20,000 days ago, the Cardinals made a great trade. Or, if you’d rather, 20,000 days ago the Reds made a terrible trade. It was a trade that helped make a 1960s dynasty.
On Dec. 5, 1957, the Reds traded a 19-year-old prospect named Curt Flood to the Cardinals for three players: Marty Kutyna, Willard Schmidt, and Ted Wieand. If you’re unfamiliar with that trio, you’re not missing that much.
Kutyna was a minor league pitcher who never did make it to the majors with the Reds, though he later did briefly for the A’s and Senators. That puts him ahead of Wieand, who threw 6.1 innings in his entire major league career (though all with Cincinnati). Schmidt was the only real big leaguer in the trade, but his career was winding down by the time of the trade. He pitched in relief for two years for the Reds and was pretty good in one of them, thus becoming the prize catch for Cincinnati in the trade.
Flood, on the other hand, became a three time All-Star who received modest support in MVP voting a half-dozen times and was the greatest defensive outfielder of his generation. And the Cardinals would get virtually his entire career, during which he helped them win three pennants and two world titles in the 1960s.
So yeah, it was a bad trade. Cincinnati clearly felt Flood was expendable, though he was actually a part of a tremendous pipeline of talent for the Reds. They had a scout in Oakland who plucked all the finest African-American talent there. If things had worked out differently, the Reds could have had a decade of a great outfield made up entirely of black players from Oakland.
The first leg was already in place—the first and greatest of their Oakland finds, Frank Robinson. He belted 38 home runs in his 1956 rookie season and never looked back. Three years later, the Reds would debut Vada Pinson in the outfield, and he went on to a lengthy career that saw him top 2,700 hits. So the Reds could’ve had the Oakland trio of Pinson, Robinson, and Flood.
Except that it was Pinson who made the Reds feel that Flood was expendable. Pinson and Flood were both center fielders, so why did the team need both? Sure, they could just move one over to a corner position, but the team didn’t feel they had two new outfield slots to play with.
Cincinnati already had Gus Bell, who hit 25-30 homers a year with an average around .300 most years from 1953-56. He’d had a down year in 1957, but he was still fairly young, turning just 29 a few weeks before the Flood trade. He should bounce back, right?
Wrong. Bell got old a little early it turned out. From age 28 onward, he never was that great, though the Reds could afford to keep him on the team for a few years because Pinson and Robinson gave them such nice production from the other slots.
It’s an interesting what-if, though. It’s especially interesting when looking at 1964. That year, the Cardinals won the NL pennant by just a game over two rival teams. Flood was a big part of that, as he led the league with 211 hits while playing center field. One of the teams finishing a game behind the Cardinals was, of course, the Reds. Their non-Oakland outfielder was Tommy Harper, who hit .243 with no power. (To be fair, Flood had no power, either.) The difference in their bats was at least a game, and Flood’s defensive was worth even more than that.
Yeah, it’s an interesting what-if, but if you’re a Reds fan it isn’t necessarily a fun one.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim over things.
4,000 days since Pittsburgh’s Craig Wilson sets an odd record by getting a hit in six consecutive innings. He got hits in the final three frames of yesterday’s game and in the first three in today’s game against the Cubs.
10,000 days since Kirby Puckett hits his first career home run. Mind you, this is his second big league season.
15,000 days since Atlanta purchases utility infielder Tony LaRussa from the A’s.
15,000 days since Bob Gibson drives in three runs while pitching a no-hitter. Nice day, as Gibson leads the Cardinals to an 11-0 beatdown of the Pirates.
30,000 days since Lefty Grove records his 100th big league victory.
1876 The National League holds its first annual meeting and votes to expel two franchises, the Philadelphia and New York clubs.
1884 Bob Caruthers, a 200-game winner with fewer than 100 loses, makes his big league debut.
1889 St. Louis forfeits in a weird game. They claim the field has become too dark to play, leave the field and light candles. The fans pelt them with bottles as they walk off the field. The umpire argues there is still enough light and thus issues a forfeit.
1900 Long Tom Hughes makes his big league debut.
1903 The Dodgers and Giants try something different, a two-stadium doubleheader.
1903 Curt Davis, the most successful big league pitcher to make his debut in his 30s, is born.
1907 Clark Griffith manages his 1,000th game. (He’s 538-441 for his career so far).
1907 Walter Johnson wins the first of his 38 career 1-0, complete-game shutout victories.
1908 Walter Johnson shuts out the Yankees for the third time in four days. Wow! The team brought exactly three pitchers with them on this road trip (!), and one has to return home when his wife fell ill while the other is sick.
