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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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Gwynn ripped back by saying that Clark walked too much for a No. 4 hitter (Clark led the National League in walks in 1987, '89 and '90 and through Sunday was sixth in the American League this year) and didn't take team flights. It's true, sometimes Clark didn't take team flights. Like the time the team had a day off in Cincinnati last year. Clark flew across country to San Francisco to spend eight hours with his family in Blackhawk, Calif., outside Oakland, and then flew back in time for the next night's game. That's typical Clark, the man who used to make the three-hour drive from Yuma, Ariz., to his home in San Diego after a spring training game just to see his family.

"Ballplayers make a tremendous amount of money, but we miss out on the little things that don't come back," he says. "Like your kid taking his first steps, saying his first words. My girl [Danika] is 10, and I can't remember how she got to be 10, you know? So, yeah, I fly all across the country just for one off-day and then get ripped in the paper by a guy like Tony Gwynn."

You grow up as hard and alone as Jack Clark, you take togetherness any way you can get it.

This is the life that Jack chose. He went pro out of high school, drafted in the 13th round by the Giants in 1973, signed for $10,000. And when he got up to the majors for good in 1977, he was not your basic shine-your-cleats rookie.

"One thing about Jack, he didn't like anybody telling him anything," ex-Giants pitcher Bob Knepper once said. Clark was a born star, but he didn't care about the birthright. He cared about winning. Only in winning could he really show people, could he really show him. When the Giants fired manager Joe Altobelli in 1979 and hired Dave Bristol, Clark ripped the front office for continually starting over. And when they fired Bristol after the 1980 season and brought in Frank Robinson, he barbecued them again. "This organization is a loser," Clark said in 1982.

And when Robinson made the mistake of trying to push Clark around, Clark pushed back. "He [Robinson] resented me making $1.3 million, supposedly because of the caliber of player I was compared to what he was," Clark says. "He did everything in his power to make it uncomfortable for me, constantly comparing me in the paper: I'm not as good as this guy or that guy, comparing me to guys even on our team. How's that supposed to make you feel?"

The last shoe dropped during a game in Houston in 1984 when Robinson played Clark even though Clark's right knee was killing him, even though Astro Turf is to knees what boxing gloves are to noses, even though the Astros were winning 7-2. Clark felt screwed, and Jack Clark does not forget a screwing.

So he had knee surgery but refused to come back and play the last month of the season. His attitude? "You want to try to hurt me for the rest of my life?——you.
Go die. I'll never play for you again."

Hello, St. Louis, where Clark was traded in February 1985 and where life was good and Clark was happy, leading the Cardinals to two World Series appearances in three years. But when he tore ligaments in his right ankle three weeks before the '87 playoffs, he was forced to sit out the Cards" World Series loss to Minnesota. That didn't sit well with St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith, who said that Clark was "selfish" because he didn't take "a shot" in order to keep playing. Boy, that's hitting a guy in the zipper. Nobody accuses Jack Clark of not trying to pull his load.

"This guy was just getting brownie points for his contract with [Cardinals chairman of the board] Augie Busch coming up," says Clark. The truth is, says Clark, the St. Louis team doctor told him a shot wouldn't have helped and the injury was severe enough that, even by the next spring training, Clark still couldn't run on it. But by then he had signed with the Yankees as a free agent. Has anybody noticed the Cards haven't been within a toll call of the fall classic since he left?

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