May 13, 2015

Top Pitcher On the 1996 Mets Staff: Mark Clark (1996-1997)

Mark Willard Clark was born May 12, 1968 in Bath, Illinois. The six foot five right handed pitcher was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1988.

He began in the New York Penn League in 1989 & then went 14-9 with a 2.44 ERA at A ball Savannah the following season. He made his MLB debut in September 1991 earning his first victory during the last week of the season, it came against the Montreal Expos.

In 1992 he began the year at AAA Louisville going 4-4 with a 2.80 ERA. He got back to the Cardinals staff by June, then began the year at 0-3, before beating the Padres in San Diego for his first win. He would lose seven of his last eight starts through September, going 3-10 on the season. In 1993 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Mark Whiten. He went from being a starter to a reliever, then was sent down to the minors from mid July to September. When he returned he was back in the rotation & pitched well enough to go 3-1, including pitching into the eight inning or beyond three times. This included a complete game win over the Milwaukee Brewers where he allowed just two runs.

In 1994 Clark got off to a great start he was 8-1 going into mid June, & already had three complete games by that point. By the time the baseball strike ended the season in late July he was 11-3 with 3.82 ERA. His wins put him at tenth most in the AL & his .786 winning % was fourth best.

In the Indians 1995 AL Pennant season he fell off to a 9-7 record as his ERA rose to 5.27. He was lost in the mix of a pitching staff of Orel Hershiser (16 wins) Charles Nagy (16 wins) Dennis Martinez (12 wins) & rookie Chad Ogea (8 wins). Over three seasons in Cleveland he was 27-15. Clark was traded to the New York Mets for Ryan Thompson and Cornelius Reid at the end of Spring Training 1996.

Clark debuted as a Met as the fifth starter behind Generation K's Jason Isringhausen & Paul Wilson, as well as Bobby Jones & Pete Harnisch. He would allow just two runs in his first start but the Mets were shut out by Danny Darwin & the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0. In his next start he allowed five runs to the Rockie at Colorado taking a 6-5 loss.

On April 25th he earned his first Mets win, it came in St. Louis as he pitched a complete game against the Cardinals, allowing three runs on seven hits. He had a rough start with the Mets ending up 1-5 by the middle of May with a 4.37 ERA. But from that point until mid July, he went 9-1, over his next twelve starts, going into the eighth inning or beyond five times during that stretch.

On a west coast road trip he beat the Giants in San Francisco with a complete game win, & then beat the Dodgers in L.A. four days later. On the home stand back at Shea he split two decisions & then went on a six game win streak. In July he went into the 8th inning in back to back starts, allowing four runs in that 16 inning stretch, getting the win both times.

From there he had four bad starts losing three straight decisons allowing four or more runs in three of the four outings. He rebounded well enough to go 4-2 through the season. The impressive stretch in early summer had him finish up as one of the best pitchers on the Mets ’96 staff. He went 14-11, led the team in wins (14) ERA (3.43) innings (212) strikeouts (142) & starts (32). He threw two complete games and went into the 8th inning on nine different occasions.

In 1997 he got to start the second game of the season at Shea against the San Diego Padres, he allowed three runs over 6.1 innings but earned no decision in the Met loss. He won three straight at the end of April pitching into the 7th inning each time. On May 21st he pitched eight shut out innings to beat the Florida Marlins 2-1. On June 14th in the first week of inter league play, Clark pitched one of his best games ever, almost making Mets history.

As the Boston Red Sox came to Shea Stadium for the first time since Game #7 of the 1986 World Series, Mark Clark threw seven innings of no hit baseball. In the 8th inning, his no hit bid was ruined as Reggie Jefferson & Nomar Garciapara both led off with base hits hits. Clark was removed to a standing ovation from the Shea faithful as the Mets went on an eventual to a 5-2 victory.

Clark was a work horse pitching 142 innings in 23 games, while going 8-7 with a 4.25 ERA through early August. He was then traded to the Chicago Cubs, completing a trade that sent Lance Johnson & Manny Alexander to Chicago in exchange for Brian McRae, Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell.

In Chicago he went 6-1 the rest of the way helping the Cubs to a playoff berth. He was 0-1 in the NLDS losing to John Smoltz & the Atlanta Braves in the series opener. After falling to 9-14 the next year he signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers for two seasons. He posted losing records both years pitching in less than 15 games each year, he retired in 2000.

In a ten year career he was 74-71, posting a 4.61 ERA, striking out 728 batters walking 367 in 1246 innings pitched, in 219 games (197 starts) with three shut outs & 15 complete games.

Retirement: He retired back in his hometown of Bath, Illinois with his wife & two children. There he owns & operates a hunting club.

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