31 Jul

officially famous

The baseball branch of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame is quite impressive, featuring major league Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell, William Foster and Dizzy Dean plus an array of other stars who could form a juggernaut of a dream team. That roster added a pair of luminaries on Saturday, when Barry Lyons and David Dellucci were formally inducted into the state shrine. Lyons, a catcher, was a standout at Biloxi High and Delta State (under the legendary Boo Ferriss) and with the Double-A Jackson Mets on his path to the big leagues. He was the proverbial aircraft carrier for the 1985 Texas League champion JaxMets. He debuted with the New York Mets in 1986, when they won their second World Series, and played parts of six more years in the big leagues. What’s more, he is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Dellucci, an outfielder and also a very personable fellow, played four years at Ole Miss, earning All-America recognition and winning an SEC batting crown in 1995. He would go on to play 13 years in the big leagues, batting .256 and winning a World Series ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, the team built (though not managed) by Buck Showalter. Dellucci now works for the SEC Network. Lyons and Dellucci join a Hall of Fame team that includes Guy Bush and Buddy Myer, Will Clark and Jeff Brantley, Don Kessinger and Joe Gibbon, Jim Davenport and Roy Oswalt, plus many more. Those are names to know. And if you don’t know them, perhaps you should visit the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. You’d be impressed. P.S. On Saturday in San Francisco, Will Clark’s No. 22 was retired by the Giants in a big pregame ceremony. The former Mississippi State star was drafted No. 2 overall by the Giants in 1985 at a time when the club was struggling. Two years later, they won the National League West. Two years after that, they went to the World Series. Clark “made it cool to be a Giants fan again,” a teammate said. No. 22 jerseys and T-shirts were all over Oracle Park on Saturday. Clark was a five-time All-Star during his eight seasons with the Giants and still ranks among the franchise leaders in numerous hitting categories.

08 Apr

now that’s prophetic

The San Francisco Giants made Will Clark the second overall pick in the 1985 June amateur draft. It didn’t take long for them to get the feeling they had chosen wisely. On April 8, 1986, former Mississippi State All-American Clark homered in his first major league at-bat, going yard against future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in the first inning at Houston’s Astrodome. Clark, 22 at the time, hit .287 with 11 homers as a rookie and .303 with 284 bombs over his decorated 15-year career. He hit .333 with five homers in the postseason. Clark was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top five in MVP voting four times during his eight years with the Giants, including the 1989 World Series club. MLB Pipeline recently rated Clark the Giants’ best-ever draft pick. Hard to disagree. P.S. Big league bits: MSU product Mitch Moreland’s sixth career walk-off hit on Wednesday delivered Oakland its first win of the season, 4-3 over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 innings. … Brandon Woodruff, another Bulldogs alum, threw six no-hit innings, gave up a single in the seventh (his final inning) but got a no-decision in Milwaukee’s 4-2, 10-inning win vs. the Chicago Cubs. … Ex-State star Brent Rooker (neck) of Minnesota and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson (hamstring) of the Chicago White Sox have landed on the injured list.

01 Jun

digging up data

In the manager’s office at Smith-Wills Stadium one day many years ago, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan joked with Jackson Generals hitting coach and ex-big league masher Jorge Orta. “Jorge, this might be the first time I was ever glad to see you coming,” a grinning Ryan said as Orta approached for a handshake. In reality, Ryan handled Orta pretty well in their career matchups, holding him to a .179 average in 79 at-bats and striking him out 30 times. To be fair, Orta did hit a couple of home runs off the 324-game winner. Know who Ryan really hated to see coming? Will Clark. The former Mississippi State star famously homered against Ryan in his first career at-bat in 1986 and went on to smack five more bombs against him. No batter in MLB history hit more homers against Ryan, whose amazing career spanned 27 seasons (1966-1993). Clark was 12-for-36 career vs. Ryan, who did punch him out 12 times, adding to his MLB record total of 5,714 K’s. On the website baseball-reference.com, you can dig up career pitcher-batter matchups like those, and if you’ve got some time to kill, it’s worth a deep dive. Just taking Ryan as an example, you can decipher that he faced roughly two dozen Mississippians over the years. Rafael Palmeiro, Clark’s old MSU teammate, didn’t fare so well, going 2-for-12, two K’s. Jackson native Chet Lemon managed just five hits in 41 ABs vs. Ryan, fanning 18 times. Grenada native Dave Parker struck out 23 times and never took Ryan deep, though Parker hit .281 with a .338 OBP in 70 plate appearances. Greenville’s George Scott didn’t homer off Ryan either but did reach base 26 times in 67 plate appearances (.388 OBP) with 16 K’s. Former Shannon High star Dave Clark got just four at-bats against Ryan, but his one hit was a home run. Ex-Ole Miss star Donnie Kessinger and Gulfport native Bill Melton gave Ryan fits. Kessinger posted a .425 OBP and fanned just twice in 40 plate appearances. Melton hit two homers off Ryan and reached base 18 times against him, good for a .429 OBP.

12 Aug

a thrill for will

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.

08 Jun

draft notice

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.