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In 1986, during the San Francisco Giants' spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona, a rookie named Will Clark loudly told everyone in the clubhouse how happy he is, how great spring training is, how wonderful the sport of baseball is, and so on.

Two of the veterans on the team, Mike Krukow and Bob Brenly, chuckle to themselves over the brashness of this youngster. Finally, Krukow asks Clark why he's acting this way.

"Why?" says Clark in his trademark Cajun drawl. "Because I'm just THRILLED to be here!"

The veterans laughed, because a new nickname had been born — Will the Thrill.


"What would I need another million dollars for? So I could buy a million guns?"
—Clark, in a late-1980s Sports Illustrated article.


William Nuschler Clark, aka Will the Thrill, was a first baseman in Major League Baseball, primarily with the Giants and the Texas Rangers.

For a time he was one of the best hitters in all of baseball, if not the best, period. From his first-ever MLB at-bat in 1986, when he hit a home run off future-Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, until the early 1990s, he was consistently among the league leaders in batting average and home runs. Clark was a key member of the Giants' 1989 World Series team, hitting an unearthly .650 in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, including a series-winning single off Mitch Williams.

He signed a free-agent deal with the Rangers following the 1993 season — a season in which the Giants won 103 games yet failed to make the playoffs — and began to stop hitting for power, although his batting average stayed high. Later in the decade Clark joined the Baltimore Orioles, and he closed out his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000.

Clark was born in 1964 in New Orleans. His father — is this perfect or what? — is a pool shark. Will attended Mississippi State University and won the 1985 Golden Spikes award, given to the best amateur baseball player in the country. The Giants drafted him as the second overall selection, and sent him to their minor-league team in Fresno, that summer.

He tore up the pitching in single-A — he hit a homer in his first minor-league at-bat, too — and the Giants gave him a crack at the big leagues in 1986. It didn't take a long time for Clark to make a name for himself, literally or figuratively.

In 1986 he helped the Giants finish in second place in the NL West, a huge accomplishment for a team that lost 100 games the season before. 1987 saw the Giants win the NL West but lose to the Cardinals in the NLCS; in 1989, the Giants beat the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS before losing the World Series to the Oakland Athletics, a series more remembered for the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake than for Oakland's great team.

Through it all, Clark kept his individuality. He shrugged it off when his teammates played a prank by painting his cowboy boots orange his rookie year. In 1988 he got into a fight at second base with both Cardinals middle infielders, Ozzie Smith and Jose Oquendo, and did a good job holding them off before his teammates arrived. Clark also has a ... ahem, unique face; think an elongated Nicolas Cage head with big ears. Krukow, the Giants' veteran pitcher, could do a very good imitation of Clark's game face, which he called the "Nuschler face" after Clark's unusual middle name.

Clark went to the Rangers in 1994 — the Giants only had enough money to re-sign either Clark or second baseman Robby Thompson, and they chose Thompson because quality second baseman are harder to find — where he replaced the popular Rafael Palmeiro. It would not be a good move for the Rangers; Palmeiro would have awesome years with the Baltimore Orioles, while Clark's power numbers were fading. However, the Rangers did make the playoffs a few times during Clark's stay there, losing to the New York Yankees in the divisional round in 1996 and 1998.

Palmeiro and Clark switched places again after the 1998 season, with Clark going to Baltimore and Palmeiro back to Texas. The Orioles were God-awful at this point; Clark's most exciting moment was probably came in the unprecedented exhibition game against the Cuban national team in Havana. Clark hit a double in the 11th inning of that game and was driven in by Harold Baines to score.

Final thought: For a while, Clark put B.B. King's version of The Thrill is Gone as his answering machine message. If nothing else, Clark had a sense of humor.

As of 2005, Clark is a roving instructor for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

More info:

http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/C/Clark_Will.stm
http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/clarkwi02.shtml

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