(Updated: Nov. 3, 2014)
Even in the immediate afterglow of their first World Series title in 15 years, the Cardinals and manager Whitey Herzog were willing to trade significant and popular starters in order to secure another all-star for the left side of the infield.
Less than two months after winning the 1982 World Series championship, the Cardinals came close to acquiring third baseman Buddy Bell from the Rangers.
Bell would have paired with Ozzie Smith to give the Cardinals a premier third base/shortstop combination.
To acquire Bell, Herzog was willing to trade right fielder George Hendrick, third baseman Ken Oberkfell and possibly pitcher Bob Forsch.
When trade negotiations collapsed in December 1982, Herzog expressed great disappointment.
In the Dec. 20, 1982, edition of The Sporting News, St. Louis writer Rick Hummel reported the Cardinals made “a strong pitch” for Bell, “but withdrew their offer after several days of negotiating.”
Texas writer Jim Reeves confirmed the Rangers “seriously considered” trading Bell and “were close with St. Louis and Baltimore.”
Hummel reported the Cardinals offered Hendrick, Oberkfell and pitcher Steve Mura for Bell. The Cardinals also were in serious negotiations with free-agent pitcher Floyd Bannister. Hummel reported the Cardinals would have substituted Forsch for Mura if they signed Bannister.
(Bannister, who pitched for the Mariners in 1982, spurned a $4.5 million, five-year offer from the Cardinals and instead signed a similar contract with the White Sox. A major reason he chose the White Sox was because Dave Duncan, Bannister’s pitching coach with the Mariners, had joined the White Sox to become pitching coach for manager Tony La Russa).
In offering Hendrick, Oberkfell and Mura or Forsch for Bell, the Cardinals were offering a lot to the Rangers:
_ Hendrick led the 1982 Cardinals in home runs (19), RBI (104) and slugging percentage (.450). He hit .321 in the 1982 World Series and drove in the go-ahead run in Game 7.
_ Oberkfell batted .289 for the 1982 Cardinals and ranked third among National League third basemen in assists.
_ Forsch had 15 wins in 1982, his sixth consecutive season of double-digit victories for the Cardinals. Mura posted 12 wins in 1982.
Herzog, who perhaps valued defense above all other skills, saw an opportunity to give the Cardinals a pair of Gold Glove winners on the same side of the infield.
Bell, 31, was in his prime. At that time, he had won four Gold Glove awards (Ozzie Smith had just won his third) and Bell had been a four-time American League all-star. Bell also batted .296 with an on-base percentage of .376 in 1982.
Bell had caught the attention of Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, who told columnist Peter Gammons that winter, “It’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate him. I never realized how much range he has or the plays he makes.”
Herzog seemed stunned Rangers general manager Joe Klein rejected his offer for Bell.
“It’s amazing that a team can lose 100 games (Texas lost 98 in 1982) and won’t make a deal,” Herzog told The Sporting News. “I feel sorry for people in baseball who have a million-dollar investment and don’t know what to do.”
In its Dec. 6, 1982, edition, Klein had told The Sporting News, “I won’t say I wouldn’t trade Bell, but I’d have to receive an offer that would knock my socks off.”
Texas reportedly had rejected offers from the Yankees (who refused to part with pitcher Dave Righetti), Reds (who may have offered a package that included pitcher Bruce Berenyi and infielder Ron Oester) and White Sox (who offered pitcher Britt Burns after they had signed Bannister).
Three years later, July 19, 1985, the Rangers traded Bell to the Reds for outfielder Duane Walker and pitcher Jeff Russell. By then, Terry Pendleton had replaced Oberkfell at third base and the Cardinals were headed to their second pennant-winning season under Herzog.
Buddy Bell never did play for the Cardinals, but his son did. David Bell was a Cardinals infielder from 1995-98. On Nov. 3, 2014, the Cardinals promoted David Bell from assistant hitting coach to bench coach.