In a tragic twist of fate, a deadly boating accident during spring training led the Cardinals to acquire an outfielder who went on to produce one of the most remarkable single-game performances in franchise history.
After the accident, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill called his counterpart with the Indians, John Hart, who asked whether pitcher Rene Arocha was available. Maxvill replied, “No.”
“He said, ‘We really need pitching now,’ ” Maxvill told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of his talk with Hart. “I said, ‘Which one of our pitchers are you interested in?’ And he said, ‘Anybody, really.’ ”
Maxvill wanted a reserve outfielder to back up projected starters Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan and Bernard Gilkey. According to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, Maxvill was about to make a deal for Braves outfielder Keith Mitchell, who was ticketed to open the 1993 season in the Atlanta farm system.
Hart, desperate for pitching, was offering to trade Cleveland’s starting right fielder, Mark Whiten, to the Cardinals if Maxvill would offer a pitcher Hart liked.
Maxvill and Hart had discussed a possible deal during the winter meetings in December 1992. At that time, Hart had asked about pitcher Mark Clark, who had finished 3-10 with a 4.45 ERA in 20 starts for the 1992 Cardinals.
Remembering that exchange, Maxvill offered Clark to the Indians. (Clark wasn’t “what we thought he might be like,” Maxvill later told Hummel.) Hart wanted a second player added to the deal. When Maxvill suggested minor-league infielder Juan Andujar, Hart accepted.
Maxvill contacted the Braves and nixed the proposed trade for Mitchell. Then, on March 31, seven days before the 1993 season opener, the Cardinals sent Clark and Andujar to Cleveland for Whiten.
The deal stunned Whiten and many Cardinals players. “It was a shock for me,” Whiten said to the Post-Dispatch.
Whiten, 26, was joining his third major-league club. (He had played for the Blue Jays before joining the Indians.) He had a strong throwing arm, speed and power, but generally was considerd a raw talent. “I’m still learning,” Whiten conceded after the trade was made.
The acquistion of Whiten ended Ozzie Canceso’s spring training quest to make the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder. Canseco had produced four home runs and 14 RBI for St. Louis in spring exhibition games, but admitted, “My defense is lacking. … It’s something I realize I have to improve.”
Whiten became a standout for the 1993 Cardinals, generating 25 home runs, 99 RBI and 15 stolen bases. On Sept. 7, 1993, in the second game of a doubleheader at Cincinnati, Whiten hit four home runs and drove in 12 while batting sixth in the order. Whiten, who hit a grand slam, two three-run homers and a two-run shot, tied the major-league single-game RBI record established by Cardinals first baseman Jim Bottomley in 1924. Boxscore
Clark finished 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA for the 1993 Indians. In three seasons with Cleveland, the right-hander was 27-15. Andujar never reached the big leagues and advanced no higher than Class AA in the Indians’ farm system.
In two seasons with St. Louis, Whiten had 39 home runs and 152 RBI. On April 9, 1995, the Cardinals traded Whiten and pitcher Rheal Cormier to the Red Sox for third baseman Scott Cooper and pitcher Cory Bailey.