I LOVE the history of the CFCL. I LOVE the fact that I have been a part of all the history of the CFCL – many times on the embarrassing end (see Jeff Stone Incident, Mitch Williams Incident, Murphy/Dysktra Trade). But every so often I am able to come out on top (Steve Carlton Incident). And here’s one more – The Will Clark Incident.
Flashback to spring training, 1986 -- This was in the early days of Rotisserie and fantasy baseball, and information on minor leaguers and prospects was still fairly hard to come by. The minor league overview in Bill Mazaroski's annual magazine was the best of the easily-obtainable sources, and the owner who knew about Baseball America's "Top Ten Prospects" issues, let alone who could find one on a newstand, had an incredible advantage.
Here’s what I do recall. The Rebels and Copperfields had teased each other with our plans heading into 1985 when we both had our eyes on Jeff Stone. After we squared off in the bidding on Jeff Stone, I think we were both reluctant to lend voice to our intentions for the 1986 draft.
And it’s not like Mazeroski was over the moon for Clark. In the positional outlook for the major league team the magazine mentioned Clark as a possible contributor in 1986:
"[Dan] Driessen’s limitations could help [Bob] Brenly worm his way in here, at least against lefthanders. And don’t count out last June’s No. 1 draft pick, Will Clark, who pumped 25 homers in just 65 games at Mississippi State last year, then jumped to Fresno and hit .305, drove in 48 runs in 65 games, jacked 10 home runs and had an on-base percentage of .458. Clark might not be able to make the jump this year, but it won’t take him long."
So if you read those periodicals, you knew of a guy named Will Clark. Had a pretty good college career and was expected to make the team and be wonderful in 1986. But to the passive eye, he wasn't that well known.
It wasn't until March 1986 that stories of "The Natural" came drifting Chicago-way. Tales told of an intense young slugger with only 65 minor league games under his belt who was the hit of the Giants' spring camp. There were rumors that he hit a ball through the outfield fence in a spring training game.
Clark had a pretty solid spring. This was when the Cubs played the Giants about 450 times during the Cactus League, so now he was becoming less unknown. But one could still be hopeful that the other owners would attribute it to a young kid having a good spring against lesser pitchers (kind of like being Gary Scott before Gary Scott).
Still, Rich and I both hoped -- no, believed -- that each of us was the only one to be hearing this info. We were both certain we would be able to sneak Clark though at the end of the Draft. Of course, this was another textbook case of Hyper-Inflation resulting from Pre-Draft Obsession.
We were both disappointed on Opening Day. Any chance we had of trying to sneak Clark through at a low price ended on April 8, 1986. Keep in mind, back in the early days, we drafted after Opening Day so we knew who was on an NL roster. By the time we drafted there were some games already played and emotions affected (see Brian Littlefield effect in the original Rotisserie Book).
Of course, it's obvious who he chose to make the first player up for bid in 1986 -- Will the Thrill.
Bidding quickly escalated, with the Bald Eagles, Copperfields, and Dem Rebels the main participants. Bob Monroe, owner of the Eagles, called a conference with Head Copperfield in a side room. The Bald One offered to drop out of the bidding on Clark if In would promise not to bid up another player later in the Draft. I refused, and we returned to the draft table where the bidding continued. Monroe remained in a little while longer, then dropped out, leaving me and Rich as the only two active bidders. Another showdown between the Co-Founders/Co-Commissioners. As the bidding reached the upper 30s, memories of the Jeff Stone Incident crept into both our heads.
I was probably feeling the pain of Stone still so at some point I blinked and the Copperfields got Will Clark for .40.
Perhaps it was the memory of what Jeff Stone did to his team, but whatever the reason, after I said ".40", Rich said "Pass", and I brought his head crashing to the table at the realization of what I had done.
Clark's stats for the year: .287-11-41-4. Respectable, but not worthy of .40.
Clark would go on to hit only 10 more home runs and drive in only 40 more runs all season. So I finally won a showdown against the Copperfields, right?
1985 – Rebels outbid the Copperfields on Jeff Stone for .32 and finish 4th out of seven teams.
1986 – Copperfields outlast the Rebels on Will Clark for .40 and win their first championship (first of three in a row and first of eleven overall).And that right there in a nutshell is the Rebel/Copperfield rivalry.