With increasing talk about the Mets’ need to trade for offensive help, I immediately remembered the trade they pulled off on June 15, 1969 with the Expos for first baseman Donn Clendenon. Certainly, the trades for Keith Hernandez and Mike Piazza were more high-profile, but it’s fair to say the Mets would have never won their first World Championship without Clendenon who was the perfect acquisition for a young team that needed some veteran leadership as well as a powerful right-handed bat.
Clendenon had spent his entire career prior to 1969 with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a solid if unspectacular right-handed hitting first baseman. With the emergence of Al Oliver, the Bucs let Donn go to Montreal in the expansion draft. The Expos then dealt Clendenon to the Astros as a key part of the Rusty Staub trade, but when Donn refused to report, he found himself back in Montreal where he shared playing time with Ron Fairly and Bob Bailey.
He was definitely expendable and the Mets gave up 5 players to get him, none of whom were considered top prospects. They were Steve Renko, a right-handed pitcher and low-round draft choice who actually became something of a workhorse for Montreal, Kevin Collins, a third baseman who was found wanting in several trials with the Mets, and three low-level minor league pitchers – Jay Carden, Dave Colon, and Terry Dailey.
It seemed like a more than fair price for a veteran who was expected to be nothing more than a platoon partner for Ed Kranepool or a right-handed bat off the bench. But Clendenon proved to be so much more – a clutch hitter, great clubhouse presence and ultimately, a World Series hero. Can Sandy Alderson make a similar move ? We can only hope.