In retrospect, it is easy to see why the 1985 Cardinals won 101 games and represented the National League in the World Series. Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog led a unique combination of speed, pitching, and defense. Add to that the clutch hitting from the one legitimate slugger in the lineup, Jack Clark. Until August 23, 1985.
A recurring rib cage injury had been plaguing the Cardinals slugger and it reached a critical point on Aug 23 when he had to be removed from the game after taking batting practice. With the Mets hot on the Cardinals heels, losing Clark at this point looked like it might end the Cardinals playoff hopes. Initially, Herzog went with veteran Mike Jorgensen to replace Clark. Jorgensen played well defensively but his hitting would quickly become a liability. For the entire season, Jorgensen would only manage 6 extra base hits and drive in 11 runs. If the Cardinals were going to keep pace with the Mets, help would have to be found elsewhere.
Elsewhere turned out to be Cincinnati, Ohio. In a deal just before the post season rosters were set, the Cardinals would send minor leaguer Mark Jackson to the Reds for veteran outfielder Cesar Cedeno. Jackson was a light hitting outfielder that would never make it out of A ball. Cedeno was one of the most exciting players in the 1970s, but the wear and tear of his aggressive playing style had taken it’s toll on the aging star. While with the Houston Astros, Cedeno had been a perennial .300 hitter, five time gold glove winner in center field and had a stretch of six consecutive seasons stealing 50 or more bases. He had played the last four years in Cincinnati and had lost his starting spot and had become a utility bench player without a specific position.
The Cardinals had hoped there was still some fire left in Cedeno. As it turned out there was a lot of fire left and Cedeno played some of the best baseball of his career in the next month. In 28 games, Cedeno would put up Albert Pujols caliber numbers. He would hit .434, slug a cool .750 with an OPS of 1.213. To put those numbers in some sort of perspective, Clark would hit .281, slug .502 with an OPS of .895 for the entire season. With this type of production, Cedeno became the regular starting first baseman with Mike Jorgensen taking over as a defensive substitution late in the games. This platoon worked brilliantly until Clark’s return in mid September and again on Oct 1.
Cedeno’s biggest hit as a Cardinal would come at the end of the pivotal game of the 1985 season. On September 11, the Cardinals would face the Mets in one of the greatest pitching duels in franchise history. Trailing the Mets by a game, Cardinals starter John Tudor would pitch an 10 inning, 3 hit complete game shutout. Cy Young Award Winner Dwight Gooden was nearly as good, allowing only 5 hits in his 9 innings of work. In the 10th inning, Cesar Cedeno would hit a home run off the Mets left handed closer, Jesse Orosco, for the only run in the game. This would be the only game of the series the Cardinals would win, but a sweep by the Mets could have been a knockout blow from which the Cardinals might not have recovered. That did not happen and the Cardinals would gain the lead in the division in a few days. One that they would not surrender.
If not for the contributions of Cesar Cedeno, the 1985 Cardinals might not have been able to keep pace with the hard charging New York Mets. For his 28 games as a Cardinal, Cesar Cedeno is the 1985 Atlas Award winner.