50th anniversary: Hall of Famers traded for each other

Fifty years ago today, a glorious rarity happened: a trade involving two Hall of Fame players. As an added bonus, they went opposite ways in this trade. It wasn’t just the two players straight up—in all, six players moved in the deal—but it isn’t every day two immortals are involved in one deal.

On Jan. 14, 1963, the White Sox sent long-time star shortstop Luis Aparicio, along with third baseman Al Smith, to Baltimore for Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward, and Hoyt Wilhelm.

Okay, so what were both teams thinking and why how did this trade work out for them?

Well, the White Sox won the AL pennant in 1959, their first in 40 years, and then in the following winter went for broke, loading up their team with veterans to strike while the iron was hot. Most notably, they brought back former star Minnie Minoso, but they also landed some other aging players, like Roy Sievers.

Alas, for Chicago that 1959-60 winter turned out to be one of the worst offseasons by any team. The players the Sox picked up were on the wrong side of 30 and in decline. Even worse, the Sox set some sort of unwanted record by dealing away five future All-Stars in one hot stove league winter. Norm Cash, Johnny Callison, Don Mincher, Earl Battey, and John Romano all departed for future success elsewhere.

Instead of adding a new gear to their team, the Sox were stuck in neutral, winning 85-87 games a year from 1960 to 1962. Despite their terrible 1959-60 trades, the Sox still had some young talent gurgling up, such as pitchers Joe Horlen and Juan Pizarro. The hope was that these guys could help the team going forward. Meanwhile, Al Smith was in his mid-30s.

The Orioles were similar in that they’d had their recent hopes dashed. They were the surprise story in baseball in 1960, when a young team led by a terrific corps of young pitchers nearly won the pennant. Steve Barber, Milt Pappas, Jack Fisher, and Chuck Estrada were all barely in their 20s, but all clearly had serious talent. The Orioles stood in first as late as Sept. 9 until a massive Yankee surge and Baltimore’s own late fade put them eight games back with an 89-65 mark. In 1961, Baltimore proved it was no fluke with a 95-win campaign.

But 1962 hadn’t gone according to plan. Instead of knocking the Yankees off, the Orioles fell back and fell back badly. They finished the year in the second division with a 77-85 record. Live by young pitching, die by young pitching. Estrada and Fisher in particular were not effective at all.

Baltimore wanted to get some veteran experience and they also were searching for some defensive help for their tender young arms, and Smith was the veteran acquisition target. Sure, the Orioles already had a third baseman in Brooks Robinson, but Smith was more an outfielder by trade anyway. And if you want infield help, you can sure do a lot worse than a late-20s Luis Aparicio.

But nothing comes for nothing. The most prominent guy going to Chicago, of course, was Hall of Fame reliever Hoyt Wilhelm. All but written off a few years earlier (Wilhelm had been waived twice in 12 months in the late 1950s), Baltimore had revitalized his career. He led the league in ERA in 1959 and in 1962 posted a 1.94 ERA in 93 innings in relief. Not bad. Yeah, but he would be 40 years old in 1963. So he was good enough to have trade value yet old enough to be quite tradable.

The rest were all young position players. Hansen was a veteran 25-year-old shortstop going in the wrong direction. He was Rookie of the Year in 1960 but two seasons later hit .173. Ward was an aging infield prospect. At 25, he’d made his big league debut the previous September and played in just eight games. Nicholson was an outfielder of questionable merit. He’d hit .173 in 97 games with an astonishing 76 strikeout in 173 at-bats for the 1962 Orioles.

In all, Baltimore must have been pretty pleased with the trade. For three questionable players and an old man, they got Aparicio and another starter.

But it was the White Sox who really moved forward here. In 1963, they bounced up to 94 wins, and then 98 to victories in 1964. They didn’t win another pennant until 2005, but they challenged through 1967.

Chicago’s improvement wasn’t just because of the trade, but it surely was part of the story. Ward was a splendid surprise, hitting .295 with 22 homers in 1963 while manning Smith’s old slot at third base. That earned him runner-up honors in Rookie of the Year voting. Ward never did that well again, but he lasted as a starter with the team for the rest of the decade.

Hansen took Aparicio’s old slot at short. His .226 average was still low, but he also drew 78 walks and hit 13 homers to provide some offensive value. And while he didn’t have Aparicio’s reputation in the field, he was a fine defensive man. Like Ward, Hansen also spent several years in the bigs.

Nicholson wasn’t as effective. He belted 22 homers in 1962—not bad for that era—but also fanned 175 games. He soon found himself in a part-time role and then gone from the team.

But the real star was Old Man Wilhelm. He spent six years with the White Sox and had his ERA under 2.00 five times. Overall, from 1963 to ’68, he threw 675.2 innings with a 1.92 ERA. Those knucklers often do age well, don’t they?

As for Baltimore, well they did get a pennant—a world title even—in 1966. It wasn’t so much because of this trade, though. Smith played for them for one year and was good, but he only lasted that one campaign.

Aparicio spent five years with the O’s and was a good player, but his performance didn’t justify all the Orioles gave up. Aparicio happens to be one of those players sabermetrics sees as overrated. He had speed, but he wasn’t that good at getting on base, with his modest average and weak walk totals. Combined with no power, he was a below-average offensive player. WAR does love his glove, though. (That said, not all sabermetric measures agree.)

Going by WAR, the Orioles got 16.7 wins in this trade (16.0 by Aparicio). The Sox got 16.9 wins in 1964 alone, as Ward, Hansen, and Wilhelm all had great seasons. In all, WAR scores the Sox at 61.7 wins in this trade.

