When Tony Clark turned 30 years old, he was coming off an All-Star season and earning $5 million, the highest salary of his 15-year major league career. Two years later, in 2004, he was a part-time player for the Yankees whose salary had been cut by 85 percent.
Clark considered his ordeal as he stood in the on-deck circle at Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. If he could only get to the plate, Clark was sure he would make up for all of his frustrations by doing what he did best: obliterating a baseball. Ruben Sierra walked, giving Clark a chance to win the pennant with a home run.
“When I swung through strike three, I didn’t understand how I missed it,” Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said recently in his corner office in Midtown Manhattan. “To this day, I don’t understand how I missed it.”
Clark, now 47, never made it to the World Series. But he ascended to become the head of a union once viewed as the strongest in sports in December 2013, and led its last collective bargaining agreement with the owners.