Ken Oberkfell

Cards trade Ken Oberkfell for Dayley and Jorgensen: June 15, 1984

To acquire a relief pitcher who would become a cornerstone of their bullpen during their 1985 and 1987 National League pennant seasons, the Cardinals traded away one of the few remaining players from their 1982 world championship club, Ken Oberkfell.

On June 15, 1984, the Cardinals traded Oberkfell, the team’s leading hitter with a .309 batting average, for left-handed pitcher Ken Dayley and backup first baseman Mike Jorgensen.

The Cardinals had signed Oberkfell as an amateur free agent in 1975, and he joined the major league club for cups of coffee in 1977 and 1978. In 1979, he made his mark as the club’s starting second baseman, batting .301 with a .396 on-base percentage. He scored 53 runs and drove in 35.

Though he never provided much power (the most home runs he hit in a season with the Cardinals were the three he hit in 1980 and 1983), Oberkfell was a consistent on-base presence. In 1981, with the emergence of Tom Herr, Oberkfell moved to third base, where he led the National League in fielding percentage in 1982 and 1983.

In 1982, Oberkfell batted .289 with 55 runs scored and 34 RBIs en route to the National League East title. In Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves, Oberkfell made arguably the biggest play of his career, hitting an RBI single off Gene Garber in the bottom of the ninth to score Green and give the Cardinals a 4-3 win.

“I had always hit Garber pretty well, and I remember hitting a ball that just went foul,” Oberkfell said. “I turned back to (Braves catcher Bruce Benedict) and said, ‘You still going to pitch to me?’ … He said yeah and then I got the hit.”[1]

Oberkfell went 7-for-24 (.292) in the seven-game World Series bout with the Brewers, hitting a double, an RBI, and two stolen bases.

In eight seasons in St. Louis, he totaled a .292 batting average and .364 on-base percentage, though he always faced criticism for his lack of power, particularly after he moved to third base, a position where run producers were prevalent.

“You think about Mike Schmidt, Ron Cey, and Bob Horner, who drive in 80 or 100 runs a year,” Oberkfell said. “I’ve never been an 80- or 90-RBI guy, but I’m capable of driving in 60. I really think I’m capable of hitting some home runs in Atlanta. I’m not saying I’m going down there and setting the world on fire, but it would be good if I could.”[2]

The trade cleared out the logjam the Cardinals had on the infield, allowing David Green to play first base, Herr to play second, and Andy Van Slyke to play third without utilizing the platoon system Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog used with Oberkfell in the mix.  Now that Herr had proven he was recovering from a series of knee injuries, the Cardinals no longer needed to keep Oberkfell as a safeguard in case Herr couldn’t return to form.

“I’m sorry to see Obie go, but from our side, I think it solves problems,” Herr said. “Andy and Green will be in there every day, and they’re not going to worry about platooning. We’ll get more production out of them without Andy moving around so much and Greenie not playing against certain right-handers.”[3]

In 2002, Herzog said that the presence of Terry Pendleton at Triple-A Louisville also played a part in the trade. Pendleton hit .297 with four homers and 44 RBIs in Triple-A that season, and after he was called up to the majors in July, he batted .324 with 33 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.

“If it hadn’t been that we had Terry Pendleton in the minor leagues and playing really well, we would not have traded him (Oberkfell),” Herzog said. “He was a really good defensive third baseman and a really good guy on the ball club. I really enjoyed managing him.”[4]

Oberkfell was equally positive about his experience in St. Louis.

“I’ve got no regrets,” he said. “I was a Cardinal fan, I signed with the organization. I got to play for them, I got to play in the World Series. My biggest thrill was when Bruce Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas for the last out of the World Series. All my dreams came true.”[5]

For the Braves, Oberkfell’s arrival filled the hole left when Horner went down with a season-ending injury. Atlanta originally pursued the Yankees’ Roy Smalley, but balked at his six-year, $3.9 million contract. Oberkfell’s contract called for him to earn $500,000 in 1984 and $600,000 in 1985.[6]

“We know he (Oberkfell) doesn’t have a lot of power and won’t hit homers,” Braves general manager John Mullen said. “It’s always appealing to add somebody who has been on a World Series team and gone through that experience. That means a lot to a club.”[7]

Dayley had been the Braves’ first-round draft pick out of the University of Portland in 1980 and at one time was considered the team’s top pitching prospect. In 1982, he started 11 of his 20 appearances, going 5-6 with a 4.54 ERA in 71 1/3 innings. The following season, he again served as a swingman, starting 16 of his 24 appearances en route to a 5-8 record and 4.30 ERA.

