Jack Clark's bid to stay in Pete Rose's shadow ended yesterday when the young San Francisco outfielder's hitting streak ended at 26 games.
St. Louis rookie Silvio Martinez stopped Clark four times as he pitched the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory over the Giants.
The closest Clark came to a hit was in the first inning. He backed Lou Brock to the left-field fence with a fly ball.
The Western Division-leading Giants got only two hits, doubles by Terry Whitfield and Darrell Evans, off Martinez, now 5-4.
I'd rather see it end in a winning game for us, but we didn't give up any ground. That's good," Clark said yesterday. Despite the loss, the Giants remained two games ahead of Cincinnati in the National League West. The Reds, with Pete Rose extending his modern NL hitting streak record to 39 games, were routed, 12-3, in New York.
"I would have liked to make it longer, but I got the team record." His 25th hit surpassed the Giants' mark shared by Fred Lindstrom, Don Mueller and Willie McCovey. "I'll have other battling streaks. Maybe later this year or some other season I can do better."
Although Clark was blanked yesterday, he left Candlestick Park knowing some people beyond the Bay Area now know his name.
Clark, 22, is a native of New Brighton, Pa., and a resident of Covina, Calif. A right-hand hitter, he is among the National League top batters at .318.
"I'm not incapable of hitting .400," he said in his deep-voiced, slow delivery.
He is among the top doubles hitters with 29, not too far behind Pette Rose in base hits with 117, and has 17 home runs.
His 76 RBI are responsible for the Giants being in front of the NL West since May 12, except for a single day, June 7, when they fell a half-game behind Cincinnati.
Clark was drafted as a pitcher by the Giants in the 10th round of the June, 1973, free agent grab.
"I feel," he says, "that if I couldn't cut it at third base or the outfield I could still go back to pitching and maybe hang around a while longer."
He need have no fear he can make it as an outfielder - a rightfielder. He already has.
Clark is his own man, a fun-loving soul who dresses in the free-thinking style of his peers - denims, unmatching colors, comfortable fitting, as relaxed in his clothes as he is at the plate.
He also is considerably more mature than he was in 1977 when he grumbled about the platooning system installed and strictly adhered to by Manager Joe Altobelli. He did not always hustle out his soft infield grounders on the twisting corner flies hit by opposing batters.
"That's just my style, he said then. "I hustle and get there when I have to. But I don't waste energy. They (the Giants) have got to understand that. That's been my style since I began playing the game."
Clark, who was converted from pitcher to outfielder when the Giants considered his .517 batting average with Gladstone High School in Azuza, Calif. credits his religion - and Maury Wills - the one-time base stealing champion of the Los Angeles Dodgers and now a part-time coach of the Giants, with the good things that have happened to him.
Of the Wills influence, Clark said, "He made me see the light in spring training. He showed me there are so many little things to this game. You can - and should - learn something every day like throwing to the right cutoff and (which Jack still does not consistently do but is improving steadily) and holding a runner to his base.
"It takes a lot of ability, but it also takes a lot of work."
Ability Clark has. Work he thrives on.
"I never thought of Jack as a butcher in the outfield, said 40-year-old Willie McCovey whose club record of hitting in 24 consecutive games in 1963 was stretched by Clark to 26. "He just didn't work as hard as he might have."
Batting instructor Hank Sauer, a former National League MVP with the Cubs, is a difficult man to impress. "I've never seen a kid with such an idea of the strike zone. He's like a guy who has played the game 15 years. And wrists?"
"I've been around a few years now," said giants Second Baseman Bill Madlock, "and I've never seen a young kid hit with such stinging power. The other day we were playing Atlanta and Jack hit a line drive over third base - it was the hardest hit baseball I've seen tht stayed in the ball park. You could literally hear it in flight."
"When I first signed they (the Giants) told me that me and Joe DiMaggio have the same swing and run the same. We're both Italian, too. I guess we kind of resemble each other," Clark said.
"I feel like I could be the leader of this team, but I have a lot to learn. I'm young, but I'm kind of in the middle right now. I figure I'm a good example for a lot of the guys that I played with in the minors. They watch my progress."
He is convinced he can be the next .400 hitter, even if he was averaging only .250 in his limited big league experience (170 games) priors to this season.
"I'd like to hit .400," he said. "But I live to hit .300, too. I don't think .400 is impossible. You just have to have an amazing season - a few bunts, maybe, and beat out a few ground balls."
Clark does not appear to be slump-prone, because of his exceptional speed, first evident in Phoenix a couple of years ago when he led the Pacific Coast League in triples.
"I'm pretty consistent," he said. "Of course, everybody gets in a little slump. But every time I do I do different things to get out of it. I make pretty good contact, so even if I do slump the ball I hit on the ground will keep my average up."
Also contributing to this story was John Lindblom.