March 31, 1993: Indians trade Mark Whiten to the Cardinals

The Cleveland Indians were desperate for pitching and tired of waiting for Mark Whiten to live up to his potential. The Cardinals were willing to take a chance on a player who was – unbeknownst to anyone – was five months away from making history.

As a result, the Cardinals and Indians came together on a trade that was spurred by tragedy. On March 22, 1993, Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed and Bob Ojeda was seriously injured in a boating accident in Clermont, Florida. Suddenly thin of pitching, the Indians agreed on March 31 to trade Whiten to St. Louis for 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Mark Clark and 21-year-old minor-league infielder Juan Andujar.

“If not for the events of last week, we wouldn’t have made the trade,” Indians general manager John Hart said. “We didn’t want to trade one of our outfielders, but we’re so thin that if we get a hangnail we’re in trouble.”[1]

The 26-year-old Whiten was coming off a season in which he hit .254 with nine homers, 43 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases for the Indians. A switch hitter, he hit .244 with six homers in 381 left-handed at-bats and .283 with three homers in 127 at-bats hitting right-handed.

“I think he has a little more power for the left side and is probably a better contact hitter from the right side,” Torre said. “I do know he’s an outstanding defensive player. That’s important. This club has to win with defense.”[2]

The Indians, however, were looking for greater run production from the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Whiten. In 1992, he was just 4-for-45 with two outs and runners in scoring position – an .089 mark that was the worst in the American League. For his career, he was 10-for-98 (.102).

“He’s blessed with more ability and has more physical tools than a lot of guys, but he didn’t play as a youngster and he hasn’t developed his offensive skills,” Hart said. “I don’t want to say he’s not coachable, but he wasn’t able to take the coaching and translate it into a game. He was receptive to change, but he was not able to translate it into a game.

“Would we like to be more patient with Mark? Of course, but we didn’t have that luxury. We also didn’t see any progress in him offensively.”[3]

Whiten grew up primarily playing football and didn’t join his baseball team at Pensacola (Fla.) High School until his senior season. Despite his inexperience, he was gifted enough to earn a scholarship to nearby Pensacola Junior College.

“I didn’t care about playing baseball, I was just interested in the scholarship strictly because of the school,” Whiten said.[4]

Whiten played well enough with Pensacola Junior College that the Blue Jays drafted him in the fifth round in 1986. In the minors, he was more of a base-stealing threat than a power hitter, swiping 49 bases with Myrtle Beach in the Sally League in 1987. In 569 minor-league games, he stole 119 bases.

The Blue Jays called him up for 33 games in 1990. He hit .273 with two homers, seven RBIs, and two stolen bases in 88 at-bats. In 1991, he appeared in 46 games, batting .222 with two homers and 19 RBIs before he was dealt to Cleveland as part of a package that sent Tom Candiotti and Turner Ward to Toronto.

Whiten got 281 plate appearances with the Indians in 1991, batting .256 with seven homers and 26 RBIs.

“I’m still learning,” Whiten said. “I haven’t played that much baseball. It takes time. Hopefully, that potential will come out in St. Louis.”[5]

Where Whiten was living up to his potential was right field. In 1992, he tied for second among American League outfielders with 14 assists.[6]

“You’re talking about a guy who is still young and has a lot of raw ability,” Torre said. “He hasn’t played a lot of baseball. He’s still learning. You take a chance on a guy like that. He’s been traded two times now. Sometimes that has a way of shaking you up and bringing something out in you.”[7]

Whiten was indeed shaken up by the trade.

“It was a shock for me,” he said. “You get to know the guys and you’ve played with them for a while. It’s tough to go somewhere else, but in a way, I knew something was going to happen. I just started to get the feeling that something was not right. I don’t know how to explain it, but you know how you just get a bad feeling about something.”[8]

Whiten’s instincts were accurate. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote of Whiten’s tenure in Cleveland: “For a player with the ultimate in athletic gifts, Whiten did not come close to measuring up to his potential, especially in the area of run production. Moreover, late in the season, he showed little interest in playing and loafed after balls in the outfield. Consequently, he came to spring training only as one of three candidates to start in right field, even though he was the incumbent.”[9]

Said Hart, “Whiten still has a chance to be a big-time player, but he wasn’t making the progress we wanted him to make.”[10]

When Whiten arrived at Cardinals camp, Torre spoke to him and, drawing upon his own experience as a player (he was traded to the Cardinals in 1969 and to the Mets in 1974), told the media that Whiten just needed to adapt to the shock of being traded.[11]

“I don’t know anything about the organization,” Whiten said. “I know a lot of the guys have told me it’s a good place to play and that Joe is going to be straight up with you. I like that; anyone would like to play for someone like that.”[12]

Bernard Gilkey, who knew Whiten from his days in the minor leagues, was confident that Whiten would enjoy St. Louis.

