Clark answers Babe Ruth audience
ALL-STAR – Will Clark, right, autographs a baseball for eight-year-old Taylor Rhett at the Frank Cochran Center Thursday night. Rhett's father, Jeffrey, went to college with Clark at Mississippi State. PHOTO BY CARISA MCCAIN / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
August 2, 2002
The Southwest Regional Babe Ruth banquet featuring former Major League Baseball player Will Clark turned into a lengthy evening on Thursday night.
A larger than expected crowd came out to hear Clark speak about his days as a ball player. Because of the long service line, players and fans waited nearly 2 1/4 hours before Clark addressed the audience.
His remarks were well received, especially during a wide-ranging question-answer session.
The 15-year veteran played for four major league teams: San Francisco, Texas, Baltimore and St. Louis. He retired after the 2000 season with St. Louis following the National League Championship series against the New York Mets.
One of the questions Clark fielded mid-way through the evening was whether he would make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His answer:
For Clark, that was the beauty of baseball for him. He had 2,176 hits and finished with .303 career average. But his proudest achievement may have been captured in an answer to a question about facing Randy Johnson, now currently with the World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
The toughest pitcher Clark ever faced?
Someone then brought up Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves, which drew a surprise admission from Clark.
Later in the session, Clark elaborated more on Maddux after someone said, "So you say Maddux throws spit-balls?"
Best Player: "Barry Bonds. He gives 100 percent when he's out on the field. In between the lines, he's the first guy I'd pick. Outside the lines, he's the one guy I'd want to get as far away from as I could."
Best Manager: "Dusty Baker. He never put you in position to fail. If you were a good fastball hitter, he'd make sure you would face a fastball pitcher. His first year to manage was my last year in San Francisco, but we 103 games that year."
His idol growing up: "Being from New Orleans, we watched a lot of the Kansas City Royals, so it would be George Brett. I copied his swing from the right side. And Mike Schmidt's from the left."
Best ball park: "The old ball parks with history like Yankee Stadium and Fenway. Of the newer parks, I like San Diego. It's the reason why Tony Gywnn never left."
One of the biggest applause of the night to a Clark answer was on Pete Rose.
Before Clark's speech, Tournament Director presented North Meridian Optimist Club President Rob Bullock a plaque in recognizing his efforts to make Meridian baseball a success. Meridian had all six of its baseball teams from the 9-year-olds to the 14s advance to Southwest Regional play, with four winning state championships.