Jack be nimble, Jack be quick… Jack Clark in Cooperstown?
Hi, and welcome to another edition of “The Cooperstown case”.
Today we take a look at the case for Clark, known as “Jack the Ripper”, one of the most feared hitters of the 1980’s. We’ll delve into his career and see if it could be (and should be) warranted enough for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Clark played in Major League Baseball from 1975-92. He started out as a member of the San Francisco Giants. During the 1978 season, Clark had a 26-game hitting streak that is the longest by a Giants player after 1900. He made two All-Star games as a member of the Giants, both in 1978 and 1979.
In his decade-long tenure with San Francisco, Clark notched 1,034 total hits, 163 home runs, 197 doubles, and 595 RBI’s.
On February 1, 1985, Clark was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for shortstop José Uribe, pitcher Dave LaPoint, and first basemen-outfielders David Green and Gary Rajsich. And right away, Clark filled in the role that George Brett once held: the power hitter in Whitey Herzog‘s “Whiteyball”.
He had switched to first base in 1985 in an effort to reduce the risk of injury. 1985 was statistically one of his best seasons, as he notched 124 hits, 22 home runs, 87 RBI’s, and a batting average of .281. But it was a particular moment in the postseason that put Clark’s name in St. Louis sports history.
The setting was Game 6 of the 1985 National League Championship Series. The opposing team was the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the pitcher was Tom Niedenfuer. Niedenfuer famously allowed a walk-off home run to Ozzie Smith the game before. Here stood Clark, with runners on first and second, in the top of the ninth inning, with the Cardinals trailing. Instead of walking the power-hitter, Niedenfuer pitched to him.
And Clark made him pay, launching a three-run home run that won them the 1985 pennant.
Unfortunately, they fell short in the infamous 1985 World Series, and Clark had a critical part in that too. Never a noted defensive player, Clark dropped a foul-ball pop-up after the Don Denkinger call in Game 6. It played a roll in the Cardinals collapse that cost them the 1985 World Series.
Clark’s best season with the Cardinals came in 1987 (where they once again made it to the World Series). He hit .286 with 35 home runs, 106 RBI’s, and led the league in on-base percentage (.459) and slugging percentage (.597).
In three years with St. Louis, he notched 299 hits, 66 home runs, 61 doubles, six triples, and a total batting average of .274.
Afterwards, Clark had a one-year stint with the New York Yankees, then moving onto multi-year stints with the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox (both for two years). From 1988-1992, Clark hit 111 home runs, bringing his career total to 340, 493 hits, 369 RBI’s, and a .244 batting average.
As far as consideration for Cooperstown is concerned, he’s never really had the votes on his side. The only time he received votes came in 1998, when he garnered 1.5% of the votes needed for induction. Does he deserve another look?
That’s the question that can be debated.
Tune in next Sunday for another edition of “The Cooperstown case”!