1912 Eddie Collins steals six bases in one game.
1912 Two days after being beaten and kicked in the head in an altercation during a sandlot baseball game, ex-major leaguer Bugs Raymond dies at age 30.
1912 Umpire Billy Evans disallows a single by Ty Cobb, claiming Cobb had left the batter’s box. Cobb refuses to go back out to field his position after this.
1914 Flooding severely damages the ballpark for the Federal League’s Kansas City team. The storm washes away fences and demolishes the clubhouse.
1915 Dave Davenport tosses the last no-hitter in the Federal League.
1916 The New York Giants, currently in last place, begin a 26-game winning streak.
1919 Tris Speaker bangs out his 2,000th hit in only his 1,602nd game.
1920 Ed Konetchy belts his 2,000th career hit.
1920 A Cook County grand jury convenes to investigate gambling in baseball, looking at a Cub game from Sept. 2, 1919, and the 1919 World Series.
1923 Howard Ehmke of the Red Sox tosses a no-hitter against the A’s. It’s the second time in under a week a pitcher has no-hit the Athletics. This nearly isn’t a no-hitter, though. An appeal play during the game costs Philadelphia a hit, as the batter missed first base.
1923 Jim Bagby, who won 30 games in a season just three years ago, pitches for the last time in the big leagues.
1924 Ebbets Field has a sellout, so 7,000 to 8,000 fans use crowbars to tear off the gates from the hinges of the fences to get in the stadium for a big Giants-Dodgers game.
1927 Babe Ruth, who homered twice in the first game of a doubleheader yesterday, homers twice again in today’s game.
1928 Lefty Grove wins his 14th consecutive decision, which remarkably is not his personal best. In this stretch, here’s his line: 14-0, 19 G, 13 GS, 13 CG, 125.1 IP, 103 H, 28 R, 20 ER, 30 B, 79 K, and a 1.44 ERA.
1928 The Yankees’ lead over the A’s, which was 13.5 games earlier this year, is now zero games. The A’s will take the lead, but then New York will rally to claim the pennant.
1930 Paul Waner lashes out a triple for the fourth consecutive game.
1931 Van Mungo makes his major league debut.
1931 Rookie Paul Derringer tosses his third straight complete-game shutout. His line in this span: 29 IP, 19 H, 0 R, 5 BB, and 25 K.
1932 Babe Ruth goes to the hospital with pains in his right side. There’s no surgery, just ice packs needed, but he’ll be out five days.
1933 Wally Berger becomes the first person to homer 100 times for the Braves, making them the 12th franchise with a 100-HR guy.
1933 Johnny Marcum of the A’s tosses a shutout in his first big league start. He’ll do it again in is second start, one of only four guys ever to do that. He’ll win 65 games in his career.
1933 The Cubs win, giving them an all-time franchise record 1,000 games over .500 (4,405-3,405).
1935 Boston’s Joe Cronin hits into a walk-off triple play against Oral Hildebrand of the Indians. Cronin lines it off the head of third baseman Odell Hale (ow!), but it caroms to shortstop Bill Knickerbocker.
1938 On Joe Cronin Day in Fenway Park, Jimmie Foxx steals the show with eight RBIs in an 11-4 win over the Yankees.
1939 Hank Greenberg hits his 200th home run.
1945 Joe Kuhel belts a home run in Griffith Stadium, making him the only person to do that in Washington all season. It’s an inside-the-park homer.
1946 Mustache Gang outfielder Joe Rudi is born.
1947 Mel Harder pitches in his final game.
1950 Detroit’s Hoot Evers hits for the cycle (with two triples) in a 13-13 (10) draw against the Indians. Cleveland spots Bob Feller a seven-run lead in the top of the first, but he only gets one out before manager Lou Boudreau yanks him. Detroit ties it in the fifth, 7-7, and again, 9-9, after the eighth (on a two-run Hoot Evers homer). Both clubs score twice in the 10th. In the 10th, Evers finally gets his single to complete the cycle.
1951 Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr plays his last big league game.
