Giants Baseball: Remembering 1980-Thrill

This is the top image search result for "Beloved baseball player stares into the middle distance." - Thearon W. Henderson

Will Clark never won a World Series, but he won a lot of hearts. Awwww.

Defining personalities of the 1980s (Entertainment Division) as defined by me:

Peter Venkman. Eddie Murphy. Michael Jackson. Cyndi Lauper. Marty McFly. Harrison Ford. Michael Knight.

Will Clark.

Not only is he one of the greatest Giants of all-time, but he's also one of the defining personalities of my childhood.

But you know all about Will Clark. Grant even provided some insight into his greatness. We're all Giants fans here. We know The Thrill. Those of us who watched him play have our own stories about him and what he meant to us at the time. We sense that he means a lot in Giants lore, too. You could throw an entire decade of Giants Baseball into a crucible and after the fire there would be pure Nuschler.

He was an icon. You could strip down the whole into parts and the parts were iconic. His first at bat. That left-handed swing, once described as looking like Dracula pulling open his cape (wish I could attribute this comment to someone. It's just one of those things that got caught in my brain's buffer a long time ago); the eye black; the number 22.

His jersey number, especially, is what cemented my hero worship. The first baseman -- 1B -- number 22. Look, my birthday is January 22nd. So, 1B-22. Come on. This was a sign. As a little kid I was powerless to fight this banal coincidence. His amazing play coupled with his attitude -- which, really, fits in quite nicely with the attitudes of the other 1980s personalities highlighted above -- made him bulletproof in my mind. I learned how to switch hit because I thought hitting left-handed like Will Clark made you a better baseball player. You could have your Madonna or Dutch Reagan or brothers of bash, I had Will the Thrill.

Maybe you've read this story before, but the first Major League Baseball game I attended was in 1988. Phillies at Candlestick. Sat right behind home plate. It was made out to be a big deal by my parents and I treated it then and remember it now as such. The whole day was special. Waking up in the morning in anticipation of going, driving to the stadium, looking up at the stadium for the very first time... it all mattered.

My dad managed to visit both dugouts and get autographs. Somewhere in my possessions there's a baseball glove with both Mike Schmidt's and Brett Butler's autograph. Of course, I was a jerky kid and I was not at all impressed. I wanted Will Clark's. It was the *only* autograph I wanted. Heck, it was the only player I wanted to meet. It was really the only reason I was interested in the game. But Clark went 0-for-4 that night. Literally, the only thing I remember about the game is that the fans in right field hung "K" signs -- which is when I learned that "K" meant strikeout -- and they hung nine of them. That's because Kelly Downs struck out a career-high nine batters. So, hey, in retrospect, I saw a bit of baseball history that night, but at the time I was bummed because I didn't get to meet my baseball hero.

I did, however, catch a glimpse of him after the game. We waited outside the players' entrance. That whole back lot area was poorly lit. I remember there being maybe a single floodlight shining a path from the doorway to the parked cars. There were guard rails on either side to clear a path, but it was so dark it was hard to see anybody. Even when the players walked out, the light was behind them so they looked more like silhouettes. I remember my dad had every intention of waiting until Clark appeared -- likely in an attempt to salvage the night, since earlier his jerky kid had sort of rejected his gift (of the autographs, the great seats, the food). Wow, I am awful.

Anyway, Clark didn't come out of the players' entrance. I guess he got to park in Candlestick's Bat Cave or something. Someone exclaimed that they saw him. The crowd in unison turned and watched as Clark -- still wearing his eyeblack -- zoomed by in a silver Porsche. He looked angry. I assumed he looked mad because he had a bad game. Wouldn't that be great if that was the truth?

Still, that fleeting glimpse of Will Clark made my night. I SAW HIM.

It was probably for the best that I never got to say hello to him or shake his hand. It's a lot like looking at his baseball card. Just the image gave the belief its power. The belief, of course, was that Will Clark was the coolest, baddest baseball player in the world (in the 80s, bad meant good). And don't think a Will Clark baseball card was an easy get. Most of the good players were hard to find. Baseball cards were our MLB.tv in the 1980s. It was the main way we learned about players on other teams and probably the best way for kids to stay connected to their favorite team. I remember that I didn't like my annual set until I had a Will Clark card. None of my friends would trade him to me, either, because they knew I wanted him. Jerks.

In conclusion, children are awful and Will Clark is amazing.

Topps Archives Baseball is a celebration of the 70s, 80s and 90s, what many consider to be the glory years of card collecting. If you collected Topps Baseball Cards during these years then you will love Topps Archives Baseball. Look for autographs and memorabilia cards from today’s stars and your favorite retired players on classic Topps card designs.

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