Will Clark

Will Clark recalls reading Greg Maddux's lips before famous NLCS slam

Will Clark recalls reading Greg Maddux's lips before famous NLCS slam

You see it every night when you watch a game. The pitching coach walks slowly out of the dugout and the catcher joins him at the mound. As they discuss the plan of action for the next batter, the pitcher holds his glove up over his face and the catcher does the same. With 30,000 fans surrounding them and the opposing dugout just a few yards away, they talk in hushed tones with covered faces. 

As the legend goes, this somewhat ridiculous act of paranoia was started because of Will Clark.

The story around the game has been that Clark hit his famous grand slam off Greg Maddux in the 1989 NLCS after reading Maddux's lips during a mound meeting right before he dug into the plate. The whole game is on YouTube and you can see the sequence -- including Clark watching Maddux -- at the 1:21:20 mark. 

On this week's "SF Giants: Chalk Talk at Home," Clark retold that story. Did he read Maddux's lips seconds before blasting a ball over the bleachers?

"That is a true story," Clark said. "But to add to that story, it was almost common sense, too. My first at-bat he threw me away and I went to left field for a double. Next at-bat, he threw me away every pitch and I wound up hitting a home run out to right-center. And in the meantime we had Brett Butler and Pat Sheridan in the lineup -- two left-handers -- and he was pounding them in, so sooner or later I'm going to see a fastball in.

"I was kind of almost going to be looking for it and then when I was standing in the on-deck circle and saw him say 'fastball in.'"

Clark was standing there with Kevin Mitchell. 

"You saw what he just said?" Clark asked.

"What?" Mitchell said. 

"It was fastball in," Clark said. 

"What are you going to do?" Mitchell asked.

"I'm going to look fastball in," Clark said. 

"It just so happened it was the first pitch," Clark recalled on the show. "Thank God I didn't miss it."

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The Giants won that game 11-3 -- Clark had four hits, two homers and six RBI -- and went on to win the series. Maddux, of course, became one of the greatest right-handers of all time, and it was common to see him standing out there on the mound with the glove covering his mouth. But was that really to prevent another "fastball in" moment?

Jayson Stark did a deep dive into all of this seven years ago and some of Maddux's teammates confirmed that he was the first pitcher they could remember who covered his face with his glove. But former Cub Rick Sutcliffe said it wasn't because of Clark.

Sutcliffe said Maddux had a bad habit of getting the sign and mouthing the pitch he was going to throw, and he also had another habit the glove could hide. 

"Greg was a guy who used some profanity from time to time," Sutcliffe told Stark. "And finally his wife told him: 'If you're gonna say those things when you're on TV, at least cover your mouth.'"

Stark determined that Curt Schilling might actually be the one who popularized glove-talking. Schilling recalled doing it out of paranoia during a huge moment in the 1993 World Series.

"I think I might have invented that," he told Stark.

[RELATED: Kevin Mitchell tells wild story about homering with nail in bat]

We'll never know who really made this such a popular move with pitchers and catchers. All Clark knows is that it has reached a comical point. He recalled watching former Giants catcher Andrew Susac go out for a visit a few years ago with a hockey style mask. Susac put his glove up to cover the mask.

"I go, 'Andrew, nobody can see your freakin' face anyway and you're covering it up!'" Clark said. "Now we can't even hear what the hell he's talking about."

Will Clark tells wild story of Kevin Mitchell homering with nails in bat

Will Clark tells wild story of Kevin Mitchell homering with nails in bat

Larry David once based an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on a simple question: Do you respect wood? The comedian was appalled by his friends putting drinks down directly on wooden surfaces and leaving marks, and he probably feels the same way when he sees a modern big leaguer throw an entire bat away because he thought he heard a crack. It wasn't always that way, though. 

For most of baseball's history, equipment wasn't quite as plentiful. These days every rookie that comes up has a bag with a dozen bats in it, and he can easily order more, but back in 1989, one of the world's best players got caught in a jam. On this week's "SF Giants: Chalk Talk at Home," airing at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area, Will Clark told a hilarious story about Kevin Mitchell running out of bats and being forced to find a creative solution. 

"We're in Pittsburgh and Kevin is running low on bats. He's down to his last bat, and he's been waiting on his bat order to come in, and he breaks (his bat) the night before -- he's got a little hairline crack in the handle," Clark said. "He comes up to me and goes, 'Thrill, Thrill, what are we going to do? I don't have another bat! I don't have another bat!' I said, 'Give me your bat, we'll take care of it.'

"I went up and got some freaking roofing nails and I bashed some roofing nails in there and we put a bunch of pine tar on it. I'll be damned if the first at-bat he doesn't go upper deck in Pittsburgh with a broken-bat with roofing nails."

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That was par for the course for Mitchell after he got settled in with the Giants. Mitchell was traded over in 1987 and two years later won the MVP award, hitting a league-leading 47 homes. It's unclear which exact game Clark is talking about, but Mitchell did go deep on back-to-back days in Pittsburgh in early July, with the box score for July 5 describing it as a homer to deep left field. 

[RELATED: Ex-Giant Mac Williamson recalls summer in KBO]

That homer, which seems to be the one, gave Mitchell 76 RBI through 83 Giants games. He would finish with 125 for a team that won the pennant. 

"Kevin would say 'You go, we go,'" Clark recalled, "And I would say 'No, we all go and you drive us in.'"

Will Clark joins Gabe Kapler, Giants coaches on Zoom video meeting

Will Clark joins Gabe Kapler, Giants coaches on Zoom video meeting

There are no baseball games right now, but that hasn't stopped Gabe Kapler and the rest of his Giants coaching staff from collaborating. 

Kapler and Co. are communicating through video calls on Zoom, and a Giants legend recently joined them. Will Clark hopped on one of the meetings with Kapler and team personnel last week, the manager told the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea.

“He just killed it," Kapler said to Shea. 

Clark even answered a question about his famous slide in 1988 that caused a massive brawl with the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

The always-entertaining Clark mostly explained what made him a successful player over his 15-year career. He was a six-time All-Star and made five straight Midsummer Classics with the Giants from 1988 to '92. 

San Francisco was set to retire Clark's No. 22 jersey this season before baseball came to a crashing halt due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One thing is for certain, though. Kapler wants to use Clark as an asset with his coaches and players going forward. 

"It was an excellent learn not just on Will Clark's baseball acumen but also his communication style," Kapler told Shea. "You talk about somebody I'd bet on making an impact on this coaching staff and into the future with the San Francisco Giants, it's probably Will Clark."

[RELATED: Zaidi explains how Buster Posey, Joey Bart can play together]

Clark spent the first eight years of his big league career in San Francisco, and told NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez last August that he always wanted to be a Giant for life. Clark hit 176 of his 284 career home runs with the Giants, and Kapler also is particularly interested in how the first baseman stayed successful later into his career. 

Between the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Cardinals, Clark hit .313 and averaged 17 home runs over the final four years of his career. While the Giants still are going through a rebuild, there's plenty of knowledge Clark can hand down to both younger players and veterans.

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