The truth of the
matter is, Clark often doesn't think before he speaks, and around a ballpark he
is wound so tightly that he is apt to say or do almost anything. After the
Giants clinched the National League West title in 1987, a live television feed
was hooked up in the Giants locker room, and a reporter asked Clark the
obligatory question of how the win felt.
What followed was
an expletive that was broadcast loud and clear. The damage done, Clark added,
with an amusing lack of perspective, "I've been waiting a long time for
His mother and
father were watching back home in New Orleans. "Letty died," Bill
recalls. "She just died. 'Bill, he didn't say that, did he?' she asked.
'Tell me he didn't.' You can only learn from your mistakes, or someone else's.
He was young. We talked with him after the season, and asked him to try to do a
little better job with the press."
The Giants, too,
talked to him. The seats behind the Giants dugout had become R-rated because of
the invective that sometimes poured from Clark's lips after an at bat.
"Will wears his feelings on his sleeve," says Rosen. "He's a highly
competitive person who resents making an out, and sometimes his expletives have
been heard in the stands. So we've asked him to wait till he's off the field to
get what's bothering him off his chest."
season-ticket holder remembers an incident, in early 1988, that—among this fan
and his friends, anyway—could have earned Clark yet another moniker: Will the
Pill. Clark was standing alone in front of the Giants dugout after a game, and
an eight-year-old kid asked him for an autograph. Clark didn't answer, and the
child made the mistake of tossing Clark a ball to sign. Clark, who had hit into
a double play and made an error during the game, let the ball fall at his feet,
then kicked it the length of the dugout. Next he walked over, picked the ball
up and threw it onto the field. Then he walked into the clubhouse. A television
cameraman had to retrieve the ball for the youngster.
baseball is serious business. He doesn't think of himself as an entertainer, or
of the game as entertainment. It is a test of skill. And since he believes he
is better than any pitcher alive, the only thing that can possibly keep Clark
from achieving success is a loss of concentration. Says Rosen, "When he's
at the plate, the stands could fall down around him and he wouldn't
true when he's not at the plate. Sometimes it happens when he's around ordinary
people. Kids even.
Clark is trying
to improve his image. "I've worked on taking my game face off quicker,"
he says. "I need to come down off that adrenaline rush."
But it is nothing
that he or the Giants are particularly concerned about. After all, people used
to consider Ted Williams abrasive, and he didn't turn out too badly. The bottom
line on Clark is that he is a baseball player, not a candidate for role model
of the month.
Clark remembers a
strange incident that occurred in September, when the Giants made their last
road trip into Atlanta. Walking down the runway between the dugout and the
clubhouse shortly before the game, he heard thwump! thwump! thwump! coming from
somewhere beneath the stands. When he went to investigate, he found a group of
Braves players shooting arrows at a paper target of a deer tacked to a stack of
hay bales. Clark watched in amazement, then left. "I couldn't play baseball
like that," he says. "On a cellar-dwelling team, I know my production
would go down."