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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #488, Jack Clark (Article 91)

by Paul Semendinger

(Continuing a series…)

***



It might have been the most excited I ever got regarding a Yankees free agent signing…

I didn’t follow baseball when Catfish Hunter became a Yankee. Reggie Jackson either. And the Goose and Winfield didn’t excite me like this.

The Yankees had signed the great Jack Clark!

I remember the New York Daily News headline when he was signed – “JACKPOT!”

And it was. This was huge. Jack Clark was going to be a Yankee.

I couldn’t wait to go to the park to see Jack Clark.

Only, it didn’t work out, in any way, like I had hoped.

***

In 1986, Jack Clark batted .286/35/106. He finished third in the National League MVP race. He was a slugger, a great slugger, one of the best… and he was now a Yankee.

Imagine that line up! Jack Clark. Don Mattingly. Rickey Henderson. Dave Winfield. And Mike Pags too!

I know the Yankees always needed pitching in those days, but with those guys in the lineup, I figured the Yankees would score 35 runs a game.

Who needs pitching when you score 35 runs a game?

Except it didn’t work out.

Don Mattingly began to look human in 1988. His .311/18/88 was a far cry from the numbers he had been putting up previously.

In 1987, Mike Pagliarulo blasted 32 homers. In 1988, the year Jack Clark arrived, he hit only 15 while batting just .216.

Rickey Henderson missed 20 games in 1988 (but when he played, he still was his terrific self).

And Jack Clark never really got on fire or did as advertised.

For the season Jack Clark batted .242/27/93.

Yeah, nothing special.

At all.

I was so disappointed.

I thought Jack Clark would be a great Yankee. He wasn’t.

And he never got a chance to turn it around in a second season.

***

After the 1988 season, Jack Clark was traded to the San Diego Padres for Stan Jefferson, an outfielder, and two pitchers – Jimmy Jones and Lance McCullers.

Unfortunately, none of those three really worked out for the Yankees. They all underwhelmed. Jefferson didn’t play and the pitchers didn’t get many batters out.

McCullers was traded during the 1990 season.

Jones left via free agency after the 1990 season.

Stan Jefferson played just ten games as a Yankee before he was traded to the Orioles for John Habyan (who was a very good relief pitcher for the Yankees for a few years).

***

It turned out that that 1987 season was Jack Clark’s greatest. A player who had had some very good years, Clark hit his peak in 1987. The Yankees bought high on him.

WAR says that Jack Clark’s greatest year was 1978 (5.9 WAR) with 1987 (5.4 WAR) a close second. (These were Jack Calrk’s only two seasons with a WAR above 5.0).

I think Clark’s 1987 season was better.

1978: .306/25/98 .358/537/.895

1987: .286/35/106 .459/.597/1.055 (all three of these stats led the National League)

Which player would you rather have?

The difference was that in 1978, Clark played in 156 games and in 1987, he only managed to get into 131 games. It’s tough to be great when you miss 30 games in a season, but in 1987 Jack Clark was great. He help lead the Cardinals to the World Series.

I thought he’d do that for the Yankees too.

It wasn’t to be.

As a Yankee, Jack Clark played in 150 games. He was there. He was present.

He just wasn’t the player I hoped he’d be.

***

After leaving the Yankees, Jack Clark played in two seasons for the San Diego Padres and then for the Red Sox for two final years.

His glory days were past. He was a serviceable player for the first three years. By 1992, when he hit .210/5/33, it was apparent that it was over.

Too bad.

I had wanted, I had dreamed, of Jack Clark being the guy that brought the Yankees back to glory.

***

“Let’s go to the park to see Jack Clark!”

It’s still fun to remember the excitement when the Yankees first signed him and anything seemed possible…

#1977ToppsBiographies

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