Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

In theory, the trade for Scott Cooper appeared to be ideal for the Cardinals. Cooper was a St. Louis native, a Cardinals fan and a two-time all-star third baseman who looked to be entering his prime. In reality, though, the deal was a bust.

scott_cooper2Twenty years ago, on April 8, 1995, the Cardinals acquired Cooper and reliever Cory Bailey from the Red Sox for outfielder Mark Whiten and pitcher Rheal Cormier.

Cooper, 27, was thrilled to join his hometown team and the Cardinals were thrilled to get a player with a reputation for producing steady hitting and solid defense.

After a fairy tale debut _ he hit a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Cardinals to a 7-6 victory over the Phillies in the season opener at St. Louis _ Cooper failed to meet expectations. He hit .230 with three home runs for the 1995 Cardinals and made 18 errors.

When the season ended, he became a free agent and went to Japan.

Replacing a legend

Cooper was 15 when the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series title. The exhilarating experience of seeing his favorite team become big-league champions “left a dent in my soul,” he told the Associated Press.

A standout player at Pattonville High School in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights, Mo., Cooper was chosen by the Red Sox in the third round of the 1986 amateur draft. He signed with them and made his big-league debut with Boston in 1990.

When free-agent Wade Boggs left the Red Sox for the Yankees after the 1992 season, Cooper replaced the five-time American League batting champion as Boston’s third baseman.

Cooper responded splendidly to the challenge. He was named an AL all-star in 1993 and 1994. His batting average in five years with Boston was .284.

Cardinals calling

In April 1995, general managers Walt Jocketty of the Cardinals and Dan Duquette of the Red Sox discussed a deal. The Red Sox wanted Whiten and Cormier. Jocketty wanted Cooper.

Jocketty agreed to trade Whiten but offered pitcher Tom Urbani instead of Cormier.

“We needed Cormier in the deal to make it go,” Duquette said.

Talks stalled. Jocketty gave the Red Sox a deadline of April 8.

When it became clear the Red Sox wouldn’t make the deal without Cormier being included _ “They were pretty adamant about it,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch _ Jocketty relented.

No joke

On the afternoon of April 8, Cooper and teammates Roger Clemens and Eric Wedge were golfing in Fort Myers, Fla. “I was getting ready to hit this ball and this guy in a cart comes barreling around the corner,” Cooper said.

“Are you Scott Cooper?” asked the man in the cart. “Mr. Dan Duquette wants you to call him immediately.”

Said Cooper: “My heart sank. I looked at Clem and said, ‘Are you messing with me?’ … Roger looked at me and he was real serious. He said, ‘I would never play that kind of trick on you.’ ”

Duquette told Cooper of the trade to the Cardinals.

Contacted soon after by Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, Cooper said, “I can’t begin to describe the emotion I’m feeling right now. I’m numb all over. The Red Sox let me fulfill my dream. They gave me the opportunity to be a major leaguer. But my lifetime dream as a kid was to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Asked about the pressure of playing at home, Cooper told The Sporting News, “If I can come in and take the place of Wade Boggs and play in front of that crowd in Boston and make two all-star teams, I can play in my hometown in front of my family and friends.”

Lineup shifts

The Cardinals moved Todd Zeile, a converted catcher, from third base to first base, replacing Gregg Jefferies, who had become a free agent and signed with the Phillies. Brian Jordan, a highly-regarded prospect, replaced Whiten in right field. Urbani took over for Cormier in the starting rotation.

“Cooper is known for his defense and that was one of the major reasons we wanted to get him,” Jocketty said. “Plus, he’s a good left-handed bat.

“We feel Zeile will be a better first baseman than Jefferies was and we feel Cooper will make us better defensively at third. He has good hands, a good arm. He’s a real third baseman.”

(Bailey, the other player acquired from Boston by the Cardinals, became a productive reliever. He spent most of the 1995 season as the closer at Class AAA Louisville, earning 25 saves, and then was 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 51 games for the 1996 Cardinals.)

Plans unravel

By mid June, the 1995 Cardinals were scuffling. Torre got fired. Zeile was traded to the Cubs.

Cooper, hitting .310 as late as May 20, had a miserable summer. He batted .164 in July and .183 in August.

For the season, Cooper hit .210 (21-for-100) with runners in scoring position. He had almost as many strikeouts (85) as hits (86).

