David Green, champ on '82 Cards, dies at 61

Outfielder drew comparisons to Roberto Clemente, was central in blockbuster with Brewers

February 1st, 2022

David Green, once a promising outfield talent who received comparisons to Roberto Clemente and was a member of the World Series champion Cardinals in 1982, died recently at the age of 61, the club confirmed on Tuesday morning.

The Cardinals did not specify the cause of death, but media reports out of his native Nicaragua said that it was due to health complications stemming from recent heart attacks.

Green, signed as a 17-year-old by the Brewers in 1978, was traded to the Cardinals just two years later in the blockbuster deal that sent Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Ted Simmons, as well as future AL Cy Young Winner Pete Vuckovich, to Milwaukee. The deal was not supposed to be as lopsided as it played out; Whitey Herzog, during his time as both general and field manager in St. Louis, was incredibly high on Green’s potential, quoted at the time as saying “we think so much of Green that we would not have made the deal if he had not been in it.”

While Green never reached the sky-high heights set out for him, he was a valued member of the early 1980s Cardinals. The fourth Nicaragua-born player to appear in the Majors, the first to do so in the National League and the first positional player to do so across both leagues -- accomplishing the feat at just 20 years of age -- Green appeared in 489 career games (383 with St. Louis), hitting .268 with 31 homers -- almost half of which came in 1984 to lead the club.

Green, then just 21, started in a pair of games in the 1982 Fall Classic against his former Brewers club. His best performance came in Game 6, a 2-for-5 effort with a pair of extra-base hits and a pair of runs scored. In Game 2 of the NLCS against the Braves, Green, a late-game replacement, singled to lead off the ninth inning of a tie game and raced home from second as the winning run on Ken Oberkfell’s walk-off single to center.

Green was a player quintessential to the exciting, high-flying Herzog mold -- one with acumen on the bases, a threat to steal a bag and defensive adeptness. Green was only in position to score the winning run in Game 2 because he advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt.

But Green’s best year came just after the 1982 championship (which was also his only postseason experience), hitting .284 with a .746 OPS as the starting right fielder -- the same position as Clemente.

Green’s father, Eduardo Green Sinclar, was “one of the best Nicaraguan ballplayers of his era -- or ever,” according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Green also represented Nicaragua in track and field at the 1977 Central American Games, setting a country record in the long jump that has since been surpassed.

Green celebrates with Julio González and Ozzie Smith after crossing the plate as the walk-off run in Game 2 of the 1982 NLCS.

Such raw talent is what made Green such an enticing player for the Brewers when they signed him and for the Cardinals when they acquired him. But injuries and off-the-field issues derailed what was one of the more promising prospect prophecies in recent memory.

All but one of Green’s six Major League seasons came in St. Louis, bookended around spending the 1985 season with the Giants after landing there in a trade that brought All-Star first baseman Jack Clark east. Green spent the 1986 season playing in Japan and Mexico before spending his final days in the big leagues again with Herzog and the Cards in 1987, promoted for 14 games thanks to going on a tear in Triple-A. After then, he continued his pro career in Mexico again and in the Minors with the Braves and Rangers’ organization, finishing his playing days after the 1991 campaign.