A list that includes Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds is pretty darn special. Will Clark, the former Mississippi State standout, is joining it. During an on-field ceremony Sunday honoring their 1989 World Series team, the San Francisco Giants announced that Clark’s No. 22 will be retired at another ceremony next year. Clark, nicknamed “The Thrill,” was taken aback by the exuberant reaction of his old teammates, who were hearing the news for the first time: “(T)hat right there just killed me.” After his star-spangled career in Starkville, Clark was the No. 2 overall pick – the highest any Mississippi product has been taken – in the 1985 draft by the Giants and reached the big leagues the next year. He played the first eight of his 15 MLB seasons for the Giants and was a driving force for the ’89 club that also included his former State teammate Jeff Brantley and Jackson Mets alum Kevin Mitchell. In the National League Championship Series against Chicago, Clark put on an unforgettable performance: 13-for-20, two homers and eight RBIs in five games. That World Series trip (a loss to Oakland) ended a 27-year drought for the storied franchise. Clark finished his career with a .303 average and 284 home runs. He and Bonds are the only two Giants to have their number retired who aren’t in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The major league draft often produces surprises, but it’s safe to assume that the Mississippi benchmark set 30 years ago by Will Clark will go unchallenged today. Former Mississippi State star Clark was the second overall pick in 1985 by San Francisco. No Mississippi-connected player before or since has gone No. 1 overall, though the state has had its fair share of first-rounders, including a No. 3 (B.J. Wallace of State by Montreal in 1992), a No. 5 (Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss by Cleveland in 2010) and two No. 8’s (Kirk Presley of Tupelo High by the New York Mets in 1993 and Paul Maholm of State by Pittsburgh in 2003). Just last year, Blake Anderson, a catcher from West Lauderdale, went in the supplemental phase of Round 1, No. 36 overall to Miami. MSU alum Hunter Renfroe (13th overall) and East Central Community College product Tim Anderson (17th) were first-round picks in 2013, and Stone County’s D.J. Davis (17th) and State’s Chris Stratton (20th) went in Round 1 in 2012. Other first-rounders (including supplemental picks) over the last 30 years include ex-State star Rafael Palmeiro (No. 22 in 1985), Jackson State’s Earl Sanders (1986), Steve Pegues of Pontotoc (1987), Stone County’s Sam Hence (1990), State’s Carlton Loewer (1994), ex-Bulldogs star Eric DuBose (1997), Oak Grove’s Donnie Bridges (1997), Matt Ginter of State (1999), Michael Rosamond of Ole Miss (1999), UM’s Chris Coghlan (2006), Wendell Fairley from George County (2007), State’s Ed Easley (2007), former Rebels star Lance Lynn (2008) and Madison Central’s Ryan Bolden (2010). Lynn, Easley, Coghlan and Pomeranz are currently in the big leagues. The first round of the draft will be televised tonight on MLB Network. No Mississippians are expected to be picked – but you never know. Anderson wasn’t projected to go on the first day last year.