After spending the 1996 season in Japan (where he hit .243 in 81 games), Cooper returned to the big leagues with the 1997 Royals and batted .201.

That would be his final major-league season. At age 30, three years after being named an all-star, his big-league playing career was finished.

Previously: How Scott Cooper made memorable Cardinals debut

Previously: How a tragic accident brought Mark Whiten to Cardinals

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When the Cardinals reacquired Ken Hill, they thought they’d found an ace. Instead, he was a dud.

ken_hillTwenty years ago, on April 5, 1995, in one of the first big trades made by general manager Walt Jocketty, the Cardinals got Hill from the Expos for pitchers Bryan Eversgerd and Kirk Bullinger and outfielder DaRond Stovall.

The deal was considered a steal. Hill had 16 wins for the 1994 Expos, sharing the National League lead with Greg Maddux of the Braves.

Hill, 29, a right-hander, joined a rotation of left-handers Danny Jackson, Allen Watson, Donovan Osborne and Tom Urbani. Like Hill, Jackson ranked among the top four in the NL in wins in 1994. He had 14 for the Phillies.

An intimidator

“In acquiring Kenny Hill, we’ve got probably one of the top two or three pitchers in the game today,” Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think we’re on our way to putting together the championship club we thought we could.”

Said manager Joe Torre: “Kenny Hill is the type of pitcher we really haven’t had. He’s the type of pitcher who can go out and dominate a game. He’s an intimidator, a guy who can go out and pitch a no-hitter.”

The Expos were slashing payroll and general manager Kevin Malone was under orders to unload top-salaried players such as Hill, reliever John Wetteland and outfielder Marquis Grissom.

The Blue Jays and Rockies also had made strong bids for Hill. “The Jays thought they had offered a better deal for Ken Hill than the one the Expos accepted with the Cardinals,” The Sporting News reported, adding that the cash-strapped Expos were in no mood to help their Canadian counterparts.

Jocketty was thrilled he didn’t have to trade to the Expos one of the Cardinals’ top three pitching prospects: Alan Benes, Brian Barber or John Frascatore.

Said Torre: “This shows how serious we are. It’s very exciting to me that the Cardinals have gone out and established themselves as helping the club _ right now. That should put to rest any question about the desire of the Cardinals to win.”

First time around

Hill was a prospect in the Tigers’ minor-league system when the Cardinals acquired him and first baseman Mike Laga from Detroit for catcher Mike Heath on Aug. 10, 1986.

Hill made his big-league debut with St. Louis in 1988. In four seasons with the Cardinals, Hill was 23-32. According to catcher Tom Pagnozzi, Hill and pitching coach Joe Coleman “didn’t get along.”

After the 1991 season, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill sought to acquire Expos first baseman Andres Galarraga. The Expos wanted pitcher Rheal Cormier, a Canadian, in return. Maxvill refused and instead offered Hill. The Expos accepted.

The deal was a bust for St. Louis. Plagued by injuries, Galarraga was limited to 95 games and hit .243 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI for the 1992 Cardinals. A free agent, he departed for the Rockies after the season. Hill had 16 wins for the 1992 Expos. In three years with Montreal, Hill was 41-21.

When Jocketty brought back Hill to St. Louis, it was as if a wrong had been righted.

Welcome back

“The Cardinals made belated amends for one of their worst trades in recent years,” Rick Hummel wrote in the Post-Dispatch.

Hummel’s colleague, Bernie Miklasz, opined, “Walt Jocketty needed one long distance phone call to erase one of Dal Maxvill’s worst mistakes.”

In The Sporting News, Bob Nightengale offered, “The Cardinals, always regretting they traded Hill … made up by stealing Hill back.”

Hill returned to find Mark Riggins had replaced Coleman and that Bob Gibson had been added to the coaching staff. Riggins had coached Hill in the minors.

“I never didn’t like Hill,” Torre said after the pitcher was reacquired. “I’ve always had a good opinion of him. I just thought he was a little casual at times. But he’s grown up since then.”

Said Hill: “I love the deal … I couldn’t stand it when they (the Cardinals) traded me out. But I think that change of scenery helped.”

Pitching potential

The 1994 Cardinals had tied with the Rockies for the worst ERA in the league at 5.15. With Hill and Jackson joining the rotation, hopes were high for the 1995 St. Louis staff.

“Suddenly, the 1995 Cardinals have the ingredients for a fine starting rotation _ just as Jocketty had promised,” wrote Miklasz.

