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Commentary: It's time to talk about William Frederick “Tack” Clark – WV News

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Mostly clear. Low around 65F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: May 30, 2022 @ 7:34 pm
This photo of Fred “Tack” Clark appeared in an early edition of the Mineral Daily News Tribune.
Chapin Jewell

Chapin Jewell
This photo of Fred “Tack” Clark appeared in an early edition of the Mineral Daily News Tribune.
I’ve been at this sports writing gig with the Mineral News and Tribune for four years. In those four years, while I’ve written flashback articles about some of his teams, I’ve never taken the time to write specifically about the great Keyser coach Fred “Tack” Clark.
Well, there’s a time for everything, and now is that time.
I’m not a Keyser native, but I am native to the surrounding areas. Raised by a sports- and history-loving father, a Ridgeley High graduate, I’ve been regaled with tales all my life about the legendary Blackhawks coach Jim Fazzalore. And of course, as a Fort Hill grad, I know of the great and most revered Sentinel coaching greats Charlie Lattimer, and before him, Bill Hahn.
That being said, again, not being from Keyser, don’t think for a minute I haven’t long been aware of the greatness of “Tack” Clark.
As an aside, many years ago, I became close pals with Coach Clark’s grandson and fellow Fort Hill grad Mike Hogan.
Nonetheless, certainly when I grabbed the reins of sports reporting in Mineral County, a large part of which involves covering all things Black and Gold, my affinity and respect for the legacy of Coach Clark elevated to new heights.
What an incredible coaching legacy. Three state championships in football and two more in baseball. From 1943 through 1975, Clark led the Black and Gold football teams to an overall record of 220-110-8. From 1946 through 1976, Clark led the Tornado baseball teams to an overall record of 265-113-1. From 1944 to 1977, Clark led Keyser basketball teams to an overall record of 92-16.
If you were keeping track, and some of you were, that’s an overall coaching record in three sports at Keyser of 577-239-9. But those are just the numbers, the true measure of a man are in the lives he touches and impacts, and in the case of Coach Clark, those numbers are too large to quantify.
At the time of his retiring from coaching in 1976, there was an excellent article in the Mineral News and Tribune, written by Patricia Hastings, that detailed countless stories and anecdotes from his illustrious career. You can access the article through Potomac State’s West Virginia Newspapers Online portal. But what I thought I would do here is pull out some abstracts and paraphrase them.
They’re just interesting tid-bits, and I’ve pulled out some of the more interesting ones that detail parts of his life not necessarily linked to his coaching career at Keyser. There will be another commentary focusing specifically on those facts later.
We’ll start with this: how did Frederick Clark get the nickname “Tack”? That seems like a logical jumping off point. According to the article, as a pre-schooler in 1917, he became a mascot of sorts for a group of World War I soldiers staying in the Ridgeley tunnel.
Part of the soldiers’ rations was something called “hard tack,” basically dried bread. He would put milk and brown sugar on it to make it taste good, so they started calling him “hard tack,” which eventually was shortened to “Tack.”
Here’s another: “Tack” Clark’s father was very much a baseball man. In fact, so much so that his father named him William Frederick Clark after a Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player, Fred Clark.
Another interesting fact to many, though not to those that understand the history of education in Northern Mineral County, is that while a Ridgeley resident, Clark attended elementary school in Ridgeley, but high school across the river at Allegany High School in Cumberland. That was the option for secondary education for Ridgeley residents at the time.
Clark of course played football, baseball, a little bit of soccer, and track at Allegany. In fact, according to the article, “Tack” was quite a track star at Allegany, and he spoke of a state-record he held in the broad jump that stood in the Maryland record books for 17 years.
After leaving Allegany High School, Clark apparently worked his way through school by playing on a Boston Red Sox minor league team sponsored by the Chiquola Manufacturing Company. The team played in the Anderson County League in South Carolina.
How about the fact that while attending college at Davis and Elkins after Potomac State, he was offered $90 for a six-week basketball coaching job for Riverside High in Elkins, an all-Black school. They almost won the state tournament for Black schools that season, finishing second.
As part of the experience, he wrote an editorial piece about his team being banned from practice at the Elkins’ gymnasium, after the Harlem Globetrotters had broken the color barrier by playing there.
There’s so much to know about the man, and so much more to talk about, especially as it relates specifically to his coaching career at Keyser. But for now, this should wet your whistle.

Chapin Jewell
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