FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- Jack Clark's signing with the New York Yankees asked more questions than it answered. You could understand why the Yankees coveted Clark: According to a study in the magazine "Baseball '88," Clark was far and away last season's most effective RBI man among cleanup hitters, averaging slightly better than one RBI per four at-bats. For argument's sake, the Yankees can now go lefty-righty-lefty-righty with Don Mattingly (30 homers, 115 RBI in 1987), Clark (35, 106), Mike Pagliarulo (32, 87) and Dave Winfield (27, 97). What pitcher in his right mind wants to confront that?

But why would Clark be so enamored of the Yankees? Why would he want to abandon 11 full seasons of know-how and experience in the National League? Why would he opt for Yankee Stadium, which is traditonally unforgiving to right-handed hitters with alley power? As sensitive as Clark was to the St. Louis whisper campaign that he was only a "one-dimensional player," why would he join the Yankees as a DH and certify himself as one-dimensional? Why would a suburban, leave-me-alone Californian volunteer for the cramped and cynical life style of New York and the suffocating intrusion of the New York media? Most of all, why would anybody choose to play for Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner?

Other than money, what could have tempted Clark?

More money.

"I'm going where they pay me," Clark said unhesitatingly. "If they pay me next year, I'll play here again." West or East made no difference. "I'll go as far East as I have to. If they pay me in Japan, I'll go there." (Clark has been known to spend money. When he decided to take up fishing a few years ago, the first thing he bought wasn't a rod, a reel or a stupid hat, it was a $40,000 bass boat.)

All that stuff about life style and changing leagues and DHing and ballpark dimensions, Clark never thought about any of it. You want to know why he gave his hand to the Yankees? They asked. "They were my only offer, and the way the free agent market was going I felt lucky I got one offer," said Clark, absurdly clinging to a notion that if not for the Yankees he'd be pumping gas in the Mojave.

Convinced that the Cardinals neither appreciated him nor intended to pay him an appropriate salary, Clark became anxious about employment. Even though he was, admittedly, "very happy" in baseball-adoring St. Louis, he told his agent, Tom Reich, he wanted a new job. Reich went to his old buddy Steinbrenner, and quicker than you can say, "This Bud's for you," Clark was in pinstripes.

An impulse buy. Not the well-reasoned comparative shopping Consumer Reports recommends. But, Clark says, he's actually quite pleased. "It's the Yankees. It's not like I'm going from a nice place to a bad place, I'm going from a nice place to a nicer place," Clark declared, cheerfully ticking off all the attractions: "A good team with a chance to win, good fans, good weather, a great manager, a first-class organization."

Listening to this, I felt like the man in the IBM commercial who asks in confusion, "Are you sure we're talking about the same Fred?" But hooray for Clark if he's found happiness. Pity it won't last. Nobody's happy very long on the Yankees. The free agent money is good, but the pressure is fierce. It takes a thick skin and a commanding personality to withstand the sniping. Only Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield have mastered it among the legions who've tried. Most Yankee free agents are quickly wrecked and washed out to sea, like Dave Collins, Steve Kemp and the self-immolating Ed Whitson. "Jack won't have any place to hide in New York," warned one St. Louis columnist. "The first time he strikes out with the bases loaded, they'll bury him."

But while we're in this grace period, while Clark isn't in bandages, and before the impatient Steinbrenner starts implying that he shelled out so much money for another Cliff Johnson, let's find the answers to the vexing questions about Clark's expedition. Clark discounted the importance of switching leagues, saying, "If you talk to the good hitters -- and I'm a good, not a great hitter -- they'll tell you they were always ready for fastballs. That pretty much makes it simple. I step off the bus thinking fastball." In an unexpected analogy, Clark compared going to a new league to becoming a mother: "Being a mom was new to my wife before our first child. But she was better prepared the second and third time. The American League will be new to me, but I'll be okay the first time around, and better and better the second and third time."

Yankee Stadium's spaciousness doesn't frighten Clark. "Everyone asks if I'm afraid it'll cut down my home runs," he said. "But I'm looking to drive runs in, and I've learned you don't need to hit homers to do that. I'm a line drive hitter, not a home run hitter. I'm trying for line drives. A home run for me is a ball I miss a little."

The one-dimensional issue is less easy to sidestep, as Clark's tight grin conceded. He was infuriated by what he thought was a front office campaign to smear him as a disinterested fielder. "What upset me was I went to first base from the outfield because {Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog} asked me to. We go to the World Series two out of three years, and they start calling me a one-dimensional player." But Clark knew he couldn't displace Mattingly on the Yankees. Recognizing the internal contradiction, Clark shrugged: "I have a job. I'm getting paid."

We've already heard Clark praise Billy and George. About New York, a city that looks swell to him now from 1,300 miles away, Clark said, "I've played the Mets, and I've talked to {former Cardinal Keith Hernandez}. He loves playing there. Actually, I'm looking forward to bringing my act there and seeing if it turns anyone on outside the Midwest." Far be it from me to point out that the darling Mets are not the combustible Yankees, or that the garrulous Hernandez is not the solitary Clark. "I seem to be fitting in okay so far," Clark said. Ahhh, springtime.

There are only a few danger signs in playing for the Yankees. One is to be a free agent making a lot of money. Another is not to be Babe Ruth. As long as he doesn't fall into either of those categories, Jack Clark should do fine.