Hill won his first four decisions for the 1995 Cardinals, then lost his next four in a row. He said he wasn’t happy with Pagnozzi as his catcher. He asked to be traded to a contender.

Hill had a 6-7 record and 5.06 ERA when he was traded again by the Cardinals on July 27, 1995, to the Indians for infielder David Bell, pitcher Rick Heiserman and catcher Pepe McNeal.

“I was not happy with his performance or with his attitude,” Jocketty said of Hill in explaining the trade to the Post-Dispatch.

In two stints with St. Louis over five seasons, Hill was 29-39 with a 4.23 ERA. He pitched in the big leagues until 2001. In 14 years with the Cardinals, Expos, Indians, Rangers, Angels, White Sox and Rays, Hill was 117-109 with a 4.06 ERA.

Previously: Cardinals rookie pitchers tested Joe Torre in 1994

Previously: How David Bell rang up a special Cardinals home run

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The Cardinals acquired Jose Oquendo with the notion he would become the eventual replacement for Ozzie Smith at shortstop. Instead, Oquendo became their second baseman and paired with Smith in forming a quality keystone combination for St. Louis.

jose_oquendo5Thirty years ago, on April 2, 1985, the Cardinals got Oquendo from the Mets in the first trade engineered by Dal Maxvill, who had become St. Louis general manager two months earlier.

Maxvill knew what it took to play shortstop, having been the starter for the Cardinals at that position on pennant-winning clubs in 1967 and 1968.

Like Maxvill, Smith was a Gold Glove Award winner. Like Maxvill in 1967, Smith helped the 1982 Cardinals to a pennant and World Series title.

The Cardinals wanted Smith to remain their shortstop. He was eligible to become a free agent, though, after the 1985 season. If Smith and the Cardinals were unable to negotiate a contract extension, Maxvill was prepared to trade him.

Shoring up shortstop

A headline in an April 1985 edition of The Sporting News declared, “Cardinals Admit Ozzie May Be Dealt.”

“If we can’t sign him, there’s got to be some thought about trading him,” said Fred Kuhlmann, Cardinals chief operating officer.

Said Smith: “A trade is a possibility.”

The Cardinals, though, had no suitable replacement for Smith.

That’s when Maxvill went to work.

The Cardinals dealt shortstop Angel Salazar, whom they had acquired from the Expos three months earlier, and minor-league pitcher John Young to the Mets for Oquendo and minor-league pitcher Mark Davis. Four days later, April 6, 1985, the Cardinals got veteran shortstop Ivan De Jesus and reliever Bill Campbell from the Phillies for reliever Dave Rucker.

Maxvill saw De Jesus, 32, as the stopgap and Oquendo, 21, as the long-term answer at shortstop if Smith was traded or became injured.

“You have to prepare yourself for any eventuality,” Maxvill said. “I looked in our system and there was nothing there at shortstop. You have to backstop yourself whether (Smith) is here or not.”

Mets prospect

Oquendo was 15 when he signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1979 and made his professional debut that year with their Class A affiliate, the Grays Harbor Loggers of Aberdeen, Wash., in the Northwest League. He made 40 errors in 63 games at shortstop that season.

Four years later, Oquendo, 19, became the starting shortstop for the 1983 Mets under manager George Bamberger.

By April 1985, though, the Mets were managed by Davey Johnson. He saw Rafael Santana, a former Cardinal, and Ron Gardenhire as shortstop options.

“Johnson felt Oquendo had to be a better hitter,” The Sporting News wrote. “He also was less enamored of Oquendo’s fielding than that of other shortstops in the organization.”

Smith stays

Maxvill saw Oquendo as the shortstop prospect the Cardinals needed. (After the deal was made, Johnson learned Gardenhire had back problems. “If I had known about this,” said Johnson, “Jose Oquendo might still be here.”)

The Cardinals assigned Oquendo to Class AAA Louisville.

“You can look for the Wizard to pack his bags any day now,” Bill Conlin, a columnist for The Sporting News, wrote of Smith after the Cardinals got Oquendo and De Jesus.

Instead, on April 15, hours before the Cardinals played their 1985 home opener that night against the Expos, Smith agreed to a four-year contract extension to remain with St. Louis.

