seasons in San Diego – leading the NL in walks both years – before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the 1991 season. After two seasons in Boston, Clark’s big league career came to an end.
In 18 seasons, Clark hit .267 with a .379 on-base percentage, 340 home runs and 1,180 RBI. Had the ball bounced a little differently in 1985 and/or 1987, Clark could have easily been remembered as a World Series champion.
But his legacy of line drives has stood the test of time.
“You feel like you can always put the bat on the ball,” said Clark, referring to his approach at the plate when he was enjoying a hot streak. “And to a hitter, there’s no better feeling than that.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum