Thursday, July 19, 2012

Will Clak (Not a Typo)

It's apparently Will Clark takes over the Internet week.

He showed up first on Deadspin, as written by Grant Brisbee, the best Giants writer ever.

Then the SF Giants website posted a webisode, a clip of which recounted the same incident as Grant did: Will Clark's first big league at bat where he hit a homerun off Nolan Ryan in the Houston Astrodome.

I, without giving away my age (which is silly and most of you know), was younger than Grant when Will Clark hit that homerun so I have exactly no recollection of it. Who knows if we were even watching the game, but chances are highly likely that my dad at the very least had a radio on somewhere, as that is his preferred method of taking in a game he's not at. (Except that Jon Miller calls the Giants on the radio now and my dad and I both can't stand Jon Miller. I realize we are in the minority here, a lot of people lionize him, but we don't and end up yelling at the radio "Just call the effing ball game! For christsakes!")

Even if I had seen Will Clark's first homerun, I wouldn't remember it as I wasn't at an age where I had much in the way of cognitive abilities. But Will Clark would still end up having a pretty big impact on my formative years.

I spent an inordinate amount of summer days going to Giants games. My parents have always done shift work and had rotating days off and that meant my dad had weekdays to entertain two children by taking us out to Candlestick all the time. He still laments that I'm not the adorable toddler that I was then, who got players to toss us batting practice balls. That and the way the game is viewed now is drastically different from a mostly empty ballpark for midweek Giants/Pirates at the 'Stick. When's the last time you were inside AT&T to catch bp? Likely never. 

But Candlestick, and mid-80s Giants baseball, was different. You could walk up to the gate on gameday and be guaranteed cheap box seats. For those not familiar with the geography of SF: Candlestick is a) in the ghetto. Quite literally the worst part of the city. b) Near nothing of note. No restaurants or shopping. Which even if there was, it's not where you want to go wandering around anyway. c) Freezing ass cold with tons of wind at night in the summer but boiling hot during the day. It is a no man's land where a few office parks have cropped up but that's about it. It used to not even be that accessible by public transport except for special event busses, though that's changed a bit with the 3rd St Muni train. (I think. I rarely take Muni. And am, if my mother has her say, not taking it along 3rd St.) 

Making entry to the game even easier, when I was really little, as Krukow points out in the video, the Giants were bad. Lose a hundred games a season bad. Not that that registered to my itty bitty self and not that it stopped my dad from taking us to an endless stream of games. Grab us, grab our backpacks full of crayons and coloring books, and park us in a seat for four hours an afternoon. Also: I don't ever remember Candlestick being crowded. As it's a football stadium with an absurd amount of seats, I feel like we had entire rows to just roam around without bothering anyone.

I'm not gonna pretend I was some savant student of the game. I knew the basics, and with each passing year I picked up more and more until I did thoroughly understand it. We played at the park down the street all the time, my dad and a 5 gallon paint bucket of balls and me, my brother, and the neighbor kid taking hacks. I also, as is family lore, learned to say, "We hate the Dodgers!" at the tender age of two in reply to my dad's query of "What do we think of the Dodgers?" But mostly, especially early on, I was a pig tailed, blonde haired, girly girl excited to get to eat yet another Carnation chocolate malt off an awful wooden spoon stick thing. (Yeah, my hair was blonde until I was like 4, then got progressively darker. [Obligatory comment about my personality doing the same here.] My eyes were also blue long after they're supposed to change in babies. Then they turned green. Genetics!) (Question: is my over reliance on parenthetical asides to tell you more about me totally endearing or completely annoying? Please say endearing.) 

Then Will Clark arrived. And maybe a year after he arrived, I developed a crush on Will Clark. I found him, even as a little kid, utterly handsome. Since I, of course, was horrible at keeping this crush secret, my family teased me mercilessly about it. I was all of about seven years old at this point so I can see how parental types might find this cute and worth teasing. I hope they realize this is probably what makes me so damn secretive now. Maybe. Maybe I'm just designed that way. Regardless, my desire to not share drives my mother BATTY.

I wasn't the only one in my family to adore the brash first baseman. It helped that the addition of him, Robbie Thompson, and Matt Williams in our infield also meant the Giants were getting progressively better. The Giants weren't perpetual losers but making a run, all the way up to the '89 World Series, which they would lose to the A's. And had a giant (heh) earthquake in the middle of it.

Will Clark would work his way into our own family lore. As a kid I had a penchant for signing things with names that weren't mine. Some might call this forgery. Eh. Semantics. I may be the only seven year old in history to ever get in trouble with my teacher for signing my mom's name on something to hand in that wasn't signed by my mom. What in gods green earth made me think my loopy kid cursive resembled my mother's prefect writing is beyond me. But I did it. I don't remember the punishment being that severe though which is probably why I would continue to do it. I don't think there is anything that got sent home in high school that was actually signed by my parents. And as much as my brother and I didn't/don't get along, he'd hand me his stuff to sign too. When I passed my sage older kid advice on to one of his friends, "Pshaw, just sign it yourself", he got caught. Because he tried to accurately forge his parents signature and not just create a passable likeness. Lesson: don't trace, just sign a close approximation. No one is checking to see if they match. Seriously. Your high school algebra teacher is not taking out samples to compare. Make it not your writing and they don't give a shit. Disclaimer!: Except don't do that because it's forgery and forgery is bad.

One day at the park down the street, my brother and I are screwing around on the field with the obligatory bucket of balls, being little kids and he says, "Lisa! Sign it "Will Clark"!" We're like seven and eight. Again, I don't know what made us think this was a good idea or why we would do it. But I took a felt tipped pen and signed the ball Will Clark. It was typical block letter kid writing. And if memory serves, it wasn't even on a regulation baseball but one of those soft sided practice balls you get with your tee ball set. There, in indelible ink was my approximation of Will Clark's signature. Looking nothing like his actual signature. Especially since I forgot the "r". Will Clak. My parents would laugh hysterically when they discovered the "signed" ball amongst our bucket.

To this day my family calls him Will Clak. In fact, the email subject line of my dad alerting me to that three part series on the Giants website is titled "Will Clak".

The Giants wouldn't again approximate the success of the '89 season during his tenure at first base and Will would eventually get traded to the Rangers, breaking the hearts of a lot of Giants fans and teaching a young me about the business of baseball. After a series of middling first baseman, he'd eventually be replaced by J.T. Snow, who I would also quickly develop a much more mature teenage crush on.

It wasn't until I arrived at LSU that I even knew Will was from the state. I think a younger version of me thought they just sprung up fully formed onto the Giants and the concept of college ball/farm systems/growing up somewhere else was lost on me. They were Giants first and foremost and anything beyond that was immaterial to youthful me. I'd learn that like so many of the guys I adored while in college, he was a New Orleans Catholic school boy, having gone to a Jesuit high school, like I did. All of which made me appreciate him so much more. (I had to forgive him for going to MSU and not LSU because no one can be perfect.)

So here's to you, Will Clak, getting some much deserved media due.

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