Will Clark’s No. 22 to be retired this weekend by San Francisco Giants
New Orleans native Will Clark will add to his collegiate and professional baseball honors this weekend by having his jersey No. 22 retired by the San Francisco Giants. He played for the Giants from 1986-93, as part of his 15-year major-league career.
Clark, a former Jesuit High School standout, joins the likes of Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Bill Terry, Gretna native Mel Ott (Number 4), Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, and Gaylord Perry in receiving this recognition. Except for Clark and Bonds, all of these former Giants players are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The ceremony to retire Clark’s number is scheduled for July 30 at San Francisco’s Oracle Park was originally planned for July 11, 2020, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acquiring the nickname “Will the Thrill” from teammate Bob Brenly, Clark made an immediate impact when he joined the Giants as a rookie in 1986. In his first major-league at-bat, he hit a home run on his first swing off Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan in the Astrodome. It was the start of his heroics with the Giants.
In 1987 Clark helped the Giants win their first division championship since 1971, when he led the Giants with 35 home runs and 91 RBIs. He became known for his smooth, sweeping swing, prompting sportswriters to tag him with the moniker “The Natural.”
The Giants won the National League pennant in 1989, their first since 1962. Clark finished second to teammate Kevin Mitchell in the voting for NL MVP, when he had a .333/.407/.546 slash line, 23 home runs, and 111 RBIs. He lost the league batting title to Tony Gwynn (.336) on the last day of the season.
Clark single-handedly dismantled the Chicago Cubs in the 1989 NLCS by hitting .650/.682/1.882, with two home runs and 8 RBIs in five games. But the Giants were swept by the Oakland A’s in his only World Series appearance.
He led the National League in total bases (303) in 1991, contributing to his fourth-place finish in the MVP voting, and won his second Silver Slugger Award and the Gold Glove Award for first basemen.
Clark was an All-Star Game selection in five of his eight seasons with the Giants. He signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers after the 1993 season. He spent five seasons with Texas before moving on to Baltimore and St. Louis during his final two years. He retired at 36 years old after the 2000 season. His career stats include a .303/.384/.497 slash line, 2,176 hits, 284 home runs, and 1,205 RBIs.
The jersey number retirement is just one of many post-career honors Clark has garnered.
In his native state of Louisiana where he played for American Legion and high school baseball teams for Jesuit High School, he has been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (2003), the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame (2012), the New Orleans Professional Hall of Fame (2007), the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame (2003), and the Diamond Club of New Orleans Hall of Fame (2001).
In the state of Mississippi, where he was an All-American at Mississippi State University, he holds a place of honor in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (2008) and the Mississippi State University Hall of Fame (2003). He was inducted into the Mississippi State Baseball Ring of Honor in 2019.
Clark was included into the inaugural class of the College Baseball Hall of Fame (2006) and was named to the College World Series Legends Team (2010), in a poll of college baseball writers and Division I coaches.
The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in California honored him in 2007.
Clark currently serves as a special assistant for the Giants organization.
For more on the baseball career of Will Clark, Crescent City Sports has a nine-part series on one of the best players the metro area has ever produced.
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New Orleans baseball historian
Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.