On July 30, my beloved San Francisco Giants will retire the number 22 jersey of Will Clark. It’s a well-deserved honor for an iconic Giant of the 1980s and early 1990s. But my question is why can’t the team also retire the number 22 jersey of Jack Clark, an iconic Giants of the 1970s and early 1980s? The two Clarks are not related, but their stats as Giants are comparable…
As a Giant from 1975 to 1984, Jack “The Ripper” Clark played in 1,044 games, slashing at a rate of .277/.359/.477 for an OPS of .836, with 163 homers and 595 RBI. During that time he added 60 stolen bases and 497 walks. He made two All-Star teams (1978 and 1979) and came in fifth in the 1978 NL MVP race. During a notoriously down offensive period for baseball, he was in the top ten in home runs in the National League three times as a Giant. He was a solid right fielder with a strong arm, showing up in the top five in outfield assists three times. The guy who “Lit the Spark of Candlestick Park,” he generally hit third for the team.
A scant two seasons after Jack Clark was traded away, the team promoted another player named Clark and gave him the same number 22 jersey. As a Giant from 1986 to 1992, Will “The Thrill” Clark played in 1,160 games (104 more than Jack), slashing at a rate of .299/.373/.499 for an OPS of .872, with 176 home runs and 709 RBI. During that time he added 52 stolen bases and 506 walks. He made five All Star teams (1989–1992) and finished in the top five in the NL MVP race four times (1987–1989, 1991). A good first baseman, he won the NL Gold Glove in 1991. Will generally batted third, and is famous for homering off of Nolan Ryan in his first Major League at-bat, and destroying the Cubs in the 1989 National League playoffs.
So, yeah, although Will’s stats as a Giant are undeniably better than Jack’s, both were highly productive number 22s. And both Clarks’ final career statistics are remarkably similar, with each finishing with the same career OPS+ of 137. (Will had a higher career batting average, but Jack hit more home runs.) The main difference is that Jack’s most productive years came in the five seasons after he left the Giants, while Will’s best years were with the Giants.
But I believe the main reason Will’s jersey is the number 22 the Giants are retiring is that he is a much more beloved figure in San Francisco. A garrulous character, after his playing career he returned to the Giants as an advisor and “ambassador.” Jack, on the other hand, is known as a temperamental, irascible fellow — he left the Giants on bad terms with the manager, and didn’t make a ton of friends on later teams he played for either.
Don’t get me wrong — I have great affection for Will Clark. But for me, Jack Clark was the man. I became a San Francisco Giants fan in late 1978, and he — along with a declining Willie McCovey — was the heart of the Giants’ offense in those early years of Giants fandom. For the most part, the team was pretty mediocre during those years, but Jack could be counted on to produce. (Game-winning RBI used to be considered a reliable metric of “clutch hitters,” and Jack was always a league leader in that category.) Because of him, number 22 became my favorite baseball number (yes, that’s a thing.) I was practically heartbroken when the Giants traded him away, and I followed the rest of his career with great interest. (I still have pretty much all his baseball cards from every stop along the way.) After many years, I got to see him in person again when I was in college in Ohio when, as a member of the New York Yankees, he came to play the then-Indians. (Clark only played one year for the Yanks — because he pissed off the manager.)
Here are the stats of both Clarks — as Giants — added together: 2,204 games with a slash line of .289/.366/.488, 2,312 hits, 339 homers, 1,304 RBI, and an OPS of .854. That’s a pretty good career!
To sum up, I think it’s great that the Giants are retiring the number 22 in honor of Will Clark. But how cool would it be if they invited Jack Clark to come to the ceremony and gave him some due as the first Clark to wear the number with distinction?
P.S. Full-disclosure side note: two Giants’ players actually wore no. 22 longer than did either Clark — Don Mueller (1948–1957, ten seasons) and Hal Lanier (1964–1971, eight seasons)! Mueller, an outfielder, was a .296 lifetime hitter but had virtually no power, with a career OPS of .712. Lanier was a light-hitting infielder. So there is that.