The Greatest Summer Ever: Mark Clark
Steve Eby | On 02, Mar 2014
For the next 26 days, DTTWLN will profile and break down the roster of arguably the most exciting sports team that Cleveland has ever seen; the 1995 Cleveland Indians. The ’95 Tribe won 100 games in a strike-shortened 144 game schedule, won their first Central Division title and made the playoffs and World Series for the first time since 1954. Six players made the American League All-Star team, eight players batted .300 or better, and the pitching staff had the lowest ERA in the American League. The players have been ranked from the most important to the Tribe’s success to the 26th. Today breaks down #25 Mark Clark.
In a season of breakout stars like Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Jose Mesa, somebody on the 1995 Cleveland Indians had to be a bit of a disappoint and underachieve. That player was starting pitcher Mark Clark.
In 1994, Clark was on a good pitching staff with a young ace in Charles Nagy, veteran leaders in Dennis Martinez and Jack Morris, and promising up and coming pitchers like Chad Ogea, Albie Lopez, Julian Tavarez and Jason Grimsley. With so many other good arms, it was surprising to most people that the Indians most consistent starting pitcher was the man that the Indians received from St. Louis on March 31 the previous season in the Mark Whiten trade. Clark’s breakout ’94 season included an 11-3 record with a 3.82 ERA in 20 games started. Clark threw 4 complete games with one shutout. At 26 years old, Clark seemed to be a star pitcher in the making.
After having such great success in 1994, expectations were sky high for Clark and the Indians in 1995. The Indians obviously did not disappoint, winning their first Central Division championship and making it to the World Series for the first time in 41 years. For Clark, the season was a bit more of a letdown.
Clark was named the number two starter out of Spring Training, behind only Dennis Martinez and ahead of Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser and Bud Black. With the Indians having defeated the Texas Rangers in game one of the season, the Tribe turned to Clark in game two. This game was a sign of the struggles that would plague Clark for the entire season.
In the top of the first, the Indians gave Clark a nice early cushion as Albert Belle rocked a three run homerun off of Rangers starter Roger Pavlik that scored Omar Vizquel and Carlos Baerga. The three run lead was very short lived. After getting former Indian Otis Nixon to ground out weakly to Baerga, Clark allowed second hitter Jeff Frye to double to center field. Walks to Will Clark and Mickey Tettleton followed and an Ivan Rodriguez fielder’s choice that forced Frye out at home gave Clark and the Indians hope of working out of the early jam with no damage. Just like the Indians lead, that hope was short lived. Back to back singles from Rusty Greer and Dean Palmer tied the score at 3-3, and Mark McLemore’s 3-run homerun turned the Tribe’s three run lead into a three run deficit.
The second inning did not start any better for Clark, as after getting Nixon to fly out to left, Frye walked, Will Clark hit a single and Tettleton blasted a 3-run homerun to right field ending Clark’s day. The final line for the Tribe’s best pitcher from the previous year was 6 hits, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts and 9 runs (all of which were earned) in 1.1 innings pitched. Clark went to bed that night with a 60.75 ERA. The Indians did fight back to tie the game by scoring two runs in the 4th inning and four runs in the 6th, but Tettleton smacked his second homer of the game in the 8th inning off of Jim Poole and the Rangers went home happy with a 10-9 win.
The month of May was also rough for Clark. Even though he won his next two starts, he did not pitch as well as Cleveland fans were accustomed to seeing. He started a 14-7 win at Detroit in his second start, and pitched his best game of the month when he beat Kansas City when he pitched 5.1 innings and allowed only two runs. The Indians won that game 6-2. After this outing, however, the wheels fell off for Mark Clark. In a May 13 contest in Baltimore, Clark allowed 5 runs in 5 innings. In his next start in Boston, Clark did not make it out of the 4th inning. Finally, in his last start in May, Clark was blasted by the Milwaukee Brewers at home allowing six earned runs in 3.2 innings.
By this time, Clark had a 2-2 record with a 10.65 ERA. With so many good arms waiting at AAA, the Indians decided that it was time to make a move. The Tribe optionEd Clark to AAA and called up rookie Chad Ogea to replace him in the rotation. Determined to get back to the juggernaut Indians, Clark pitched extremely well for the Buffalo Bisons. He started five games, had a 4-0 record, and a 3.57 ERA in the month of June. This improvement prompted the Indians to promote Clark back to the big league club for a June 27 start in Kansas City, in which Clark pitched one of his best games of the season. During the 7-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium, Clark pitched eight innings allowing only one run on five hits. In his next start, Clark shut out the Twins in Minnesota over five innings. At this point, it seemed that Clark had finally regained the form that he had shown the previous year.
Not everything is as it seems, however. Clark pitched inconsistently for the Tribe in July, August and September and was left off of the playoff roster in favor of carrying a 5th outfielder, Ruben Amaro. His final numbers for the 1995 season include a 9-3 record with a 5.27 ERA. Clark never seemed to pick up where he left off in 1994 and was never able to fully recover from his woeful first start in ’95.
Clark would never pitch for Cleveland again after 1995 as the Indians traded him on March 31, 1996 to the New York Mets for pitcher Reid Cornelius and outfielder Ryan Thompson. This trade came exactly three years after the Cardinals dealt him to Cleveland.
Clark rebounded nicely to win 14 games with a 3.43 ERA for the Mets in 1996. In August of 1997, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs where he pitched brilliantly down the stretch. In 1998, Clark was a part of the starting rotation that helped the Cubs reach the postseason. This time, Clark made the postseason roster and was a tough-luck loser in his only career postseason start against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series.
Mark Clark spent the last two seasons of his career pitching for the Texas Rangers. He retired after the 2000 season having a 74-71 career record with a 4.61 ERA. He pitched for five different teams over 10 years and helped two of them reach the postseason. Clark’s contributions to the 1995 Indians were not what most people were expecting or hoping for, but that should not sour an otherwise solid Major League career.
Tomorrow: Wayne Kirby
#26 Dave Winfield