The Curious Case of William Nuschler Clark

A few weeks back as I watched Roger Kieschnick make his major league debut, I could not help but feel an overwhelming discomfort as the former 2008 3rd round draft pick stepped into the box for his first major league at bat… It had nothing to do with Kieschnick’s ability or what I believe could potentially lie ahead for the sweet swinging, left-handed hitting outfield prospect… It was just that there was another lefty, one with the prettiest swing I have ever seen, that I could not get out of my head… A guy who happened to make his major league debut 27 years earlier and donned the same number Roger Kieschnick was wearing… 22.

Growing up a die hard sports fan in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980′s, there were two athletes that defined my childhood and served as role models in my life. They shaped me as an athlete and as a person… The first being Joe Montana… The other, Will Clark.  The gritty Southerner out of Mississippi State that spoke with a Louisiana twang and played with an intensity and drive that resembled exactly who I was in my youth… Will Clark defined an entire era of San Francisco Giants baseball, and more importantly for me, he helped influence who I became as a baseball player through the course of my entire amateur and professional career…

“Thrill” as he was known since his Jesuit high school days back in Louisiana, blasted on the scene (literally) and lived up to his nickname by taking Nolan Ryan deep in his first at bat in the big leagues… The next season, in 1987, he went on to lead the Giants to the playoffs for the first time since 1971, hitting 35 homers and turning in a .951 OPS…  In 1989 he introduced himself to the world in the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs when he hit .650 with 3 doubles and 2 homers, including a memorable grand slam at Wrigley Field that proved to be the the turning point in the series… Then came the clinching hit against the Cubs flame throwing left hander, and now my colleague at MLB Network, Mitch Williams… I was sitting in the upper deck in Section 62 in center field that day at Candlestick Park… I am now a 37 year old grown man who happened to play parts of 11 major league seasons and I still get butterflies thinking back to the feeling that went through my body when “Thrill” smoked the ball back up the middle, driving in the game winning runs… Obviously Will Clark was named the NLCS MVP as he single handedly carried the Giants to their first World Series since 1962…

In 8 total seasons with the Giants, he was a 6-time All Star and finished top 5 in MVP voting 4 times… Clark then went on to play for the Texas Rangers and in his first season there, propelled them into the playoffs for the first time in the organization’s history… After a very productive 5 years as a Ranger, “Thrill” ended up in Baltimore in 1999, then in 2000, his final year, Clark was traded from the Orioles to the Cardinals and once again guided another team down the stretch and into the post season hitting .345 with an OPS of over 1000 for the Cardinals… Will Clark retired at 36 years old with plenty of baseball left in him… He undoubtedly could have continued to play for several more years but made the selfless decision to put his family first… Will’s son, Trey, was diagnosed with autism so he decided to hang ‘em up and put the same emotion that he played the game of baseball with into helping full time with Trey’s development… He finished his career with 2176 hits, a batting average of .303 and an OPS of .880… He hit 284 home runs and drove in over 1,205 runs…

 

In 2006, Will Clark’s name was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time… He received 4.4% of the vote, not meeting the 5% threshold needed to remain on the ballot for future consideration… Not exactly sure why HOF voters penalize a guy that didn’t play until he was hobbling around in his mid 40′s in search of hit #3000 or home run #500? (both long considered HOF benchmarks)… Forgive me if I don’t recognize the Hall of Fame’s legitimacy as much as other baseball purists… For me, a Hall of Fame player is somebody who was one of the best players over a 10 + year period… Will Clark was exactly that, but for 15 years… Also, if the Hall of Fame wants to continue to morally judge players and leave guys out of the HOF based on the “character” clause, shouldn’t they consider the noble decision of Will Clark to walk away early for the greater good of his family and actually award somebody for their character?

Will Clark will never get into Cooperstown, but quite frankly, I am not all that concerned with the hypocrites that vote for and constitute the Hall of Fame… Their issues go far beyond Will Clark… What I am concerned with is that there are currently 10 numbers that have been retired by the Giants organization… #3 Bill Terry, #4 Mel Ott, #11 Carl Hubbell, #20 Monte Irvin, #24 Willie Mays, #27 Juan Marichal, #30 Orlando Cepeda, #36 Gaylord Perry, #44 Willie McCovey, and #42 Jackie Robinson which is universally retired around baseball… Will Clark’s #22 is painfully absent from this list… The common denominator of each of these guys is that they have all been inducted into Cooperstown…

