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Did You Know?
Gil Hodges was actually elected to the Hall of Fame by a veterans committee in 1993 but his election was overturned because Roy Campanella, who cast the deciding vote in absentia, was hospitalized and not present for the election . . .
Originally a catcher, Hodges moved to first in Brooklyn — with Jackie Robinson shifting from first to second — because Campanella was the NL’s best backstop . . .
Jim Kaat blames Whitey Herzog for keeping him from the 300 Club by using him in relief when both were with the Cardinals . . .
Kaat, the last active player from the original Washington Senators, and Minnesota teammate Tony Oliva, a three-time batting champ, are the only living Eras Committee electees . . .
Cuban native Minnie Minoso, often called the Latino Jackie Robinson because he was the first black player from the Caribbean, led the AL in triples and stolen bases three times each . . .
The Hall of Fame has 17 Latin American members but the expected election of David (Big Papi) Ortiz in January would make it 18.
Managers As Trade Bait? It’s Happened Before
By Dan Schlossberg
In the strange world of Major League Baseball, managers can get traded too.
It’s happened more than a half-dozen times, starting with the startling swap of Rogers Hornsby, player-manager of the 1926 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, to the New York Giants for sparkplug second baseman Frankie Frisch, also known as “the Fordham Flash.”
It took Frank (Trader) Lane, often called Frantic Frankie because of his trade-happy tendencies, to move a manager again. After trading home run king Rocky Colavito for batting king Harvey Kuenn in April of 1960, the Cleveland general manager hooked up with the Detroit Tigers again in August, dealing Indians manager Joe Gordon for Tigers field boss Jimmy Dykes. Yikes!
Seven years later, the Washington Senators sent manager Gil Hodges – the newly-minted Hall of Famer – to the New York Mets for pitcher Bill Denehy and $100,000. Hodges had never finished better than sixth in a 10-team league with the Nats, whom he managed for five seasons, but nursed the young Mets to a surprise world championship in his second year on the job.
In 1976, Charley Finley found a much-needed catcher for his Oakland Athletics by sending manager Chuck Tanner to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Manny Sanguillen.
After a few peaceful decades, managers found themselves on the trading block again in the 21st century.
The Seattle Mariners sent Lou Piniella home to Tampa in 2002, trading the popular pilot, along with minor-leaguer Antonio Perez, to the Rays for outfielder Randy Winn.
Ozzie Guillen, a successful but controversial manager, outlived his welcome with the Chicago White Sox in 2011 but found a new home in Miami. The Sox sent Guillen and pitcher Ricardo Andres to the Fish for pitcher Jhan Marinez and infielder Ozzie Martinez, neither of whom ever distingushed themselves in the Windy City. The deal didn’t help either side, since the Marlins won only 69 games. Minus Guillen, the Sox won 85 games and competed for a playoff spot.
Just a year later, a Sox team of a different color also acquired a manager in the trade market.
The Boston Red Sox, remembered what a great job John Farrell did as pitching coach under Terry Francona, sent infielder Mike Aviles to Toronto, where Farrell did a fine job as manager of the Blue Jays, for relief pitcher David Carpenter plus the manager – ending the Bobby Valentine era in Boston.
Looking back, the biggest stunner was Hornsby-for-Frisch. The only bigger deal before World War 2 was the sale of Babe Ruth to the Boston Red Sox on Jan. 3, 1920.
Hornsby had just completed his 11th season in St. Louis, where he hit over .400 three times in a four-year span from 1922-25. But the outspoken second baseman, whose .424 mark in 1924 is a major-league record, irritated ownership so much after leading the ‘26 Cards to their first world title that they were happy to find a taker.
With Frisch a second base, the Cards won pennants in 1928 and 1931, the same year the Fordham Flash was National League MVP. He became player-manager in 1933, then led the Gashouse Gang Cardinals to the 1934 world championship.
Hornsby managed the Giants for part of 1927, then was traded to the Boston Braves after that season. He was adept at wearing out his welcome with his personality no matter what he did at the plate (42 home runs – an amazing total for the day – in 1922).
Joe Gordon, also a second baseman who won an MVP award, wasn’t much of a manager. When Cleveland traded him to Detroit for Jimmy Dykes, both teams were under .500. At season’s end, nothing has changed for either.
Hodges, on the other hand, made a major difference for the moribund Mets. After a five-year stint with Washington, which had traded Jimmy Piersall for him in 1963, Hodges finished ninth in his first year with his old team. But then his gentle-but-firm style caught on with the kids – especially a talented young pitching staff led by Tom Seaver – and the ‘69 Mets passed the Cubs in the division, the Braves in the playoffs, and the Orioles in the World Series. All were favored.
Felled at 47 by a heart attack just before the start of the 1972 season, Hodges finished third twice in his last two years with the Mets. Coach Yogi Berra took over and won a pennant in 1973 but not much else. Denehy, the young pitcher for whom Hodges was traded on Nov. 27, 1967, never won a game for Washington. He finished with a career record of 1-12.
