February 1, 1985: Cardinals finalize trade for Jack Clark

The trade to obtain Jack Clark may have taken longer than anyone would have liked, but in the end, the St. Louis Cardinals had the middle-of-the-order slugger they needed to capture two National League championships.

After finishing third in the National League East in 1984, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog had made clear that his top priority was to find a starting pitcher who could add stability to the rotation. The Cardinals already had Joaquin Andujar to serve as the ace of the staff, but at age 34, Bob Forsch had thrown just 52 1/3 innings in an injury-plagued 1984 campaign and could no longer be counted upon to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.

On December 12, in one of his final acquisitions before he resigned on January 3, 1985, Cardinals general manager Joe McDonald got Herzog the arm he wanted, trading outfielder George Hendrick and prospect Steve Barnard to the Pirates for left-hander John Tudor and catcher Brian Harper.

Trading Hendrick left the Cardinals in need of a middle-of-the-order bat. Hendrick had hit at least 16 home runs between 1973 and 1983, but in 1984 his numbers dipped to nine homers and 69 RBIs in 120 games.

“George did a good job until the last two years,” Herzog said. “Last year, we’d put a guy on first but he’d never drive in the guy with a ball in the gap.”[1]

To replace Hendrick, the Cardinals set their sights on San Francisco, where Jack Clark and the Giants had endured a tumultuous relationship. On February 1, 1985, the Cardinals and Giants finalized a deal that would send David Green, Dave LaPoint, Gary Rajsich, and Jose Uribe to the Giants in exchange for Clark.

“I think Jack Clark puts us in the situation of definite contenders again,” Herzog said. “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.”[2]

A 13th-round pick in 1973 out of Gladstone High School in Covina, California, Clark made his major-league debut as a 19-year-old September call-up in 1975. In 1978, he enjoyed his breakout season, batting .306 with 25 homers and 98 RBIs. He placed fifth in the MVP voting and was selected for the all-star game that season.

Between 1978 and 1983, Clark hit at least 20 runs in five of six seasons. In 1984, a right knee injury limited him to 57 games. He was batting .320 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in June when he required season-ending arthroscopic surgery.

Clark, who had appeared in more Giants games than any other active player, with 1,044 appearances over nine seasons, had a complicated history with the club. Even though he could be counted on for 20+ homers per year, he had feuded with former manager Frank Robinson and hated playing in Candlestick Park, where the swirling winds made right field a daily adventure.

“There never was a day where it was really, really nice there,” Clark said. “You didn’t mind playing in the cold, but it was the wind. You’d see players on teams, even your team, go after fly balls like they had never played before. But I feel like I became a pretty good outfielder because I had to really improve my concentration.”[3]

In his 1988 autobiography, Wizard, Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith wrote that he knew Clark would benefit from a change of scenery.

“I told Lou (Susman) I thought there was a way we could obtain the power hitter everybody agreed we needed,” Smith wrote. “I had met Jack Clark several years back, and I knew that all the reports about him being a troublemaker with the Giants weren’t true. I had come from an organization – the Padres – that was similar to the Giants, and it seemed to me to be a situation where the organization was more to blame than the player. … I pointed that out to Lou and told him I thought Jack would fit into our organization and could give us 25 to 30 home runs a year. The key was to put Jack in a situation where he thought he had a chance to be on a winning team.”[4]

That knee injury was the first sticking point in the trade, as the Cardinals first requested that Clark undergo an examination of his injured knee. Once that was completed, a new wrinkle developed: Clark’s contract had provisions to pay him $250,000 if he were traded, a low-interest loan of $250,000, and another $250,000 payment if he signed with another team after the 1986 season. After some additional haggling, Cardinals attorney Lou Susman and Giants general manager Tom Haller agreed to split the final $250,000 payment, with the Cardinals paying the greater share. As a result of those negotiations, the Giants removed left-handed pitching prospect Colin Ward from the deal.

“I would have liked to have had the prospect,” Herzog said.[5]

The deal was finalized eight days after it had been leaked to the press and four days after Clark had completed his knee examination.

“This is the world’s longest trade,” said LaPoint, who had gone 33-22 for the Cardinals the previous three seasons. “It’s basically sixth-page headlines now. When they make it last an extra three days over $250,000, something’s wrong.”[6]

LaPoint’s frustration had less to do with the trade’s treatment in the papers than in a lack of communication about his family’s future. When the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reached out to him several hours after the trade had been announced, LaPoint said neither team had informed him of the trade.

“There’s more than ballplayers involved,” he said. “There are families involved. I think they should have at least let me know what was going on.”[7]

Herzog couldn’t disagree. “I wish it could have been handled more professionally,” he said. “Dave’s basically a really good kid, but he didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know what to tell him.”[8]

Haller told the San Francisco Examiner that the Cardinals’ lack of a general manager following McDonald’s resignation complicated the trade, leaving Susman, an Anheuser-Busch attorney by trade, to handle the details on the Cardinals’ behalf.

“It was ridiculous in a way,” Haller said. “It boils down to a guy who never dealt in that arena before. Right now he has been handling a lot of their important decisions since they don’t have a GM.”[9]

In Green, LaPoint, Rajsich, and Uribe, the Giants had an opportunity to add two new starters to their infield and LaPoint to their starting rotation.

Green, a highly-touted prospect who came to St. Louis alongside LaPoint in the deal that sent Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons, and Pete Vuckovich to Milwaukee, had claimed the Cardinals’ starting right field job in 1983 and hit .284 with eight homers, 69 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. In 1984, the Cardinals moved him to first base, where he hit .268 with a team-leading 15 homers, 65 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases. He missed three weeks of the season while rehabilitating from alcohol addiction.

