Saturday, June 6, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: C is for…

Clark, as in Tony

After being claimed off waivers from the Tigers, Tony Clark played for the Red Sox during the 2002 season. Clark had a lot of talent, but he was never able to put it all together in Boston. He barely hit over .200, and his power numbers were almost non-existent. There were several theories thrown out as to why there was a decline. The one I like the most is that Tony was a player rep for the union, and this was a big contract year. He had to spend so much time, and brain activity, keeping baseball away from a strike, that it took away from his hitting. The numbers do seem to support that, since he became a serviceable player again after that season. In 2005 with Arizona, he even put together a .300/30/87 season. So, it’s possible that his Red Sox season was a bit of a fluke. Unfortunately, that didn’t help the Sox. No matter the numbers, it was never in doubt what a great guy Clark was. Fans loved his personality and love for the game. Teammates raved about him everywhere he went.

One Tony Clark story, involving myself, I like to share occurred during the 2002 season. The Red Sox Wives had organized a food drive outside of Fenway Park. If you brought in 5 cans of food, you would get an autographed picture of one of the Red Sox players. The wives would be out at tables collecting cans, and giving out the pictures. They announced that, to avoid riots, you wouldn’t know which player you would get. They would just hand you whichever photo came up. I went up to a table, that didn’t have anyone else at it, and handed over my canned food. Maybe it was because I was alone, or maybe they changed their minds, but they asked me which player I’d like. I was thrown by the question a bit, and said I’d take whomever they offered. One of the wives at the table asked if I’d like Tony Clark. I responded that of course I would, he’s great. I took my picture away very pleased. Only then did I look back at the table and notice that the wives were wearing the jerseys of their husbands. The wife who asked me the question was apparently Shea Hillenbrand’s. The one who gave me the photo? Mrs. Tony Clark. I was instantly grateful that I didn’t respond with, “Why would I want that bum?” I also realized that it was probably a risky question to ask. But, it all worked out for the best.

My other Tony Clark story happened later in the 2002 season. I was on vacation in Bermuda, sitting at a bus stop in the capitol city of Hamilton. I was wearing my Red Sox hat, as usual. As I’m sitting there waiting for the bus, an older gentleman leans over to me. He says, “Hi. I’m from Detroit. Thanks for taking Tony Clark off our hands.” It was one of those examples of the reach of baseball, especially the Sox. Here I am, sitting in a foreign country, and the topic of the Red Sox comes up. Apparently, Red Sox nation is international as well. It also showed how far Clark had fallen that year, with strangers going out of their way to mock me for it. But, I love it. That’s why I’m a Red Sox fan.

Overall, 2002 was probably a forgettable season for Tony Clark. But, he managed to fashion a nice little career for himself. I wish him well.

C is for Clark, Tony

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