You know, kids, Jack Clark didn’t used to be the rotund, angry guy bellowing about Albert Pujols and steroids, and suspicions and all of that stuff. He wasn’t the guy who got fired from talk radio for that. He didn’t used to be a sad guy who bankrupted himself buying all manner of sports cars, losing his home in the process.
Jack Clark used to be a tight, sinewy, coiled cobra. An angry cobra, whipping his bat around like a snake’s tail, ready to swat baseballs great distances and with great anger. Jack Clark didn’t play baseball like a game, you never heard him say “Let’s Play Two,” or “The umpire doesn’t say ‘Work Ball.'” He was at his best when he played with a snarl.
Jack Clark played baseball with a barely controlled fury, like was once said of Baltimore Colts’ linebacker Mike Curtis. Jack Clark’s rage playing baseball was like a part of his anatomy, like a muscle, he flexed it and built it up. And when the game was on the line, he was by far the most dangerous hitter at the plate, the one guy pitchers absolutely did not want to see on deck in the late innings.
And I loved him.
I imitated his swing, that twitching, coiling anticipation, that furious whip through the zone. He played for the San Francisco Giants then, and I envied Giants fans for having him on their side.
When you think of Vince Coleman, you likely think of stolen bases. Or maybe the word “tarp” comes to mind.
Regardless, home runs are certainly not something you associate with the man who as a rookie for the Cardinals in 1985 stole more than twice as many bases as the entire 2013 team total (110 vs. 45).
Yet Coleman did occasionally hit home runs. Very occasionally, anyway — he had 15 during his six years as a Redbird. But his first was during his Rookie of the Year season, on May 21, 1985.
It was his only homer that year (and his next wouldn’t come until Aug. 26, 1987).
The Cardinals were hosting the Braves at Busch Stadium on May 21. They were up 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning when Vince stepped to the plate with one out. He hit the first pitch from Len Barker deep to right field and … watch for yourself from this TBS broadcast.
Yes, of course his first career homer would be an inside-the-parker. And a stand-up one at that.
The official Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum will open as part of Ballpark Village next spring, and construction is moving along nicely. Last month, the United Cardinal Bloggers gave our ideas on what we’d like to see in the museum — our choices are here. This month, we take a look at the five individuals we’d like to see inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
Like any election, we had rules to follow. All those who the Cardinals have already honored by retiring their numbers are already included in the Hall of Fame. A player must be retired, or seem to be retired (such as, for example, Scott Rolen). And there’s no limit on service time.
So, with those in place, here, in alphabetical order, are the choices for the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
No player compressed more moments into three years than The Ripper. People don’t remember, but when the Cardinals lost Bruce Sutter as a free agent to Atlanta after the 1984 season, most everyone was predicting them to finish last or well below .500. But when the Cardinals got Jack Clark for pretty much nothing in a trade with the Giants, I knew better. I knew how great Clark was — he was the NL’s Eddie Murray, the most dangerous guy at the plate in the league.
And he proved it in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS — top of the ninth, Cardinals looking like they’d face Orel Hershisher in Game 7 in LA, two runners on. First pitch, boom.