“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 when you consider everything – hitting, hitting with power, speed, and arm. (Garry) Templeton and George Brett are in that category, but David has more power than either one, he runs better than either one, and he throws better than George.

“I’m not giving up on him. I think I’m getting a sleeping giant who immediately fits into our picture a lot better.”[10]

LaPoint, a left-hander from Glens Falls, New York, was coming off a 12-10 season in which he posted a 3.96 ERA. As a rookie in 1982, he went 9-3 and received no decision in the Cardinals’ 7-5 Game 4 loss to the Brewers. LaPoint allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings in that start.

Uribe, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, had hit .279 in Triple-A Louisville in 1984. Rajsich, whom the Cardinals had acquired from the Mets prior to the 1984 season, had appeared in just seven games for the Cardinals.

“It gives us quality players at three positions and help off the bench,” Haller said. “Green has sock in his bat, LaPoint strengthens our starting pitching and Gonzalez (Uribe) has a good opportunity to be our starting shortstop.”[11]

Giants manager Jim Davenport said, “You hate to see a guy like Jack Clark get traded away, but any time you can pick up four players like that it’s bound to make you stronger. LaPoint will be one of our starters, Green will play first base, Gonzalez (Uribe) and (Johnnie) LeMaster will battle it out for the shortstop job, and Rajsich will give us strength off the bench.”[12]

Clark proved key to the Cardinals’ 1985 and 1987 National League championships. Before the 1985 season started, Herzog moved Clark to first base and Andy Van Slyke to right field.

That season, Clark earned all-star recognition for the third time in his career, batting .281 with 22 homers and 87 RBIs. In the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went 8-for-21 (.381), including a three-run home run off Tom Niedenfuer in the ninth inning of Game 6. In the World Series against the Royals, he went 6-for-25 (.240) with four RBIs.

Injuries limited him to just 65 games in 1986, but he returned in even better form in 1987, batting .286 with 35 homers and 106 RBIs, both career highs. He led the league in walks (136), on-base percentage (.459), slugging percentage (.597), and OPS+ (176).

“He’s the greatest fastball hitter I’ve ever managed, and he’s very good with runners on base. Our whole offensive game is geared to getting guys on base ahead of Clark, and everybody in the league knows it,”[13] Herzog wrote in White Rat: A Life in Baseball.

Later in the book, Herzog added, “Jack Clark is one of the great power hitters and RBI men in baseball today, one of those guys you stick in the cleanup spot and then build your lineup around.”[14]

Clark injured his ankle on September 9 with three weeks remaining in the 1987 regular season when he tried to avoid a tag at first base. He took just one at-bat during the Cardinals’ NLCS win over the Giants and did not play in the World Series against the Twins. Despite missing the end of the regular season, he finished third in the MVP voting and earned a Silver Slugger.

In January 1988, Clark signed a two-year, $3 million free-agent deal with the Yankees, a move that prompted Herzog to say, “In all honesty, without Jack Clark for 162 games, we’ll be lucky to play .500. … We’re not a contender without Jack Clark.”[15]

Green played one season in San Francisco, batting .248 with five homers, 20 RBIs, and six stolen bases in 294 at-bats. In December 1985, the Giants traded him to the Brewers and the Brewers, in turn, sold him to the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League. In July 1987, Green returned to the Cardinals and appeared in 14 games. He played the remainder of his career in the minors and the Mexican League.

LaPoint went 7-17 despite a 3.57 ERA in 206 2/3 innings in 1985. That fall, the Giants traded him to the Tigers. LaPoint’s career took him to San Diego, Chicago (with the White Sox), Pittsburgh, New York (with the Yankees), and Philadelphia, with his final major-league appearance coming in 1991. LaPoint signed with the Cardinals for the 1987 season but was traded to the White Sox at the trade deadline.

Rajsich played one season in San Francisco, batting .165 with 10 RBIs in 91 at-bats. The Cardinals purchased him in July 1985 and sold him to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan Central League that December. He played three seasons in Japan, hitting 76 home runs and driving in 189 runs.

Uribe proved the key to the deal for the Giants. He claimed the starting shortstop job upon his arrival in San Francisco and wound up playing eight seasons with San Francisco, batting .241 with a .969 fielding percentage for his career. He helped the Giants reach the NLCS in 1987 and the World Series in 1989.

Ward, who originally was included in the deal, appeared in six major-league games for the Giants, all in 1985. He spent the remainder of his career in the minors.


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[1] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C1.

[2] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C1.

[3] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C4.

[4] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), “Wizard,” Chicago; Contemporary Books, Inc., 100-101.

[5] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C1.

[6] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C1.

[7] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C1.

[8] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C1.

[9] Glenn Schwarz and John Hillyer, “It’s official: Clark for 4 Cards,” San Francisco Examiner, February 1, 1985: Page F1.

[10] Rick Hummel, “It’s Official: Cardinals Get Clark In Deal With Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1985: Page C4.

[11] Glenn Schwarz and John Hillyer, “It’s official: Clark for 4 Cards,” San Francisco Examiner, February 1, 1985: Page F1.

[12] Glenn Schwarz and John Hillyer, “It’s official: Clark for 4 Cards,” San Francisco Examiner, February 1, 1985: Page F7.

[13] Whitey Herzog and Kevin Horrigan (1987), “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” New York, N.Y.; Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 6-7.

[14] Whitey Herzog and Kevin Horrigan (1987), “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” New York, N.Y.; Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 170.

[15] Rick Hummel, “Herzog: ‘We’ll Be Lucky To Play .500,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 7, 1988: Page D1.

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