This is now the Giants chance to stand up and not let the Baseball Hall of Fame dictate who the most important players are in the storied franchise of the New York and San Francisco Giants… The Giants have a responsibility to recognize one of the fiercest competitors and greatest players in the history of the organization by making sure his story continues to be told to future ballplayers and fans for generations to come… When my Dad used to take me to Candlestick Park, I would always ask him about the numbers hanging from the right field chained link fence, and he always had detailed stories for me about the former Giants greats… Now, I feel it is my obligation to share stories with my 3 children about the greatest Giants who ever played… I would love nothing more than to go to AT&T park, have one of them point to #22, giving me the opportunity to explain to my kids the legend of one William Nueshler Clark.

As a campaign effort, please pass this on in hopes that we can reach the appropriate Giants personnel who can make the retirement of number 22 happen… Reference @Giants on twitter and use #Retire22… See you at the ceremony! Eric Byrnes

 

 

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29 Responses to The Curious Case of William Nuschler Clark

  1. Rudy Sanchez says:

    i couldnt agree with you more! PLEASE stop letting these guys were #22. no one has done it justice sinces William Nueshler Clark wore it.

  2. Dave says:

    Excellent article Mr. Byrnes, I could not agree more.

  3. Bill Miller says:

    Thanks for your article Eric. I vividly remember sitting in front of my radio when Thrill smoked home run #1 off of Ryan. I saw greatness then and Thrill never, ever disappointed me. I remember that interview after Giants made the playoffs when he said in his unmistakingly high shrill voice “I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.” Thrill’s rookie card is my most prized item in my baseball collection. Thanks again Eric and thank you Will the Thrill.

  4. eric says:

    As a Giants fan of the same era…I couldn’t agree more…I am sure we sat next to each other and never knew it and marveled at the “Thrill”

  5. Chris Brown says:

    Thanks for pushing this issue. I tell my kids about Will Clark all the time and my 7 year old sports eye black every time he takes the field and at games in support of The Thrill.

    Clark hasn’t been a Giant since the end of 1993- 20 years! The Giants still sell his jersey (Mitchell & Ness ’89 WS replica) and you can find numerous people at ANY game wearing #22.

    Plain and simple he was a fan favorite 27 years ago, fan favorite 20 years ago and is still a fan favorite now! There is a reason for that. He IS Giants baseball.

  6. bgoody says:

    I wish the Giants would retire #22

  7. June G. says:

    As much as I love Buster, Will Clark is my ALL Time favorite! I saved the interview he did on “In the Clubhouse” last year…can’t get enough of that southern “drawl”. I don’t like seeing Roger wearing #22 it should be retired. Best to you in this effort and I’ll see you at the ceremony!

  8. Pete says:

    He is the face of the Giants for an entire generation and is among the all time great SF Giants. That his number is not retired is a bit of a disgrace and kind of shabby.

  9. Flavor says:

    I think the thing to do is research what other teams have done. Is there a precedent for retiring non-HOF players? There is, of course. A good example is Dale Murphy— he’s far more qualified that The Thrill to ever make it into the HOF. But they retired his number and Murphy is a great example of a player that meant EVERYTHING to the Braves fan base back in the day—playing for a team that sucked, Murphy was the one hero to watch, the player they could fall in love with. He was their “Will Clark”.
    I’m 100% behind retiring 22 in SF but if he ever made it to the HOF, the visitors just wouldn’t get it. They’d look at his career numbers and just go, “huh?”.
    But true SF Giants fans from the 80′s know what’s up and the Giants should do this. Retire 22….

  10. Bryan Lewis says:

    Hi Eric:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Will was the heart & soul of the Giants. I was also in the stadium for that hit off Mitch Williams. I would love to see his number retired, and would be glad to contact the Giants to ask for that. Thanks for bringing this up.

    Bryan

  11. John Hawkins says:

    That was an AWESOME article!

  12. Marty Reinders says:

    I could not agree more, nor have said it better!

  13. Greg Lathrop says:

    I’ll always remember 1987, when the Giants beat San Diego to clinch the NL West, and a jubilant Will Clark drops an F-Bomb on live TV as he runs into the clubhouse to begin the celebration.

  14. Andy Maso says:

    I totally agree. After I saw Keischnick wearing #22 I told my son that number should be retired. He IS a Giant – first and foremost! When you think of memorable Giants he is one of THE most memorable of late.

