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Who says success breeds best in affection? Clark was all-city in basketball and hit .517 playing baseball his senior year in high school. He longed to turn pro, but his father wanted him to go to college on scholarship. How could Jack not take the dream, the very thing Ralph's own father had stolen from him?
Easy. Jack Clark didn't care about school, didn't want to care about it. "They acted like nobody could be anything else in life except what somebody in school tells you you have to be," he remembers. "They didn't know what I wanted to be or could be."
Whatever it was he would become, he wanted to show them. To show him.
These are the rules that Jack lives by. Shove back at authority. Reject conformity. Play baseball, but don't be baseball.
Take, for instance, bad press. Everybody hates it. Not Clark. "Press is press," he says. "It's your name in the paper...It keeps your name alive, keeps them wondering about you: 'Is that the guy they say is like that?' "
Take strikeouts. He thinks of them as positives. "They say, 'You failed. You struck out.' I don't. I look at it as a positive. I struck out, but the next guy up still has a chance. I'd rather strike out than hit into a double play." So far in his career, Jack Clark has achieved 1,308 positives in 6,355 at bats.
Take God. Clark is religious as hell. But, "I don't need a whole room full of people to have church," he says. "That's cool with some people; others think I'm an ass. I can't please everyone. "
Take his teammates and winning as a team, and stack that above everything. When Clark took the Dodgers' Tom Niedenfuer deep in 1985 with a three-run homer to win the pennant for the Cardinals in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, he never went looking for endorsement deals. What? And act like you're a bigger deal than other guys in the same unit?
Then consider this: It's the fourth inning at Fenway in a game against Toronto early this season. Clark is on first with a single. Ellis Burks hits a weed-eater to Clark's old Padres friend and protégé, Roberto Alomar, the Blue Jay second baseman. Clark had guided the young Alomar in the San Diego clubhouse, and their families had become close. But now Alomar was trying to double the Red Sox up, and Clark would have none of it.
Alomar steps on the bag, hip-hops past it and then turns to throw. But Clark, nearly running out of the baseline, flips him hard. Alomar lies on the dirt for a while, then gets to his knees. Clark stays to make sure he's all right, but Alomar glares at him.