- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
As Wild Thing finished his warmup tosses, Mitchell said, "We got a job to do, let's do it."
"It's done," Clark replied.
Mitchell, recalling the moment, says, "Then he got that sneer on his face, that Clint Eastwood look of his, and I thought, I've seen that same movie. Once he said it was done, I knew it was done."
Looking for a pitch, and hitting it, of course, are two different matters. Williams quickly got ahead of Clark, 0 and 2. He wasted a ball, then Clark fouled back two high fastballs. "I'm hanging on for dear life," Clark recalls. "On the television broadcast, you can hear Vin Scully say, 'In every important series there's a moment where it becomes difficult to breathe and swallow. This is that moment.' And the camera takes a close-up of me stepping back and trying to take a deep breath. I'm thinking, Right back up the middle. That's the weakest part of the defense."
And that was where Clark lined Williams's next delivery, a 95-mph fastball that Clark nearly embedded in the second base umpire's chest. Two runs came in, and the Giants held on to clinch their first pennant in 27 years.
" Will Clark is the best baseball player I've ever seen," veteran Giants catcher Terry Kennedy said afterward. And it wasn't just when he was at bat that Clark had shone. He had played brilliantly in the field the entire series, too, throwing out three runners at home and initiating three double plays. He had also run the bases aggressively. And when reliever Steve Bedrosian got into a jam in the ninth inning of Game 5, and the Cubs had moved to within a run, it was Clark who walked over to the mound and shouted at the top of his lungs to the pitcher, "It's your game! And you're going to win it!"
It was an all-around performance under pressure that raised Clark a notch, maybe several notches, on the baseball ladder, so that comparisons with Stan Musial and Ted Williams no longer seemed fanciful. "He's the best player in the game," says Rosen, who rewarded Clark in the off-season with a four-year, $15 million contract, though Clark was still two years away from free-agent eligibility. "He produces under any circumstances, and has a flair for producing best when the pressure is on. His numbers are among the best in baseball. But there are other factors—his clubhouse and bench presence, his professionalism, his tenacity—that make him even more valuable. He's a winner. Always has been."
None of this is lost for a moment on Clark. "Are you one proud daddy?" Clark could be heard asking his father during the locker-room celebration after the Giants had beaten the Cubs. And Bill had to admit it—he certainly was.
Bill Clark, too, was a player. Not a baseball player. Pool was his game. Nine-ball. "Will's like me," he says. "If I have to make the 9 ball for two dollars, I'll make it some and miss it some. But if I have to make it for a hundred dollars, I'll make it a hundred times in a row."
Last February, Bill, 50, was holding court in the Po' Boy Bakery in New Orleans with Will and a small group of friends. Bill is a sales representative for a pest-control company, a good business to be in given the surrounding bayous, the seaport and the damp climate.