The deal was worth $8.7 million. Smith received a $700,000 signing bonus and salaries of $1.8 million a year in 1986 and 1987 and $2.2 million a year in 1988 and 1989, The Sporting News reported. Also, the Cardinals provided Smith a $500,000 loan at 10 percent interest and Anheuser-Busch promised him consideration for a wholesale beer distributorship.

Smith would play for the Cardinals through the 1996 season before retiring.

Shift to second

Oquendo spent the 1985 season with Louisville. His manager was Jim Fregosi, who had been an all-star shortstop with the Angels. Oquendo hit .211 in 133 games for Louisville and made 23 errors at shortstop.

In 1986, Oquendo stuck with the Cardinals as a backup to Smith at shortstop and to Tommy Herr at second base. He hit .297 in 76 games, establishing himself as a valuable utility player.

After Herr was traded to the Twins in 1988, Oquendo became the Cardinals’ starter in 1989. He led National League second basemen in fielding percentage in 1989 (.994) and 1990 (.996).

In 10 seasons with the Cardinals (1986-1995), Oquendo hit .264 with an on-base percentage of .359. In 1989, he was eighth in the NL in batting at .291.

A Cardinals instructor in 1997 and a minor-league manager in 1998, Oquendo has been a big-league coach for St. Louis under managers Tony La Russa and Mike Matheny each year from 1999 through 2015.

Previously: How Jose Oquendo became a Cardinals catcher

Previously: Why Jose Oquendo, not Ozzie Smith, opened at shortstop

Previously: How Andy Van Slyke amazed Jose Oquendo

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The Cardinals thought so highly of Alex Johnson that they traded two all-star infielders, first baseman Bill White and shortstop Dick Groat, to acquire him and then told Lou Brock to shift outfield positions to accommodate the heralded newcomer.

alex_johnsonJohnson never fulfilled his potential with St. Louis. Instead of joining Brock and Curt Flood as an outfield regular, Johnson got demoted to the minors in his first Cardinals season and then backed up Roger Maris in his second and last year with St. Louis.

This is the story of the star-crossed Cardinals career of Alex Johnson, who died Feb. 28, 2015, at age 72 in Detroit.

Phillies phenom

At 21, Johnson debuted in the big leagues with the 1964 Phillies. He hit .296 in two seasons with Philadelphia.

Bob Howsam, the Cardinals’ general manager, envisioned Johnson as an ideal fit to join Brock and Flood in forming a fleet, productive St. Louis outfield.

On Oct. 27, 1965, the Cardinals dealt White, Groat and catcher Bob Uecker to the Phillies for Johnson, catcher Pat Corrales and pitcher Art Mahaffey.

Howsam paid a hefty price. In eight years with the Cardinals, White was a five-time all-star who hit .298 and won the Gold Glove Award six times. In three years with St. Louis, Groat was a two-time all-star who batted .289. Both were key contributors to the Cardinals’ World Series championship season in 1964.

Power potential

“We expect Johnson to hit the long ball for us,” Howsam told The Sporting News. “Playing everyday instead of just against left-handed pitchers, he may even surpass White in long-ball hitting over the full season.”

Said Cardinals vice president Stan Musial, who was consulted by Howsam before the deal was made: “Over the long haul is what we’re thinking about. We’re trying to analyze our team better and it’s a switch to the youth system.”

The Cardinals believed Johnson would hit for a higher average and had more speed than Mike Shannon, who had been their right fielder in 1964 and 1965.

Johnson had hit .307 against left-handed pitching for the 1965 Phillies. He also hit .424 (14-for-33) in 11 games versus the Cardinals that season.

Move over, Lou

Soon after joining the Cardinals, Johnson reported to their Florida Instructional League camp at St. Petersburg and worked with manager Red Schoendienst and coach Dick Sisler.

“He has a better arm than I thought he did,” Schoendienst said. “His arm is adequate.”

The Cardinals decided to shift Brock from left to right and start Johnson in left, with Flood in center. Shannon was relegated to a reserve role.

“I know the Cardinals made a big deal to get Johnson, but all I want is a chance,” Shannon said. “… I think I can hit .300. I’m strong. I can run and I’ve got good power.”

Johnson hit .286 in spring training and opened the 1966 regular season as the everyday left fielder.

He flopped.


Johnson started each of the Cardinals’ first 20 games and hit .195. The Cardinals’ record was 8-12 and Johnson received part of the blame.

“It’s not the pitchers getting me out,” Johnson said. “I’ve been getting myself out. I’ve been going for the long taters.”

