The San Francisco Giants have had more Hall of Fame players than any team in the National League. Only the New York Yankees have more in the history of the game. One of the team’s best players in recent history, Will Clark, is eligible this weekend for the Hall of Fame once again. This will be his second chance of joining 20 former Giants in Cooperstown.
Clark played eight seasons for the San Francisco Giants. From 1988-1992, he went to five straight All-Star games and was the best first baseman in the game. After signing with the Texas Rangers in 1994, Clark’s games played suffered due to injuries and he only played more than 130 games one season after 1993. However, over 1976 games and 8283 at bats, “The Thrill” hit .303/.384/.497 for an OPS of .880.
That consistency showed at every stop, with an .872 OPS with the Giants, .880 for Texas, .881 in two years for the Baltimore Orioles and 1.081 in his 51 games played for the St. Louis Cardinals.
San Francisco Giants beat writer Chris Haft looked at the Hall of Fame case for the former Giants first baseman. He makes a strong case for the left-handed power hitter, comparing his numbers to several Hall of Famers. Sports Illustrated writer took a look at all 10 candidates for this weekend’s Hall of Fame vote and noted that Clark’s numbers are similar to the average first baseman that is already in the Hall of Fame.
Clark’s career certainly seemed destined to be enshrined forever. After winning the Golden Spikes award as the top collegiate player and being selected as the second overall pick in the draft, he hit a home run off Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in his first major league at bat the following season.
For the next eight years, Clark was the leader of a Giants locker room that turned a 1985 100 loss team completely around in two seasons. The Giants won the National League West in 1987 and the National League pennant in 1989. Clark won Most Valuable Player honors in the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs, being labeled “Superman” by play-by-play voice Hank Greenwald. Clark went 13-for-20 with six extra base hits including a grand slam in Wrigley Field and the series clinching two RBI base hit back at Candlestick Park.
Will Clark takes Hall of Famer
deep with a grand slam home run.
Clark puts the Giants ahead for good with a two RBI base hit off
Candlestick is another element in the equation. For most middle of the order hitters in the 1980’s, home runs were expected in bunches. Clark, one of the game’s most consistent hitters, didn’t hit nearly as many home runs as many would expect. However, the winds of “The ‘Stick” played a major role in that. According to Clark himself, he figured he lost 10-15 home runs a season playing his home games in San Francisco.
The one thing that set Clark apart from other hitters was his need to be at the plate with the game on the line. He thrived on it. It’s why he faced Ryan as a rookie and took him deep to dead center field at the Astrodome. That’s why he took Greg Maddux deep in the NLCS. And that’s also why his numbers were so outstanding in his career versus the game’s best.
Ultimately, his numbers compared to other Hall of Famers can be looked at favorably or as not enough, depending on which numbers you look at. For a .300 hitter over 15 seasons to amass just 2,176 hits and 284 homers, many voters would look at those numbers and move on. As Jaffe points out:
"From an advanced stat perspective, he had just three seasons among his league’s top 10 in WAR and ranks 29th in peak score at the position, ahead of just four of the 19 enshrined first basemen and behind other non-Hall of Famers such as Keith Hernandez (41.0), John Olerud (38.9) and Mark Teixeira (37.9). Clark is 25th in JAWS, ahead of just six enshrinees—including Tony Perez (45.2) and Orlando Cepeda (42.4)—and again behind Hernandez (50.5), Olerud (48.4) and even Jason Giambi (46.3). He’s another candidate for the Hall of Very Good."
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A panel of 16 voters, including former Cardinals rival Ozzie Smith, will decide Clark’s fate. The Veteran’s Committee is only looking at players and contributors who had an impact on the game after 1988. Joining Clark on the ballot are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire. Other nominees are managers Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella, former Commissioner Bud Selig, and club executives John Schuerholz and George Steinbrenner.
While “The Thrill” may not earn enshrinement this weekend, there is no doubt that fans who watched him play knew they were witnessing one of the best hitters in the game. Whether that will lead to a place in Cooperstown is now up to the Veterans Committee.
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