What is your favorite card? I have a few: 1953 Topps Ed Mathews. 1971 Topps Willie McCovey. 1978 Topps Eddie Murray. Tonight, in what I hope will become a running series on The Baseball Card Blog, I'm opening the floor to Drew, a fellow collector, to tell us about his favorite card.
People often ask me which of my thousands of Will Clark cards is my favorite. My mind always moves to some of my more valuable cards, including the 1993 Finest Refractor, 1993 Pinnacle Cooperstown Dufex and my newly acquired 2005 UD Heroes auto/patch. While I really like all of those cards, and adding them to my collection was a thrill, they've never been my favorite.
Instead, my favorite card has long been Will's 1993 Donruss "Spirit of the Game" card. It's only worth a quarter or so, but it has been my favorite pretty much from the day I acquired it. While I don't actually recall when I first got the card, it was most likely at a card show not long after its release. I'd been collecting Will's cards since 1987, and the baseball card industry's growth in the early 90's gave me dozens of new cards to chase at card shows each summer. The chase hasn't stopped yet.
For Giants fans, memories of that summer of 1993 will always be bittersweet. In what some have named "The Last Pennant Race," the Giants sprinted to a wide lead over popular favorite Atlanta, only to see the Braves catch fire and pull ahead in September. The season's final day started with each team knotted at 103-58. The Braves cruised to an easy win in their afternoon game against the expansion Rockies. The Giants, on the other hand, had to face their long-time arch rival Los Angeles. San Francisco quickly fell behind, never putting up much of a fight, and losing the last pre-wildcard National League West crown by a single game.
When you first look at Will's Spirit of the Game card, it may look uninspired. While it does feature a nice action shot of Will slashing a ball down the third base line, for some reason the picture never really did much for me. I think Donruss may have cropped it just a bit too tight, hoping to show Will's well-known sneer and eye black. The card is, at least, uncluttered by borders and graphics, allowing the picture to come through clearly.
It's only when you turn the card over that its real appeal comes through. The card's reverse is an absolutely classic baseball card, and is particularly appropriate for that summer of 1993. The image shows Will with his batting helmet in hand, acknowledging the home-town crowd in the glare of the bright San Francisco sun. It's tough to say for sure, but I like to think Will's standing on second base after driving home two runs to put the Giants ahead late in the game. The crowd's on its feet, cheering their long-time team leader after he once again came through in the clutch. Even better, Will's showing off his famous intensity, failing to break his game face even as thousands cheer him on.
The card's design adds to the great image, generally allowing the photo to tell its own story, something too few baseball cards do. Other than the card number and copyright, the only graphic is the bold text telling baseball fans what they already knew.
Will left San Francisco after the 1993 season. While I long suspected he'd leave as a free agent, I didn't know how I'd react when it actually happened. I remain a die-hard Giants fan to this day, even after the player who brought my devotion to the team left for Texas. I know not all baseball fans liked Will during his career, but I have yet to find one that didn't respect and appreciate him. He was, simply, The Thrill, and this card shows him as I'll always remember him, basking in the sunlight on a warm San Francisco afternoon.
Drew runs Thrill22, a Will Clark fan site/card gallery.
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