  15. Chris VanDeWeghe says:

    Eric I hope this works 22 needs to be retired, you looked good in that # as well.

  16. Deana says:

    Joe Montana AND Will Clark are my two absolute favorite players as well! You’re totally right!

  17. Karla Peterson says:

    what a wonderful article on my favorite Giant Will Clark! Number 22 needs to be retired!!!

  18. Chris says:

    Byrnes, I completely agree with u and your opinion! I was wondering d the same things and was a little shocked to see someone other than Clark wear the “22″. It’s nice to know that an ex major leaguer is still a “true” fan of the game and still has respect for the little things. Will Clark is by far my favorite giant of all time. Like u I am a giants fan of the last generation. I am 36 yr old and have been a fan since I can remember. My favorite memory of Clark was when I was around 13 and we were sitting in family pavilion. I told my brother in the 1st inn that Clark would hit a hr in the 7th inn. I bet him $20. Clark came up in the 6 th and hit a hr over R Cf wall! I won $20. Haha. I also taught myself to swing lefty just like Clark. I have also taught my 14 yr old son that same sweet, natural, effortless swing. I will doy part to help the giants realize there mistake in not retiring the number 22. He was and will always be the face of the franchise for the late 80′s and 90′s. I still have my worn out Rawlings Clark jersey that no longer fits, but I will never part with.
    Thanks again
    Chris,
    Fan for life!

  19. Kate says:

    As a little girl growing up with a big brother and dad that were huge SF Giants fans, I too was one. Even playing softball, I did his signature sleeve pull every time I went up to bat. I had a crush on him, of course, but he was and is still a signature Giant, and should definitely be respected as one.

  20. Phyllis Hoard says:

    Great article Eric! I completely agree with you, #22 needs to be retired. Will Clark is my favorite player of all time! I remember those days when he was playing first base for the Giants, he was the best!

  21. JeffB says:

    Sign me up! Retire #22 for Will!

  22. Mister C says:

    Yo’ Byrnesy!

    I agree and disagree with you. I’m a few years older than you, and my TWO favorite players were both named Clark, and BOTH wore #22! What are we going to do about Jack the Ripper?!?!? Can you co-retire a number? Or just retire Clark 22 and have both guys there? I love Will, but there’s a generation of 40 somethings that have a real warm spot for #22 of the 70′s and 80′s.

  23. Brandon G says:

    while I like the idea of the only retired numbers being that of Hall of Famers, I agree that Will should be an exception. I was 2 years old when Will made his debut. I remember everything about him as I grew up as a kid. I vividly remember ’89 at 5 years old. I remember readin the paper in ’94 after he signed with Texas. I remember a game at Candlestick when Will returned as a Ranger and he hit a Homerun over the right centerfield wall complete with the patented hand clap and finger point. I followed Will everywhere he went. I was so happy to see him play meaningful ball again in 2000. He proved he still had it. A part of me will never forgive the Giants organization for phasing Will out. When he retired from the game I walked away from it as well. I eventually returned, but for a few years I lost intrest in the sport. Guess I felt lost without 22 out there. I still play today and 22 is strapped across my back. My 2 year old will grow up on the Thrill. Hopefully he hits like him too.

  24. Don Whiting says:

    Will Clark was/is my favorite Giant ball player. My Daughter Britni was born on his birthday. But, Mister C has a good argument with Jack Clark also #22. They both put the Giants back on the map during their time.

  25. 1Hummbaby says:

    I like the idea of retiring #22 and honoring both Clarks, Jack and Will, but one thing can be done before the start of next season. Give Roger another number and never give 22 to anyone again. Got that Murph?!

  26. Easy Byard says:

    This article couldn’t have been written any better. I’m a huge Thrill fan, along with my brother and father. One of my exs bought me a Will Clark jersey close to 10 years ago. I have been trying to get it signed since. My bro almost got it signed fan day 2011 but they pulled Thrill away as he was about to reach for it. I finally got it signed last year, Thrill was at lefties in Burlingame. It was the day the Giants received their rings. I was so nervous to finally meet him, when I did all I could say was, your the reason I fell in love with baseball. His exact words were ” no I’m just another guy”. And that is why we love the Thrill. I still get the chills when I think about him playing. I wore #22 every year and in every sport I played. He helped creat a generation of die hard Giants fans. #retire22

  27. bgoody says:

    The ‘stick was empty before Will showed. Changed the franchise. Retire 22.

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