On May 8, 1966, the Cardinals played their final game at Busch Stadium, formerly Sportsman’s Park. Johnson had the last at-bat in the venerable ballpark, bouncing into a game-ending double play. Boxscore

Four days later, the Cardinals played their first game at the new Busch Stadium. Johnson started in left field and was 1-for-4 with a run scored. Boxscore

The Cardinals, though, had seen enough. On May 18, 1966, they sent Johnson to Class AAA Tulsa and called up outfielder Bobby Tolan. Brock returned to left field and Shannon took over in right.

In 25 games with the Cardinals, Johnson batted .186 with two home runs.

Wrote The Sporting News: “Something had to be done to divert attention from that White-Johnson deal … Johnson appeared overmatched in his first opportunity at a regular job. He has plenty of raw talent and good speed. There is considerable hope for him, especially if he can develop the ability to learn from coaches both in the minors and in the majors. He has not adapted well to instruction and he has been easy to pitch to.”

At Tulsa, Johnson prospered under manager Charlie Metro, batting .355 with 104 hits in 80 games.

Carlton to Cubs?

After the 1966 season, Howsam agreed to a proposed deal to send Johnson, Tolan and pitchers Steve Carlton and Nelson Briles to the Cubs for outfielder Billy Williams, The Sporting News reported. The trade was vetoed by Cardinals “super brass,” who presumably included Musial.

“We needed a lefthanded-hitting outfielder and we went after (Billy) Williams,” Musial confirmed.

After the proposed trade was nixed, Howsam dealt third baseman Charlie Smith to the Yankees for outfielder Roger Maris. Soon after, Howsam resigned to become general manager of the Reds and was replaced by Musial.

Still struggling

In spring training, the 1967 Cardinals assigned hitting instructor Joe Medwick to work with Johnson. “I told him, ‘The only guy who is keeping you down is yourself. You’ve got all the equipment,’ ” Medwick said. “Alex was pulling too many pitches.”

Some thought Johnson and Maris would platoon in right field for the 1967 Cardinals. Maris, though, won the job outright, with Shannon replacing Smith at third base and Johnson taking a reserve outfield role.

In May 1967, The Sporting News reported that Johnson was “swinging at too many bad balls and fouling off too many good ones.”

According to the magazine, Musial “had tried hard to deal Johnson to an American League club, but there were no takers.”

Johnson hit .223 with one home run in 81 games for the 1967 Cardinals, who won the National League pennant. He didn’t appear in the World Series against the Red Sox.

After the Cardinals won the championship, Musial resigned in triumph and was replaced by Bing Devine, in his second stint as St. Louis general manager. Devine’s first trade was to send Johnson to the Reds for outfielder Dick Simpson.

In two seasons with the Cardinals, Johnson hit .211 in 106 games with three home runs, 18 RBI and a dismal .258 on-base percentage.

“Alex just might put everything together one of these days and become quite a ballplayer,” Schoendienst said after the trade.

Red was right

Reunited with Howsam and Metro (who had become a Reds scout), Johnson blossomed. He hit .313 with 146 RBI in two seasons with Cincinnati.

Traded to the Angels, Johnson was the 1970 American League batting champion, hitting .329.

Still, his career continued to be marred by controversy and accusations of an indifferent attitude.

Said Cardinals coach Dick Sisler: “The tag on Johnson is that he will not accept advice from a manager or a competent coach. He easily could have become a great Cardinal player, but he showed no interest.”

In 13 years with the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Angels, Indians, Rangers, Yankees and Tigers, Johnson batted .288 with 1,331 hits.

Previously: Here’s how Mike Shannon became a Cardinals catcher

Previously: Bill White: We thought Lou Brock deal was nuts

Previously: How Charlie Metro miffed Stan Musial

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Jim King spent five years in the Cardinals organization, learning from the likes of George Kissell and Johnny Keane, but he twice departed the Redbirds and never got much of a chance to make an impact with them at the big-league level.

jim_kingKing, an outfielder who started in the first big-league game played in California and who spent 11 seasons in the majors, primarily with the Senators, died Feb. 23, 2015, in his native Arkansas. He was 82.

The Cardinals prepared King for the big leagues.

After making his professional debut at 17 in 1950 with the independent Vernon Dusters of the Class D Longhorn League, King was signed by the Cardinals. He played in the St. Louis minor-league system from 1951-54, including two stints with Omaha clubs managed by Kissell, the franchise’s iconic instructor.

