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Former teammates Krukow, Dravecky recall Will Clark’s impact on Giants

Former teammates Krukow, Dravecky recall Will Clark’s impact on Giants

By Shayna Rubin

SAN FRANCISCO — Every great player has a signature moment, and Will Clark has at plenty that define his career as a San Francisco Giant.

His first came on the second pitch he ever saw as a big leaguer: A home run off a Nolan Ryan fastball into deep center field at the Astrodome, sealed with a smirk and a point to his family in the stands after crossing home.

“You couldn’t hit home runs out there,” former teammate Mike Krukow said. “That put him on the map.”

Then there was his grand slam off Greg Maddux in Game 1 of the 1989 National League Championship Series. Not only notable as a prelude to a prolific series in which he batted .650 with two home runs and eight RBI, but made famous when it was revealed he’d read Maddux’s lips during a mound visit — “fastball up, inside” — before blasting said pitch well over the right ivy wall at Wrigley Field.

On Saturday afternoon, with those Cubs in town, the Giants will retire his No. 22 jersey — 22 years after his final season in the big leagues, no less — to honor not only those signature moments, but the immense impact he had during his eight seasons ins San Francisco. Clark will be just the 11th Giant to have his jersey number retired.

Clark’s confidence in big moments and energy were only magnified by the kind of obsessive attention detail he used in that moment in Chicago, in search of any competitive advantage.

“He’s someone where, when he went between the lines, you knew you were going to get everything he had,” former teammate Dave Dravecky said on KNBR. “Everything. And that’s what I loved about him.”

Dravecky played with Clark from when he was the Giants traded for him and soon-to-come NL MVP Kevin Mitchell in a 1987 trade with the Padres to his cancer-induced retirement following their 1989 World Series loss. He became well acquainted with Clark’s competitive quirks, including his “little black book” filled with intel on opposing pitchers — which pitches he struck out against or hit a home run off of.

In the dugout, Clark would pepper coaches with questions, looking for any edge. Dravecky wished he’d sat with Clark a little more.

“From the moment he walked into the clubhouse to the time he walked on the field, he went between the lines on everything,” Dravecky said. “Everything was baseball and everything was about preparation.”

Fueling Clark’s obsession was an effervescence that flipped a downtrodden Giants team that suffered the franchise’s only 100-loss season in 1985 into an exciting one in the late 1980s.

“He was young to the world, but he was old to the game, if that makes sense,” Krukow said.

Krukow was a veteran pitcher in 1986, dreading the season to come after the 100-loss season. There were no splashy free-agents signings, no immediate fixes coming to save them. But Krukow remembers leaving spring training feeling excited for the season ahead.

Clark, a rookie clearly ready for the big leagues after just a half-season of minor league ball, was already a leader. And his swing that moved “like butter,” as Krukow put it, was too special.

“By the time we got there our first day and left to go on six day road trip to Houston and LA, we were believers and one of the huge reasons for it was Will Clark,” Krukow said. “We had a secret weapon.”

But then-22-year-old Clark needed some guidance, coming from Mississippi State to a full baseball season with stops in Los Angeles and New York City. So Krukow invited the rookie to live with him, his wife Jennifer and three children (fourth on the way) in San Mateo.

Clark would eat meals with the Krukow family. Drives up to Candlestick with his teammate were full of baseball chats, from veteran to youngster.

“We just had the conversations you’d hope to have as an older player with a younger player,” Krukow said.

Clark was a sponge. Now a special advisor for the Giants, he’s squeezing out all his knowledge to minor leaguers and big leaguers alike.

“He’s a fun guy to have around,” Joc Pederson said.

Source: Paradise Post

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