From his teammates to the fans to Candlestick Park, Will Clark left no thank-you behind in his much-anticipated jersey retirement speech.
After 15 minutes of gratitude, Clark finally made things about him. This was, after all, his day.
“I am Will ‘The Thrill’ Clark. I am a part of San Francisco. And I am forever a Giant,” he said, his final words muffled by a raucous crowd.
Clark’s No. 22 now hangs between Monte Irvin’s 20 and Willie Mays’ 24. It’s the 13th number immortalized by the franchise, including two from New York and Jackie Robinson’s universal 42.
“Will has earned his place on that wall,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said, enunciating every word.
After Clark’s speech, the former first baseman took home a commemorative first base bag with 22 printed on it. He threw a ceremonial first pitch, then tossed balls into the stands from an antique convertible.
With the Giants, Clark made five All-Star teams and finished in the top-five of MVP voting four times. He led the National League in RBI in 1988 and runs the next year. He still ranks in the top-10 in Giants history in 10 statistical categories.
But numbers can’t capture what Clark meant to the organization. Or his competitive fire. Or that sweet left-handed swing.
Clark homered off Nolan Ryan for his first career hit. He read Greg Maddux’s lips for a grand slam in the 1989 NLCS. His meticulous preparation and baseball mind endures today, when he mentors young Giants as a special assistant.
Al Rosen, the Giants’ general manager when Clark was drafted in 1985, told Clark that they needed to turn things around. San Francisco lost 100 games that season. Then with Clark, the Giants played five straight winning seasons.
“We created a winning atmosphere,” Clark told reporters in the press box after his speech concluded.
The shrieking voice, the confidence, the charisma that covered magazine covers and cereal boxes. He helped make the Giants relevant.
“He made it cool to be a Giants fan again,” Clark’s former teammate Mike Krukow said in his pregame speech.
Krukow’s ode to Clark was one of the most emotional parts of the ceremony, No. 22 said. He pointed up to the press box and raised both his hands when Krukow concluded with: “Thank you! It was a privilege to watch you play!”
Clark led the Giants to the 1989 World Series, but never won a ring. That doesn’t diminish his legacy, though.
“Our three world championships have Will’s fingerprints all over them,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said.
Even though Clark spent only eight of his 15 seasons with the Giants, the Louisiana native forged a rare connection with the fans and the city. On Saturday, swarths of No. 22 shirts and jerseys filled a packed Oracle Park. His signature backswing got mowed into the center field grass.
Clark’s jersey retirement ceremony was long anticipated. He, and the Giants fans who adore him, waited an extra two years for this day, which was initially scheduled in 2020. He had two years to perfect his speech.
“This right here is my hall of fame,” Clark said.
Clark thanked his friends, family, and key figures in Giants franchise history. He had choice words for Krukow and Duane Kuiper — two of his mentors — and Barry Bonds, whom he called the most talented player he ever played with or against. He marveled at Bruce Bochy and Buster Posey, asking to be included in their future Cooperstown ceremonies.
“You cannot do it without the support of your teammates,” Clark said in his speech. “It’s the ultimate team game with a bunch of individuals.”
Clark also joked about longtime clubhouse employee Mike Murphy, who told him “I’ll be here when you get here, and I’ll be here when you’re gone.”
Murphy was right, as he chuckled along right there with Clark on the infield grass.
The Giants included several others who couldn’t make the ceremony in person. Former managers Dusty Baker and Roger Craig sent in video messages. Orlando Cepeda also called in. Legends Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal sent in written messages that got displayed on the big screen.
The greatest of them all, Willie Mays, also wrote in.
“Today is your day, Will, and I am so happy to be able to be part of the celebration,” Mays wrote. “Welcome to the Club. You earned it. Congratulations and enjoy yourself.”
The Club just got a shot of a Thrill.