Yeah, the Sox clearly got the better of this trade featuring Hall of Famers—a trade that happened 50 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand says ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since the Phillies lose a heartbreaker. They enter the bottom of the ninth leading Atlanta, 3-0. That is still the score with two outs when Troy Glaus hits a two-run homer, and then Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth tie and win it for Atlanta with back-to-back solo shots.

1,000 days since Tim Wakefield has his first balk in nearly eight years—and allows nine stolen bases in nine attempts.

4,000 days since the White Sox sign free agent Kenny Lofton.

8,000 days since the Mets sign amateur free agent second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo.

10,000 days since the Reds trades Cesar Cedeno to the Cardinals for a minor leaguer.

10,000 days since Don Baylor sets a new NL record with his 190th career hit-by-pitch.

10,000 days since Phil Niekro pitches his 5,000th inning.

25,000 days since the worst day at the plate for Bucky Walters, normally a very-good-hitting pitcher (he actually came to the majors an infielder). He’s 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, his only four-K game.

Anniversaries

1892 Silver Flint, an 1880s catcher, dies at age 36 of consumption.

1892 The Cuban Giants, maybe the best black team of the era, applie for membership in the Middle States League. Their application will be rejected.

1896 A Chicago jury acquits Cubs outfielder Walt Wilmot of violating the Sabbath Law by playing on a Sunday. This opens up the way for fully legalized Sunday ball in Chicago.

1905 John T. Brush, Giants owner (whose team refused to play in the 1904 World Series) proposes rules governing future World Series.

1909 The Tigers purchase pitcher George Moriarty from the Yankees.

1909 Togie Pittinger, pitcher who led the league in walks three times in a row (1902-04), dies two days after his 37th birthday.

1914 Walt Goldsby, a former big league outfielder, kills himself via gunshot wound.

1919 Charles Stoneham purchases the New York Giants for $1,030,000. His family will control the team until the 1970s.

1922 AL pioneer “Uncle Ben” Shibe dies at age 84. He was president and half-owner of the A’s.

1928 Alfred J. Reach, founder of the sporting goods firm that bears his name, dies at age 87.

1931 Hardy Richardson, one of the best players of the 1880s, dies at age 75.

1935 The A’s release veteran outfielder Bing Miller.

1935 Irv Young, pitcher nicknamed “Cy the Second” dies at age 57. He lost 20 games in each of his first three seasons (though that includes a 20-21 rookie campaign).

1937 Sonny Siebert, a two-time All-Star pitcher, is born.

1940 Judge Landis grants free agency to 91 players in the Tigers farm system.

1942 The Red Sox release catcher/spy Moe Berg.

1945 Ted Blankenship, decent 1920s White Sox pitcher, dies at the young age of 43.

1951 Derrel Thomas is born. He’ll play for 15 years, with the ability to field nearly any defensive position.

1952 Wayne Gross, All-Star for the 1977 A’s, is born.

1952 Terry Forster, reliever immortalized by David Letterman as a “tub of goo,” is born.

1954 Joe DiMaggio marries Marilyn Monroe.

1962 Les Mann, 16 -ear outfielder, dies at age 69. He led the Federal League in triples in 1915 with 19.

1964 The Pirates sign amateur free agent Dock Ellis.

1970 Johnny Murphy, great reliever turned GM, dies at age 61.

1974 Lloyd Brown, 1930s swingman AL pitcher, dies at age 69.

1976 Milwaukee signs aging veteran Vada Pinson as a free agent.

1976 Ted Turner completes his purchase of the Braves. He now owns 100 percent of the team.

1981 The Giants name Frank Robinson their manager. He’s the first black manager in NL history.

1984 Ray Kroc, McDonalds maven and Padres owner, dies.

1994 Baltimore signs free agent Chris Sabo.

1994 Seattle signs free agent pitcher Greg Hibbard.

1997 The White Sox sign former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek as a free agent.

1997 The Royals sign fading reliever Mitch Williams as a free agent.

1999 Houston trades Brad Ausmus to the Tigers.

2000 Arizona signs well-traveled pitcher Mike Morgan. It’ll be the last of many stops in his four-decade playing career.

2001 The White Sox trade Mike Sirotka and three others to the Blue Jays for David Wells and one other player. This move quickly becomes controversial when the Jays realize that Sirotka’s arm is shot. In fact, he never pitches again. They question the ethics of new Sox GM Kenny Williams. It’s the first big deal of Williams tenure, and he vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

2002 Texas trades young first baseman Carlos Pena as well as another player to Oakland for four players, one of whom is Ryan Ludwick.

2004 Anaheim signs hard-hitting free agent Vladimir Guerrero.

2004 Rafael Palmeiro signs as a free agent with Baltimore, where he’ll end his career.

2004 Texas signs free agent pitcher Kenny Rogers.

2005 Atlanta signs free agent outfielder Raul Mondesi for the final season of his career.

2005 Milwaukee signs former 20-game winner Rick Helling.

2007 Cleveland signs free agent reliever Keith Foulke, but he won’t play in the majors in 2007 or for Cleveland ever.

2008 Don Cardwell, 1960s NL pitcher, dies at age 72. He led the league in starts in 1961 with 38.

2008 Oakland trades Mark Kotsay to the Braves for a pair of minor leaguers.

2008 St. Louis and Toronto engage in a challenge trade for damaged third baseman. The Blue Jays send Troy Glaus to the Cardinals in exchange for Scott Rolen.

2009 The White Sox sign Bartolo Colon as a free agent.

2009 The Dodgers sign free agent reliever Guillermo Mota.

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Comments

  1. Tom Abbott said...

    This is so wonderful!! Growing up in Baltimore during this time, we were ecstatic to get Luis Aparicio. He was the first gog in the wheel that would produce the World Series Champions of 1966 – Frank and Brook, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer etc!!!! Pete Ward to me was like Lou Piniella (another Oriole prospect) as a player. he never fulfilled his promise.

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