Ultimate cleanup hitter, Clark looks for monster year at Fenway

December 18, 1990|By Bob Ryan | Bob Ryan,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Some power guys will gladly bat third, fifth or sixth in the lineup, but they'd rather forfeit their meal money than bat cleanup and deal with the attendant pressure.

"If you're the type of guy who lets it bother you," says Boston Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, "cleanup can be a problem. Too many people make too much of it, and if a guy worries about it, then he isn't the classic four hitter."

Then, of course, there is Jack Clark.

"I love the cleanup spot," declares the newest member of the Boston Red Sox. "It feels good hitting fourth, seeing your name in the fourth spot. It means you're one of the better hitters. Hitting fourth is an ego-type thing. You just feel better about yourself, hitting fourth."

And fourth is where he will hit.

"That's why we got 'im," says Morgan, his latest skipper, with a smile.

The Red Sox putzed around last season without a real four man. Dwight Evans tried. Mike Greenwell tried. Ellis Burks tried. None really succeeded. The team abounded in third, fifth, sixth and seventh hitters. Central Casting failed to send over that classic cleanup man. Now, at great expense, and with massive expectations, comes Jack Clark, who believes playing in Fenway Park is the fulfillment of an athletic destiny.

"I've always wanted to get my 500 plate appearances here," he says, "to see what I can do."

Jack Clark is an intriguing hitter. As sluggers go, he is highly discriminating. Playing in just 115 games last season for the San Diego Padres, he led the National League with 104 walks.

And Clark does this without getting cheated at the dish. If he likes a pitch, he's not pawing at it. "I'm not a .350 hitter," he says. "I like to hit the ball as hard as I can."

Of his 1,652 lifetime base hits, 634 have been for extra bases. He generally has a startling ratio of base hits to runs batted in (e.g., 120 hits and 106 RBIs in '87; 110 hits and 94 RBIs in '89).

The best part is simply that Jack Clark wants to be here. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He's played on the West Coast. He's played in the heartland. He's even played in the Big Apple. He's seen it all, and at age 35 he has decided this is where he wants to be.

"I just think it's a great city and a great ballpark," he says.

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