In 1954, King had his best season in the Cardinals organization, hitting .314 with 31 doubles and 25 home runs for an Omaha team managed by former St. Louis catcher Ferrell Anderson. King, who had a strong arm, also contributed 19 outfield assists.

Courted by Cubs

King caught the attention of Wid Matthews, director of personnel for the Cubs. On Nov. 22, 1954, the Cubs claimed King from the Cardinals in the minor-league draft.

King made his major-league debut with the Cubs in 1955 and played for them for two seasons.

In 1957, Cubs general manager John Holland was seeking to overhaul the roster. Cardinals general manager Frank Lane was seeking a left-handed pull hitter who could benefit from the Busch Stadium I dimensions. The distance along the right field line from home plate to the outfield at the former Sportsman’s Park was an enticing 310 feet.

Holland made a special trip to Memphis to talk with Lane as the Cardinals headed north from spring training. Their talks continued in the Busch Stadium press box lounge when the Cubs and Cardinals played in St. Louis during the first week of the 1957 regular season, The Sporting News reported.

Second chance

On April 20, 1957, the Cardinals reacquired King from the Cubs for outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Ed Mayer.

“The deal for King was completed within 48 hours, culminating a lengthy series of conversations between Lane and Holland,” St. Louis writer Bob Broeg reported.

Broeg described King as “a pull hitter for whom the Busch Stadium dimensions are tailored” and declared that the Cardinals were “stronger and deeper” with King on the roster.

Said Lane: “He’s got the knack of pulling, an asset especially with our short right field, and he won’t be handicapped in St. Louis by the wind blowing in as it does so often off the lake in Chicago, making hitting tough for left-handers.”

The Cardinals issued uniform No. 9 to King. It was the number worn by Cardinals standout Enos Slaughter (and later by Roger Maris, Joe Torre and Terry Pendleton) before it was retired by the club.

King was used primarily as a pinch-hitter. On May 15, 1957, less than a month after he was acquired, the Cardinals sent King to Class AAA Omaha in order to get their roster to the mandated 25-player limit.

Wrote Broeg in The Sporting News: “Entirely unexpected was the decision to send down King rather than Tom Alston, the good-field, no-hit first baseman … Although mum was the word around the club, it was apparent that owner Gussie Busch … had requested that Alston be given another chance or, at least, a longer look.”

At Omaha, King played for manager Johnny Keane (who, seven years later, would lead the Cardinals to a World Series title) and hit 20 home runs in 116 games before being called back to the Cardinals in September.

In 22 games overall for the 1957 Cardinals, King hit .314 (11-for-35). All his hits were singles.

California connection

King appeared poised to earn a spot on the 1958 Cardinals. However, the Cardinals were seeking catching help. The Giants needed a lefthanded-hitting outfielder to replace Don Mueller. On April 2, 1958, the Cardinals traded King to the Giants for catcher Ray Katt.

When the Dodgers faced the Giants on April 15, 1958, at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium in the first regular-season major-league game played in California, King was in the starting lineup, playing left field and batting second, just ahead of Willie Mays. King was 2-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and a RBI-single off Don Drysdale. Boxscore

King had his best seasons with the 1963 Senators (24 home runs) and 1964 Senators (18 home runs). He broke Mickey Vernon’s Senators single-season record of 20 home runs by a left-handed batter. On June 8, 1964, King hit three solo home runs in a game at Washington against the Athletics. Boxscore

In a big-league career spanning 1955 to 1967 with the Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Senators, White Sox and Indians, King hit .240 with 117 home runs. After his baseball career, he worked for 24 years for the White River Telephone and Alltel Telephone companies before retiring.

Previously: How Cardinals nearly traded Bob Gibson to Senators

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In a deal that triggered their transformation into champions, the 1985 Cardinals got a sleeping giant to wake up their offense.

jack_clark4Thirty years ago, on Feb. 1, 1985, the Cardinals acquired Jack Clark from the Giants for Dave LaPoint, David Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich.

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.”

Prime target

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.”

Upper hand

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.

Clark connects

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: How ouster of Joe McDonald put Whitey Herzog in peril

Previously: Why Cardinals were right to try George Hendrick

Previously: Redbirds ripoff: How Bob Horner replaced Jack Clark

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