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October 16, 1985 : THE DAY THAT WON'T GO AWAY : JACK CLARK : With One Swing of His Bat, the St. Louis Cardinals' First Baseman Ended Dodger Hopes Last Season by Powering a Ninth-Inning Fastball Into the Left-Field Pavilion at Dodger Stadium to Put His Team Into the World Series

March 10, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For Tom Lasorda's sake, the Dodgers should add a Bonfire Night to their list of promotional dates.

And on the mound at Dodger Stadium, piled high to the sky, they should stack a certain Louisville Slugger bat, cut from the wood of a northern ash, 34 inches in length, 32 ounces in weight, number M253. The signature on the barrel: Joe Morgan.

The bats should all have been confiscated on the last day of the 1982 season, when Morgan leveled the Dodgers at the kneecaps with a home run off of Terry Forster, costing them a division title.

Instead, one wound up in the hands of Jack Clark three years later.

Same bat, same destruction, and another pennant went up in smoke. From ash to ashes, so to speak.

Morgan's name may have been on the bat, but Clark branded his forever as a co-signer with his Game 6 home run off Tom Niedenfuer, at least on the scorecard of Dodger memories.

" It's the way I always imagined the big leagues to be like--the fans, the win, the way it was done. With the Giants, I had heard so much about Bobby Thomson, seen the home run so many times on the highlight film. I also had seen Willie McCovey line out to the second baseman (Bobby Richardson) in the seventh game of the '62 World Series.

" I had thought about it, I had dreamed about it, but when I got in that position I wasn't really thinking about it. I was concentrating because I hadn't been swinging the bat real good; that probably helped me relax more.

" I was going to take my chances on getting a good pitch and try not to miss it or foul it back. If I'd hit a long fly ball or a line drive, I would have been happy that I'd given it my best shot, my 'A' effort. It's nice that it worked out the way it did.

" Even before the inning started, I knew I might get in that position. Of course, they could have snatched the opportunity away from me by walking me. "

No one will ever forget that Lasorda had the option of taking the bat out of Clark's hands, not with fire but with a base on balls. He didn't do it, and got burned.

And Clark got famous. Or did he?

"I didn't get any endorsements flying my way, if that's what you mean," Clark said the other day at the St. Louis Cardinals' spring-training base here.

"A household name in L.A.? That's good, because we're moving there. We're moving to Newport Beach."

For Clark, who grew up in Azusa, the move represents something of a homecoming. And while Clark says he's happy to be with the Cardinals, the uncertainty of his contract situation--he's in the last-year of a four-year contract that will pay him $1.3 million in 1986--has him contemplating aloud what it would be like to play for the Dodgers.

"I always thought I'd be a Dodger sometime in my career," he said. "I'd love to play there sometime.

"I'm in the prime of my career. If I can't play here (with St. Louis), if something can't be worked out . . . you know, I'm 30 years old, and they're only giving out three-year deals now. Sometimes you have to move on."

The grief he caused Lasorda, Clark said, would be nothing compared to the pleasure he'd get from playing for the Dodger manager.

"Lasorda's always been real good to me," Clark said. "The first time we came here at the start of the playoffs, Lasorda gave me a hug. I've known him since he was managing Ron Cey in the Dominican.

"It would be a lot of fun. He's always been more one of the boys, rather than the manager, which makes him easier to play for.

"When I had that collision with (Mike) Scioscia (last July 21), Tommy came to me and said, 'Are you all right.' Then he went to Scioscia. I appreciated that."

Clark said he also appreciates the dilemma he created for Lasorda in Game 6. Would Jack Clark have walked Jack Clark in that situation--Ozzie Smith on third, Willie McGee on second, two out in the ninth, the Dodgers ahead, 5-4? It depends, he says.

"I would have unintentionally intentionally walked me," Clark said. "Don't give him anything good. If he wants to swing at those pitches, fine, but if it's 3-and-0 and he hasn't swung, I would have walked him.

"But the thing is, Lasorda knows his own team. I don't know Niedenfuer and the Dodgers that well. A lot of times you don't know the inside scoop when that situation has come up before. He has watched the guy before, and that adds into his decision.

"You just have to make a decision. I give Tommy a lot of credit. I have a lot of respect for him. He didn't go by the book."

\o7 In the seventh inning of the same game, Clark had come to the plate with Ozzie Smith on third and Niedenfuer had struck him out.

"If he'd gotten me out again, I would have been the goat two times in a row. He had moved the ball inside and outside on me, then he went upstairs on me, challenged me. I think I went after a ball that was a little out of the strike zone.

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