The first call on a Green kid

By Bob Hunter

Saturday, June 19, 1982 / DAILY NEWS | When Rene Cardenas, who along with Jaime Jarrin is the voice of the Spanish language station KTNQ on Dodger broadcasts, does a game involving the St. Louis Cardinals, he has been heard to say:

“And here comes that brilliant rookie outfielder, David Green, rookie of the year candidate.”

But what may not be heard by the listeners is Cardenas adding, probably under his breath:

“And there goes my $4,000.”

For years, the bilingual announcer, a silver tongued and knowledgeable baseball man, was the voice of the Houston Astros. Before that, he was a radio man for the Dodgers.

Now he is back with the Dodgers, again broadcasting games in Spanish here and into Mexico. And because of Green, he is also wondering about baseball’s scouting system.

In the mid 1970s, he returned to his native Nicaragua to do play-by-play of the crack amateur league centered in Managua, where he was born.

“Of the 500-or so players I saw,” recalls Cardenas, “one who made my mind flash back to Cesar Cedeño every time he played was a 17-year-old outfielder named David Green with the University of Central America.

“I had known his father, also an outfielder, for a number of years. Edward Green once had a tryout with the Dodgers’ farm club in Montreal, but decided to return to his native country.

“I told Edward I would like to recommend his son to the Houston Astros, and when he gave the go-ahead, I wrote to Tal Smith.”

The first thing Smith did was send Cardenas a contract as a “bird dog,” for him to receive $1,000 if the Astros signed a player he recommended, another $1,000 if the player made it to Class AA, another $1,000 to Class AAA and a final $1,000 if he got to the big club.

When Cardenas followed with another letter to the Astros, he said he thought (and he still does) Green could become Latin America’s fines outfield product, including Roberto Clemente. His based his belief on the fact Green was going to be bigger and stronger than Clemente, was already learning to hit a curve and had an excellent arm.

Smith dispatched two scouts – Walt Mathews and Scipio Spinks (no longer in the business) – to Managua to check out Green in a workout, arranged by Cardenas.

Rene Cardenas

It was a high-level audition, with the media well represented. Green’s dad was there, too, and so was the dean of the university.

After also seeing the swift, 17-year-old youngster in a game, the Houston scouts came back again to time him from front to first and to record his throws from the three outfield positions to the plate.

Mathews and Spinks assured the elder Green that his son had immense potential. Cardenas cautioned the Greens against talking to other scouts, or to any other organization, assuring them they would be hearing from the Astros soon.

But no word came, and time crawled passed.

Cardenas returned to the United States for a vacation, visiting Houston, where he made a point of seeing Lynwood Stallings, head of the Astro’s minor-league system.

According to Cardenas, Stallings told him “Mathews and Spinks didn’t want to make you feel bad,” in explaining why there was no follow-up.

“ ‘But the boy has nothing, and we didn’t want to risk a lot on a recommendation of a person with no experience.’ ” Cardenas said recalling the conversation.

Cardenas argued that in his 20 years of broadcasting, he probably had seen a lot more players than Houston’s scouts. He reiterated that Green had untold potential.

Stallings finally Cardenas the Astros would not give Green any money, but that they would give him $500 and bring him to spring training for a look.

Cardenas, who had hoped Green could get himself a $25,000 bonus, pointed out to the Astros that the 6 ft. 3 in. youngster earned more playing amateur baseball in Nicaragua.

Two weeks later, young Green signed a contract with Milwaukee for $25,000, the exact amount that had been asked from the Houston club.

“Of the 500 players I saw in Nicaragua, the one I liked best, by far, was Green, Cardenas was saying just the other day as Whitey Herzog penciled Green into the starting Lineup for St. Louis.

“I also liked a right-handed pitcher, but he was 24 years old at the time.”

The pitcher is PorfiAltamirano, this seasons blossoming as a relief star for the Phillies.

St. Louis acquired Green from Milwaukee, along with pitchers Dave LaPoint and Lary Sorensen and outfielder SixtoLezcano in exchange for catcher Ted Simmons and pitchers Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich.

Edward Green died last year, just one season before David Green started a major-league career Rene Cardenas could foresee, but the scouts could not.

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