Unlike Denehy, Sanguillen was an All-Star when traded, along with $100,000 cash, for Tanner
on Nov. 5, 1976. He lasted only one season there, however, because Oakland sent him back to Pittsburgh on April 4, 1978 for Elias Sosa, Miguel Dilone, and Mike Edwards. Two years later, Sanguillen moved again, dealt to Cleveland with Bert Blyleven for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Bob Owchinko and Rafael Vasquez.
Tanner spent only one summer in Oakland but managed 19 years in the majors, winning a pennant and a world championship. Both came with the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates, with major contributions from both Sanguillen and Tanner.
Piniella, unlike Tanner and Hodges, didn’t help his new club very much. The Rays showed some signs of improvement in 2004, when the team won 70 times, but bought out his contract a year later. By 2008, however, Tampa Bay was in the World Series.
Winn, whose career lasted 13 years, batted .287 in three seasons with Seattle but didn’t produce much power.
A Venezuelan native, Guillen won a pennant, a world championship, and a Manager of the Year award during eight seasons with the White Sox but was dumped after the 2011 season – mainly for inflammatory remarks praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Arousing the ire of Little Havana in Miami, Guillen spent only one season with the Marlins, finishing in fifth place. None of the players traded for him amounting to anything but the White Sox felt they were getting rid of a headache.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, did well to bring Farrell back. He won a world title in his first year as Boston pilot, in 2013, and added a pair of American League East titles in 2016 and 2017, when his team finished with identical 93-69 records.
No managers have been traded lately, though the A’s could have asked the Padres for compensation in exchange for Bob Melvin, who left Oakland with a year remaining on his contract. Had Finley been in charge, there’s no doubt he would have done just that.
The enigmatic owner of the Athletics might have engineered a deal for Dick Williams, who won consecutive world championships in 1972 and 1973 before quitting in a huff over Finley’s interference in on-field operations. George Steinbrenner tried to sign him for the Yankees but Finley, claiming he still under contract to the A’s, blocked the move.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is author or co-author of 39 baseball books. He covers the game for Latino Sports, Ball Nine, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and forbes.com. Dan’s e.mail is email@example.com.
Applauding The Latest Eras Committee Choices
By Dan Schlossberg
After several years of spinning their wheels, striking out, or making poor choices, the Hall of Fame’s rotating veterans committees (now dubbed Eras Committees) finally got it right.
They corrected the way-too-long oversights on Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, and especially Gil Hodges — who proved the 35th time on the ballot was the charm.
They also elected Minnie Minoso, the first black Cuban star who was accurately called the Latino Jackie Robinson, along with Buck O’Neil, who spent eight decades in the game but was somehow overlooked by the special committee that elected 17 Negro Leaguers in 2006. Bud Fowler too, though his work organizing 19th century black teams and leagues is remembered only by history.
Congratulations to the Golden Days and Early Baseball committees, who swelled Hall of Fame membership to 339 and allowed Sports Travel and Tours owner Jay Smith reason to believe next July’s induction will be back to normal after two years of Covid cancellations, postponements, and delays.
Thanks to the lethal virus, the 2020 inductions were postponed and the 2021 ceremonies were delayed from July to September, with far smaller crowds than expected.
Now, Smith knows he’ll get large contingents from New York (Hodges), Minnesota (Kaat and Oliva), Chicago (Kaat and Minoso), the Cuban community (Minoso and Oliva), and the African-American community (O’Neil and Fowler).
If, as expected, the baseball writers elect David (Big Papi) Ortiz next month, large contingents of Red Sox fans will sign up, along with more Latinos, especially from Venezuela. Also not far from the required 75 per cent necessary for induction are Cut Schilling (Phillies, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks), Barry Bonds (Giants and Pirates), and Roger Clemens (Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Astros).
The bottom line is that next year’s class figures to be the biggest since 2014, when six new members were enshrined, and quite possibly even bigger.
It’s good to see the voters fixing past mistakes. For example, the 2019 Modern Era ballot seemed to be inverted, with the weakest of the 10 candidates elected and eight more deserving players omitted.
For the record, the rejects included former MVPs Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Steve Garvey, Thuman Munson, and Don Mattingly, plus Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans and Tommy John. Ted Simmons got 13 votes from the 16-member panel, while long-time union chief Marvin Miller got 12, hitting the 75 per cent requirement right on the nose.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and baseball columnist for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Ball Nine, among others. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luis Rojas, new third-base coach of the Yankees, had previous ties to the club because father Felipe Alou and uncle Matty Alou both played there . . .
Aaron Hicks, the Yankees’ injury-prone center-fielder, has four years remaining on the seven-year, $70 million deal he signed in 2019 . . .
Corey Seager, the lefty-hitting slugger who signed a 10-year deal with the Texas Rangers, would have helped the Yankees because of his ability to make contact: hefanned in just 16.1 per cent of his plate appearances, compared with 25 per cent for Aaron Judge and 24.5 per cent for the Yankee team . . .
In a failed effort to get “over the hump” and into the 2018 World Series, the Washington Nationals invited three camels from a Jupiter, FL petting zoo to a spring training game (the team did reach the Fall Classic a year later) . . .
Still hard to believe Barry Bonds had 232 walks (120 of them intentional) in 2004. Both remain major-league records.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.