In 1984, he went 0-3 in four starts with a 5.30 ERA before he was sent down to the Braves’ Triple-A Richmond affiliate. There, he went 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA.

“It’s a great move for me,” Dayley said. “St. Louis is much more of a pitchers’ kind of park.

“The Braves were good people, but I guess they were pretty down on me. I thought I’d get 30 or 35 starts this year, but it’s great to be back in the leagues. At least I know I’m going to someone who wants me.”[8]

“I feel he’s ready,” Herzog said. “He’s paid his dues. I don’t know if he’s going to be good. The only thing I can say is that he’s got a chance to be a very good pitcher.”[9]

The 35-year-old Jorgensen, a 1973 Gold Glove Award winner, was in his 16th major league season, including his 19-year-old campaign when he played eight games with the Mets. At the time of the trade, he was the Braves’ top left-handed bat off the bench, batting .269 with five RBIs in 26 at-bats.

“I didn’t think this would happen, but I should be used to it by now,” he said. “If I have to go somewhere, at least I’m going to a good team.”[10]

Jorgensen served as a reserve for the Cardinals in 1984 and 1985, batting .219 with a .345 on-base percentage in 254 total plate appearances. He retired following the 1985 season and entered the coaching ranks soon thereafter. When the Cardinals fired Joe Torre during the 1995 season, they named Jorgensen interim manager. He led the team to a 42-54 record the remainder of the season.

Dayley started 13 games for Triple-A Louisville and two games for the Cardinals in 1984. Those two starts for St. Louis were the last of his major-league career, as he found his niche as a relief pitcher.

In 1985, Dayley was a key member of the Cardinals’ bullpen as they recovered from the loss of Sutter in free agency, posting a 2.76 ERA and ranked second on the team behind Jeff Lahti with 11 saves.

Dayley appeared in five games in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers, pitching six scoreless innings and saving two games. He retired Pedro Guerrero to close out Game 6 and send the Cardinals to the World Series.

Dayley made four more appearances in the World Series against the Royals, winning Game 2 with a scoreless eighth inning. In total, he threw six scoreless World Series innings, allowing just one hit while striking out five.

During the Cardinals’ next pennant run in 1987, Dayley again played a vital role, posting a 2.66 ERA with nine wins in 53 appearances. In the NLCS against the Giants, he continued to be a shutdown postseason performer, saving two of the three games in which he appeared. In four shutout innings, he allowed one hit and struck out four.  In the World Series, he pitched 4 2/3 innings, earning the save in Game 4. He allowed just one earned run on a Game 6 home run by Kent Hrbek and struck out three.

Over 20 2/3 career postseason innings, Dayley posted a 0.44 ERA with 15 strikeouts.

In 1989, he posted a career-high 12 saves, but in 1990 his ERA climbed to 3.56. Following the season, Dayley signed with the Blue Jays, where he pitched the final two seasons of his major league career.

In seven seasons with the Cardinals, Dayley posted a 3.18 ERA over 374 innings, compiling 39 saves.

Oberkfell played five seasons in Atlanta, batting .271 with a .346 on-base percentage. In 590 games, he hit 15 homers, drove in 181 runs, and scored 214 runs. In the final years of his career, he bounced around the majors, playing for the Pirates, Giants, Astros, and Angels. He retired following the 1992 season, ending a 16-year big league career.

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[1] Rob Rains and Alvin A. Reid (2002), Whitey’s Boys: A Celebration of the ’82 Cards’ World Championship, Chicago; Triumph Books, Page 84.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Cards Trade Oberkfell To Braves,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1984.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Cards Trade Oberkfell To Braves,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1984.

[4] Rob Rains and Alvin A. Reid (2002), Whitey’s Boys: A Celebration of the ’82 Cards’ World Championship, Chicago; Triumph Books, Page 85.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Cards Trade Oberkfell To Braves,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1984.

[6] Gerry Fraley, “Braves get Oberkfell,” The Atlanta Constitution, June 16, 1984.

[7] Gerry Fraley, “Braves get Oberkfell,” The Atlanta Constitution, June 16, 1984.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Cards Trade Oberkfell To Braves,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1984.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Cards Trade Oberkfell To Braves,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1984.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Cards Trade Oberkfell To Braves,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1984.

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