I was taught early on that the other team is, well, the other team and your only interest should be to beat them. But much like Willie Mays quietly applauding Joe DiMaggio’s home run in the 1951 World Series, I found myself clapping for Tony Clark – an Arizona Diamondback – as he walked out of Yankee Stadium yesterday.
Clark was sharply dressed in a brown suit and stopped to sign a few autographs before climbing on the bus. His Yankee career was quick – 106 games in 2004 – and his numbers – .221 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs – weren’t huge, but he meant a lot to this team, his teammates and the people in this neighborhood.
The mood around here rides on our baseball team and 2004 – like all baseball seasons – had plenty of ups and downs. Clark was always a calming voice. After tough losses I used to find myself hoping they would interview him. He could put a positive spin on even the most disappointing defeats.
“Everything’s going to be fine,” he would say. “We just need to tighten it up. We’re having better at-bats and the hits will come. Now, we’ll sleep fast and get back after it tomorrow.”
Short, sweet and full of clichés. It may not have been exciting for reporters, but it was perfect for fans.
Even now, I’ll ask myself: “What would Tony say?”
“You need to keep the same attitude whether you’re on a winning streak or a losing streak. This is a difficult game and it’s always changing. All you can do is play ‘em hard and see where you end up.”
Tony Clark will make a great manager someday.