My buddy Doug reminded me not too long ago that the Major League Baseball trading deadline used to be June 15th. He figured that would make for an interesting post. Guess what? He is absolutely correct. With the date only two days away, now would be a perfect time to reflect on some major happenings that took place at the old deadline.
The biggest June 15th deal took place in 1977 and it became known as the Midnight Massacre, considered by many Met fans to be the darkest day in the history of the franchise. Tom Seaver had been in a feud with Met management over the issue of (what else?) money. Seaver had been critical in the press of ownership not spending the dollars necessary to keep the Mets from sliding toward mediocrity. Dick Young was a writer with the New York Daily News who continually took the side of the organization even calling Seaver “greedy”. It is worth pointing out that Young’s son-in-law worked in the organization. Things came to a head in the June 15th edition of the Daily News in which Young stated that Seaver was jealous of the contract of Nolan Ryan received from the California Angels, even dragging Seaver’s wife and Ryan’s wife into fray. That night, Tom Terrific demanded to be traded and the Mets obliged sending him to the Reds for Steve Henderson, Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman. Not only that but slugger Dave Kingman was dealt to the Padres, also over a contract dispute. The Mets lost their two best players on the same day, June 15th, 1977. Check out Bill Madden’s column for even more background on this historic deal.
June 15th is also a date Cubs’ fans would like to forget as a trade was made that has gone down as one of the most lopsided deals of all time. In 1964 the Cubbies dealt Lou Brock to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio. At the time, it didn’t look so bad as Broglio was 18-8 the prior year and in 1960 led the National League in wins with 21. Other than his .315 batting average in 1963, the speedster Brock was basically a .255 hitter. Who knew that Brock would go on to the Hall of Fame while Broglio would post seven wins in his two and a half seasons in Chicago, retiring after the 1966 season?
In 1976, Charlie Finley, having already lost Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, decided to sell off more players who were instrumental in the A’s three consecutive World Championships. On June 15th, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sent to the Red Sox while Vida Blue was sent to the Yankees all for cash. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn rejected the deals, citing “the best interest of baseball clause”. Finley tried suing Major League Baseball as well as Kuhn but ultimately lost. Fingers and Rudi left after the season and Blue was traded before the 1978 season.
Since we started with a depressing story about the Mets, how about a good one for the Amazins? It was June 15th, 1983 when the Cards traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. The two pitchers combined for a 21-22 record for St. Louis while Hernadez trade helped restore some badly needed credibility. His arrival set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the team’s second title three years later.
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