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Ex-Cardinal slugger Clark to sign autographs at Otters game

By Gordon Engelhardt - Evansville Courier & Press
July 30, 2011

Jack Clark has firsthand knowledge of stubborn men who refuse to go to the doctor, with disastrous consequences.

His father, Ralph Clark, was never screened for colon and prostate cancers, a process that might have saved his life.

"He was old school," said Clark, who will appear before and after the Evansville Otters' Frontier League baseball game against Washington at 6:35 p.m. on Aug. 10 at Bosse Field. "I was never told until he knew he had six months to a year to live. He made it eight months."

The former St. Louis Cardinals slugger is the featured guest as the Evansville Cancer Center hosts the 10th annual Men's Health and Prostate Cancer Awareness Program. The public program begins at 5:30 at the ballpark. Following the game, those in attendance will be treated to a 30-minute fireworks show.

Unlike his father, who died five years ago, Jack gets regularly tested for cancer and tries to spread awareness of the disease.

"There is no age limit (to getting prostate cancer)," Clark said. "When you're 50 years old, you should start getting checked. It saves lives, basically."

He said it hurt deeply to watch someone slip away when checkups could have averted heartbreak.

On the field, Clark is probably best known to Cardinals' fans as "Jack the Ripper," who crushed the first pitch he saw in the top of the ninth from Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer over the left-field fence for a three-run homer in Game 6 of the 1985 National League Championship Series, sending St. Louis to the World Series. With runners on second and third and two outs, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda may spend all of eternity wondering why he didn't walk Clark and pitch to Andy Van Slyke, who had not yet blossomed.

"That was my favorite swing and my most important hit," said Clark, a four-time All-Star who hit 340 home runs in his career. "He was trying to get an early strike and I didn't miss. It was payback for all those years I spent in San Francisco. Ken Dayley closed it out and we went to the World Series."

Clark, who still resides in St. Louis, said he is asked about his famous home run once or twice or even five to 10 times a day, depending on where he travels around the city. He said he could "write a book" about people telling him where they were and what they were doing when he hit his homer.

"Everybody knows where they were, whether they were in school or in the military or on a boat in Japan," Clark said.

He appreciates St. Louis' baseball history and how well fans treat the Cardinals. "When I was here, Cesar Cedeno also did things that were very special," Clark said. "When Lance Berkman went to the Yankees (last year), people thought his career was over."

But special things can happen when a player puts on a uniform with the bird and bat on the front, Clark said.

He is part of a postgame radio show on St. Louis' KTRS 550 AM, which is streamed on the Internet. In 2010 and '11, Clark was a part-time analyst on Fox Sports Midwest (FSM), which carries most of the Cardinals' television broadcasts. But he left FSM last September.

Clark said it was a combination of things, including ripping the team on the radio for a "pathetic effort" as they fell apart down the stretch. He also criticized St. Louis for hiring Mark McGwire as hitting instructor because McGwire admitted using steroids as a player.

"There wasn't enough work and there wasn't enough money for what they were asking me to do," Clark said. "McGwire did steroids and you don't get a free pass from me about steroids (as a player from the pre-steroid era). I'm not hypocritical."

As former manager of the River City Rascals in 1999 and later a member of their coaching staff, Clark is familiar with Bosse Field. He pointed out that other former Cardinals greats such as Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith have come to Evansville to raise prostate cancer awareness.

"We can beat prostate cancer by simply putting our pride aside and doing what is best for our health," Clark said.

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