1951 In one of the best pitchers’ duels of the decade, Virgil Trucks and the Tigers top Billy Pierce and the White 2-1 in 14 innings, with both hurlers going the distance. Trucks’ line on the day: 14 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, and 7 K. Pierce’s numbers were: 14 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 7 K.
1952 Johnny Mize connects for his only pinch-hit grand slam. It’s also his sixth and final career slam, as his Yankees top the Senators, 5-1.
1953 Detroit’s Billy Hoeft becomes the first big league pitcher in a quarter century to strike out the side on nine pitches when he does it to the White Sox in the seventh inning.
1954 460 fans make up the smallest crowd in Griffith Stadium history, as the Senators top the A’s, 5-4.
1955 Whitey Ford, who tossed a complete-game one-hitter in his last start, has another one today in a 2-1 win over the A’s. Jim Finigan belts a ground-rule double in the seventh inning for Kansas City’s only hit.
1955 Early Wynn claims his 200th win, giving him a career record of 200-150 so far. He’ll be 100-94 for the rest of his career.
1955 Lee Mazzilli is born.
1957 Luis Aparicio enjoys his only multi-home run game. He goes 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs in Chicago’s 8-2 win over the A’s.
1960 White Sox fan Willie Harris runs on the field to punch Sammy Esposito in the face for making an error. The error cost Harris a bet.
1960 Orlando Cepeda walks four times in a game for the only time.
1963 Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson suffers a spike wound when Ron Hunt lands on his left arm. It requires 30 stitches.
1963 Sherm Lollar plays in his final game.
1964 Cub shortstop Don Kessinger makes his big league debut.
1966 35-year-old Willie Mays scores the winning run from first base on a single by Frank Johnson with two out in the top of the 12th inning for a 3-2 Giants win over the Dodgers in a big pennant race between the two teams.
1967 Bob Uecker has a rough day trying to catch Phil Niekro’s knuckleball. He has two passed balls, a throwing error, and is called for catcher’s interference. That said, after his Hall of Fame career ends, Niekro says no one is more responsible for his success than Uecker, because Uecker made him unafraid to throw the knuckler at all times. Uecker let Niekro know that the great ERA and wins were all on him and the passed balls and errors were all on Uecker. He just wanted Niekro to throw that best pitch of his.
1967 The Giants use 25 players in a 3-2 (15) win over the Astros.
1968 Dusty Baker makes his big league debut as a player.
1969 Harmon Killebrew has his best RBI day, going 2-for-2 with two homers and a walk for 7 RBIs in Minnesota’s 16-4 destruction of the A’s.
1970 The White Sox use 41 players in a doubleheader against the A’s, but Oakland sweeps it. Vida Blue belts a three-home run to decide one contest, which Oakland wins, 7-4.
1970 Ken Forsch makes his big league debut.
1972 Joe Morgan collects his 1,000th hit in his 1,020th game.
1972 Steve Carlton gets his 100th win. His career record is 100-70, including 23-8 so far in 1972. For the rest of his career after today, Carlton will be 229-174.
1972 Jason Isringhausen is born
1973 Bill Madlock makes his big league debut.
1973 The Rangers fire manager Whitey Herzog.
1974 In the middle of a game, the bat for slugging third baseman Graig Nettles comes unglued, revealing it has cork in it. He homered earlier in the game, in what proves to be the only run in a 1-0 Yankee win over the Tigers.
1974 In an Angels-White Sox game, Nolan Ryan has a fastball clocked at 100.8 mph, setting a new record.
1974 Joe Morgan belts a two-run homer on a badly sprained ankle for a 7-5 Reds victory over the Dodgers. On a previous pitch, he fell down upon swinging and missing and nearly had to be removed because his ankle was not in a happy place.
1974 Phil Niekro balks three times in a game against the Giants.
1975 Greg Minton, one of the hardest pitchers of modern times to homer against, makes his big league debut.
1975 Tony Solaita of the Royals belts three home runs in one game.
1977 Willie McCovey gets his 2,000th hit in his 2,295th game played.
1978 Pete Rose, at the age of 37 years, four months, and 23 days, belts his third and final career inside-the-park home run.
1978 Baseball’s Boston Massacre begins: New York tops the Red Sox, 15-3. Then they defeat them 13-2, 7-0, and 7-4 in the remaining games in the series. It’s a key part of the giant Yankees comeback in the 1978 AL East pennant race.
