I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. That means I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title, and waiting for them to win another. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a fan…at eight years old…This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers’ players have…I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly…and no neither one of those players will make my list…With all of that being said…
#22 First Baseman Tony Clark
When we think about Tony Clark we think about a career upset by horrible timing. Tony was drafted in 1990. The Tigers were going through a transition talent wise. He seemed to be one of the pieces for the next generation of Tigers. He would not debut for the big team till 1995 and by then the team had been sold, a new General Manager was about to begin bumbling his way through his five year rebuilding plan. The ownership was distracted with his hockey team becoming the champions they would become and aspirations to build a new baseball stadium…however by and large the reason Tony Clark didn’t put up bigger numbers is he was drafted to play in Old Tiger Stadium and his offense never fit in Comerica Park which was a lot bigger when he played there. His Home Run production would fall off by half with the move to the spacious field.
Clark was a home grown talent…the second overall pick of the 1990 draft. While we remember the 1990’s Tigers as being among the worst in baseball it seems that those teams had a little bit of talent. Clark, Travis Fryman, Bobby Higginson…Cecil Fielder was with the team till the trading deadline in 1996. It just seems that these teams never had that one piece to build around. They had a few pieces but that never translated to on the field success.
However the achilles heel of those teams was starting pitching. The Tigers had no starting pitching and how many years did we wait for Justin Thompson to pan out? In the end the only real consistent performer of the late 1990’s was Clark.
He hit 30 home runs in three straight seasons. Oddly enough his only All Star selection came in the second season in Comerica Park. He had a great stick for old Tiger Stadium and he was an above average defender at first. It is really too bad that the powers that be were never able to build a team around him. It is also a shame he never got to play in a World Series.
I am not saying Clark was the be all end all…but for those late 90’s teams he was one of the only reasons to buy a ticket. I know that cause on warm summer nights my friends and I would go to old Tiger Stadium just to see him (and yell at Bobby Higginson who had security throw us out of the twice). I can remember sitting in the Center Field bleachers ducking security and feeling like nobody else was there…