The Wild, Wacky and Sometimes Wondrous World of Baseball Trades

By Harvey Frommer, Contributor
July 24, 2013 12:38 am Last Updated: July 24, 2013 12:43 am

This is the time of year when baseball trade talk is all the rage. Where will Matt Garza go? Is Jake Peavy staying or will he be traded? 

Most trades wind up uneventful or as someone said, “It all comes out when you wash the uniforms.” But there have been a couple of deals through the years that were steals for some teams and big-time blunders for the others.

There are two such deals that stand out above all others.

On June 15, 1964, the St. Louis Cardinals sent Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens to the Chicago Cubs. In return, the Redbirds received Jack Spring, Paul Toth and a speedy runner named Lou Brock, who went on to become their franchise player. It was a steal for the Cardinals and a big-time blunder for the Cubs.

On December 10, 1971, the New York Mets acquired third baseman Jim Fregosi from the California Angels for a young, hard-throwing pitcher. It was a steal for the Angels and a big-time blunder for the Mets. The pitcher they shipped away was Nolan Ryan.

“The American League and the California Angels seemed like a million miles away,” Ryan told me when I was writing “Throwing Heat,” Ryan’s autobiography. “I read that Gil Hodges (the manager then) approved the deal, that he wanted Jim Fregosi, and that he thought I was the starting pitcher he would miss the least.”

How wrong he was.

And then there was November 18, 1954. The New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles began a trading binge that ended 15 days later. In all, seventeen players were involved, in one of the most massive trades in baseball history.

The Yankees received pitchers Don Larsen, Bob Turley, and Mike Blyzka. They also obtained catcher Darrell Johnson, first baseman Dick Kryhoski, shortstop Billy Hunter and outfielders Tim Fridley and Ted del Guercio. Baltimore obtained pitchers Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Bill Miller, catchers Gus Triandos and Hal Smith, second baseman Don Leppert, third baseman Kal Segrist, shortstop Willy Miranda and outfielder Gene Woodling.

Larsen went on to be an asset for the Yankees and pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. Turley was a sturdy starter for years. The rest just blended away underscoring baseball immortal Branch Rickey’s slogan: “Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.”

So keep your eyes and ears open as we approach the July 31 trading deadline. There are buyers. There are sellers. And there are teams who don’t know what they are. The whole deal is a crapshoot, or more of a game of blackjack. To stay, to get a hit or not to play. Those are the questions and time will tell the tale.

A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 41 sports books, including the classics “New York City Baseball 1947-1957,” “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” “Remembering Yankee Stadium,” and “Remembering Fenway Park,” is currently working on a book on the first Super Bowl—anyone with contacts, stories, suggestions please contact.