In a deal that triggered their transformation into champions, the 1985 Cardinals got a sleeping giant to wake up their offense.
Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog saw Clark as the answer for an offense that lacked consistent power.
“I’m getting a sleeping giant who immediately fits right into our picture a lot better,” Herzog said to The Sporting News.
Clark, 29, was a proven run producer, but he had missed three months of the 1984 season because of right knee surgery. He also had developed a reputation as a malcontent.
Green, 24, was a prized prospect, but he hadn’t fulfilled his potential and his personal problems led to him being admitted to a treatment center in 1984.
“You’re really gambling on his potential,” Herzog said. “Of all the players I’ve had the opportunity to manage, David Green has more ability than anyone as far as hitting, hitting with power, speed and throwing arm. (Garry) Templeton and George Brett are in that category, but Green has more power than either, he runs better than either and he throws better than George.”
After the Cardinals traded their top run producer, George Hendrick, to the Pirates in a December 1984 deal that brought them pitcher John Tudor, Herzog sought a replacement for the heart of the batting order. Clark was a prime target.
“It all happened rather quickly,” Giants general manager Tom Haller said. “The Cardinals instigated talks about Clark and we threw some names at him.”
In his book “The White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I’d always wondered what it would be like to write his name down on my lineup card. We went after Jack Clark hammer and tong in the winter of 1984-85.
“With Hendrick gone, we stepped up the campaign for Clark, the same kind of hitter George had been, only better. We knew he was unhappy in San Francisco, playing in that disgraceful ballpark of theirs (Candlestick Park). The Giants were down on him because he was unhappy there.”
Let’s make a deal
The trade initially called for the Cardinals to receive Clark and minor-league pitcher Colin Ward. Talks hit a snag when it was discovered Clark had several financial incentives in his contract, including a clause that stated Clark would be given a $250,000 payment if he joined another team in 1987.
When Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed to compensate the Cardinals with $125,000, Ward was dropped from the deal and the transaction was completed.
“I’ll be playing somewhere I can be more productive and it will be more fun coming to the park every day,” Clark said to columnist Stan Isle. “You don’t develop good work habits at Candlestick Park. You can’t always do what you want to do out there, like trying to hit Nolan Ryan with dust blowing in your eyes.”
Said Herzog to the Associated Press: “Jack Clark puts us in the situation of definite contenders again. Here’s a guy who can win a ballgame with one swing of the bat. He’s the only player in the league besides (Mike) Schmidt who could hit 20 homers a year playing in our park.”
Said Lurie to columnist Art Spander, “Nobody in the organization was anxious to trade Jack Clark … but we need players; we need starting pitchers. We’re supposed to be getting some top prospects.”
The deal was lopsided in favor of the Cardinals.
The Giants, who had finished in last place in the National League West at 66-96 in 1984, did even worse after the trade, finishing last again at 62-100 in 1985.
Green, primarily playing first base, hit .248 with 20 RBI in 106 games in 1985.
Uribe, who had played for the 1984 Cardinals under the name Jose Gonzalez, was the everyday shortstop for the 1985 Giants. He hit .237 and committed 26 errors.
Rajsich hit .165 as a utility player. LaPoint was 7-17 with a 3.57 ERA in 31 starts.
The Cardinals, who had finished in third place in the NL East at 84-78 in 1984, won the division title at 101-61 in 1985.
Sparked by the additions of Clark and rookie left fielder Vince Coleman, the Cardinals, who scored 652 runs in 1984, scored a league-leading 747 runs in 1985.
Clark, primarily playing first base, had a .393 on-base percentage and .502 slugging percentage for the 1985 Cardinals. He had 26 doubles, 22 home runs, 83 walks and 87 RBI. Clark hit the game-winning home run that clinched the pennant for St. Louis in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series versus the Dodgers.
In the book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said, “Jack Clark could pull a bullet … I could be blindfolded and tell when Jack was taking (batting practice). He was the only guy I had who didn’t sound like he was hitting underwater … The man’s power scared people, kept the defenses honest and kept our jackrabbits circling the bases.”
In three seasons with the Cardinals, Clark had a .413 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage, powering St. Louis to two pennants.
Previously: Why Cardinals were right to try George Hendrick