“He’s going to like it here,” Gilkey said. “How can you not? If you like baseball, you’re going to like St. Louis. There’s no better place to play.”[13]

Initially, it looked as though Whiten’s arrival might move Gilkey to the bench in 1993, with Brian Jordan moving from right field to left. Ultimately, however, it was Gilkey who took the bulk of the playing time in left field, batting .305 with 16 homers, 70 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases in 137 games. Jordan appeared in 67 games and made the most of his opportunities, batting .309 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs.

“The trade definitely improves our bench, no matter who is starting,” Torre said at the time of the deal. “That’s an ingredient we felt we had to have.”[14]

In Cleveland, the Indians saw potential in Clark, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander. A former ninth-round Cardinals draft pick in 1988 out of Lincoln Land Community College, Clark made his major-league debut in 1991. The following season, he went 4-4 with a 2.80 ERA at Triple-A Louisville before he was called up to the majors. In 20 starts for the 1992 Cardinals, Clark went 3-10 with a 4.45 ERA.

“Mark is not a polished pitcher, but he throws strikes,” said Hart, who said that Clark would take Ojeda’s place in the starting rotation. “He’s a developing guy with good stuff and he’s very durable. … We canvassed all the clubs and Clark was at the top of our list of pitchers we could acquire.”[15]

Technically, that was true, though the Indians approached the Astros about trading Whiten for Darryl Kile or Jeff Juden. The Astros, however, weren’t interested.[16]

“There was a gaping hole in our pitching,” Hart said. “You could drive a semi-truck through it. So it was important to acquire a young guy who could grow into giving us 200 innings a year.”[17]

Andujar, 21, joined the Cardinals organization as a 17-year-old and was coming off his first season in High-A St. Petersburg, where he hit .270 with 14 stolen bases in 391 plate appearances. He played 12 games in Double-A in 1994 but never climbed any higher.

Clark pitched three seasons in Cleveland. In 1993, he made three starts, but was just 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA when he was moved to the bullpen. In June, he returned to the rotation, where he finished the season with a 7-5 record and 4.28 ERA.

He enjoyed his best season with the Indians in 1994, going 11-3 with a 3.82 ERA. After going 9-7 with a 5.27 ERA in 1995, Clark was traded to the Mets for Reid Cornelius and Ryan Thompson.

Clark pitched in 10 major-league seasons before he retired in 2000, posting a 74-71 career record for the Cardinals, Indians, Mets, Cubs, and Rangers.

In St. Louis, Whiten tapped into the potential that intrigued both the Indians and Cardinals. On September 7, 1993, he made history with a four-homer, 12-RBI performance in the second game of a double-header against the Reds. By the time the game was over, even Cincinnati fans were cheering for Whiten, roaring in approval when he gave a curtain call from the visiting dugout.

Whiten finished the season with 25 homers and 99 RBIs. In 1994, a pulled rib cage limited him to 92 games in which he hit .293 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs. Ahead of the 1995 season, the Cardinals traded him and Rheal Cormier to the Red Sox for third baseman Scott Cooper and relief pitcher Cory Bailey.

Whiten went on to play for the Phillies, Braves, Mariners, and Yankees before returning to the Indians. He never again matched the success of his 1993 season, coming the closest in 1996, when he hit 22 homers and drove in 71 runs for the Phillies, Braves, and Mariners. That season marked the only year after he left St. Louis in which he reached triple digits in games played.

Whiten retired with a career .259 batting average, 105 home runs, and 423 RBIs over 11 major-league seasons.


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[1] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Get Whiten From Cleveland,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1, 1993.

[2] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Get Whiten From Cleveland,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1, 1993.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Indians Impatient To See Whiten’s Offense Improve,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[4] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[5] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[6] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Get Whiten From Cleveland,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1, 1993.

[7] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[8] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[9] Sheldon Ocker, “Pitching needs compel Indians to cut from ‘core,’” Akron Beacon Journal, April 1, 1993.

[10] Sheldon Ocker, “Pitching needs compel Indians to cut from ‘core,’” Akron Beacon Journal, April 1, 1993.

[11] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[12] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[13] Dan O’Neill, “Whiten Could Be A Diamond, But He’s Still In The Rough,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4, 1993.

[14] Dan O’Neill, “Cards Get Whiten From Cleveland,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1, 1993.

[15] Sheldon Ocker, “Pitching needs compel Indians to cut from ‘core,’” Akron Beacon Journal, April 1, 1993.

[16] Sheldon Ocker, “Pitching needs compel Indians to cut from ‘core,’” Akron Beacon Journal, April 1, 1993.

[17] Sheldon Ocker, “Indians Notebook,” Akron Beacon Journal, April 2, 1993.

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