1979 Exactly seven years after his 1,000th career hit, Joe Morgan records No. 2,000. It has taken him 2,028 games (1,008 since the 1,000th hit).
1980 Super-prospect Mark Prior is born.
1981 Johnny Bench enjoys his 19th and final multi-home run game.
1981 Candy Maldonado makes his big league debut.
1981 Outfielder Mike Marshall plays in his first game.
1982 Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones last pitches in the majors.
1982 Ken Boyer dies.
1983 Charlie Hough has his third consecutive complete-game shutout. His line in that time: 27 IP, 16 H, 0 R, 6 BB, and 15 K.
1983 Nolan Ryan becomes the first (and still only) man to walk 2,000 batters in his career.
1984 Hall of Famer Joe Cronin dies.
1984 Danny Tartabull makes his big league debut.
1985 For the eighth and final time, Gene Mauch has his team lay down five sacrifices in one game. This time, like five of the preceding times, come in a DH league.
1985 Dave Winfield steals home for a 3-2 Yankee win over the A’s. He didn’t intend to steal home, but Oakland catches him napping off third on a pitch-out, and Winfield gets away with it in the rundown.
1986 Dave Parker collects his 2,000th career hit in his 1,753rd game played.
1986 In one of the year’s best pitchers duels, the Giants top Montreal, 1-0, in a game featuring a total of three hits. The Giants have exactly one hit off Floyd Youmans while Mike Krukow allows only two by the Expos.
1987 Buddy Bell hits his fifth and final career walk-off home run. It comes in the bottom of the 13th inning, the latest he’s ever gone deep.
1987 Pittsburgh’s Jeff Robinson strikes out the side against the Cubs on only nine pitches in the eighth inning of a 3-2 Pirate victory.
1988 Curt Schilling makes his big league debut.
1989 Rich Gossage becomes the eighth pitcher and first reliever to defeat all 26 teams. Before him, Rick Wise, Mike Torrez, Gaylord Perry, Doyle Alexander, Tommy John, Don Sutton, and Nolan Ryan accomplished this feat.
1990 The Mets sign amateur free agent Guillermo Mota.
1991 The Angels release Dave Parker.
1992 Fay Vincent, who just six days ago flatly stated “I will not resign, ever!” resigns.
1993 Mark Whiten has arguably the greatest game by any player ever, belting four homers for 12 RBIs in the second game of a doubleheader against Cincinnati. He was 0-for-4 in the first game. Go figure.
1996 In the span of five batters, Florida’s left fielder Joe Orsulak throws out three runners, but the team loses, 2-1, to the Expos.
1996 A Steve Trachsel pitch breaks the wrist of Philadelphia third baseman Scott Rolen. Due to this, Rolen will have only 130 at-bats this year, making him a rookie in 1997 and allowing him to win that year’s Rookie of the Year Award.
1997 Vladimir Guerrero has his worst game according to WPA. He goes 0-for-4 in Montreal’s 2-1 loss to the Phillies for a –0.378 WPA.
1998 On his father’s 61st birthday, Mark McGwire hits his 61st home run of the year in a Cards-Cubs game.
1999 Arizona and Milwaukee combine to use 15 pitchers in a nine-inning game that the Diamondbacks win, 11-9.
1999 Rockies manager Jim Leyland confirms that he’ll retire at the end of the year.
1999 Cincinnati’s Greg Vaughn belts three homers in one game.
2002 The Tigers release Jose Lima.
2002 Eric Munson homers for Detroit in his first big league at-bat as the Tigers top the Yankees, 2-1.
2004 Robin Ventura has always had the knack for the grand slam, and today he hits his only pinch-hit grand slam. It’s also his 18th and final career slam.
2007 The Pirates dismiss GM David Littlefield.
2007 Arizona signs free agent reliever Bob Wickman.
2008 The Pirates lose their 82nd game of the year, clinching a record-tying 16th consecutive losing season. The Pirates also suffer four hits-by-pitch in the game.
2009 For the second consecutive season, Pittsburgh makes unwanted history on Sept. 7. The Pirates lose their 82nd game of the year, clinching a record-setting 17th consecutive losing season.
2010 Trevor Hoffman records his 600th career save as the Brewers top the Cardinals, 4-2.