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This is the life that Jack Built
Rick Reilly
July 22, 1991
Red Sox slugger Jack Clark looks back in anger
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July 22, 1991

This Is The Life That Jack Built

Red Sox slugger Jack Clark looks back in anger

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"Jack, I thought we were friends," he says.

"Hey, we're on different teams now," says Clark.

Tom Brunansky then steps up and hits a two-run homer, Boston wins 6-4, and Fenway ends up thinking it could get to like this Jack Clark way of baseball. But could they ever get to like Jack Clark?

"I'm a lot like my mother," Jack says of Jennie Clark, one of 11 kids, and the one who had to quit school to baby-sit her brothers and sisters. "I can be laid-back, relaxed, can handle anything. But I'm a lot like my father, too. Bad-tempered, intense. When I set out to get something done, I do it, no matter what."

So much like his mother, with her dark Italian face and velvet touch with people. Everywhere he goes, he becomes the sage in the corner. If Clark is not sitting at his locker, talking quietly with his six-year-old son, Anthony, then the game must still be going on. During his first spring training with the Red Sox this year, he worked with Boston's rookie slugger Mo Vaughn every morning.

"That surprised me," says Vaughn. Why? Clark, 6'3" and 210 pounds, loves the little people. When an old high school teammate named Greg Johnston appeared out of the dark in a Florida parking lot one night and hit him up for $500, Clark gave it to him. "Hey, I had the money," he says.

Then again, he's so much like his father, with that square jaw and shock of curly hair combed straight south. Former Padres teammate Mark Parent calls Clark "the most intense guy about winning I've ever met." When Clark went through a 6-for-50 slump in San Diego in 1989, he rarely ate or slept. He got so down about his hitting at one point that he sought the help of the Oakland A's Harvey Dorfman, a sports psychologist specializing in the mental aspects of performance. Former Padres trainer Dick Dent says losses "really eat at [Clark's] stomach. He'll come in and say he sucked and he cost them the game."

Born without a thimbleful of diplomacy, Clark freaks when he thinks he sees disloyalty. He lashed out at Gwynn during a team meeting in May 1990. Yeah, it bothered him that he thought Gwynn wasn't much for moving runners along, and yeah, it wasn't cool that Gwynn was overweight and never stole bases much anymore and that Gwynn would bunt for singles instead of trying to hit a double. But what really bugged Clark was his feeling that Gwynn was putting himself above the others.

"He had this pregame radio show," says Clark. "And the guys, including the captain of the team, didn't like hearing somebody talking for all of us when he didn't talk to us in the clubhouse one-on-one. He wouldn't talk to me about baseball, so I didn't want to hear him on the radio saying we as a team feel this way because I didn't feel that way.... We brought that up, and he didn't like it."

(Clark's wife, Tammy, says that when Clark gets riled up, his eyebrows get darker. These are very dark eyebrows right now.)

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