Monday, August 13, 2012

Bewildering Barters Nothing New For Baseball

Harry Chiti in 1952 at the Polo Grounds
First Player Ever Who Was Traded For Himself 

Seattle PI Staff
May 24, 2006

Strange trades have been with us since Shakespeare's Richard III blurted, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Oddball sports trades have been with us since 1890, when a minor league baseball club in Canton, Ohio, traded future Hall of Famer Cy Young to Cleveland for a suit of clothes and $250. Ever since, and running through a befuddling swap some years later in which, according to intelligence provided by the Society for American Baseball Research, a first baseman named Jack Fenton was dealt by his San Francisco minor league club for a box of prunes, innumerable sporting barters have crossed the transaction wire.

Among the most flummoxing:

Player traded for himself 1962
In April, the Mets traded catcher Harry Chiti to the Indians for a player to be named later. On June 15, the Mets received the PTBNL, who turned out to be Chiti, making Chiti the first player to be traded for himself (in 1987, in the same sort of scenario, Cubs pitcher Dickie Noles was also traded for himself).

Swapped for stadium rent 1913
When the St. Louis Browns concluded spring workouts, they didn't have enough money to pay the rent they owed on the Montgomery, Ala., ballpark where they'd trained. So they gave the local minor league team a rookie infielder named Clyde Ellsworth "Buzzy" Wares to satisfy the bill.

Traded for an outfield fence 1920
Before he made it to the majors, Lefty Grove pitched for the Martinsburg (W. Va.) Mountaineers. In June, a storm leveled the outfield fence at the town's ballpark. The Baltimore Orioles, then of the International League, agreed to pay the price of a new fence, about $3,500, if Martinsburg would fork over Grove. According to SABR historians, it did.

Traded for oysters 1921
According to Texas League archives, after the Dallas minor league team swapped pitcher Joe Martina to New Orleans in 1921 for two barrels of oysters, he was forever known as "Oyster Joe."

Traded during a doubleheader 1922
On May 30, the Cubs and Cardinals swapped outfielders between games of a twin bill against each other, Chicago sending Max Flack to the Cardinals for Cliff Heathcote. Both had gone hitless in the first game. In the nightcap, Flack, now a Cardinal, went 1-for-4. Heathcote, now a Cub, went 2-for-4. The pair became the first major leaguers to play for two teams on the same day.

Traded for a live turkey 1930
Joe Engel, owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts, developed a reputation as the "Barnum of Baseball" after he assumed ownership of the club in 1929. Among his innumerable stunts: In 1930, he swapped shortstop Johnny Johns for a live turkey.

A manager for an announcer 1960
Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley traded his manager, Charlie Grimm, to the Cubs' flagship station, WGN, for radio announcer Lou Boudreau. At the end of the season, Wrigley traded Boudreau back to WGN for Grimm. Instead of reappointing Grimm as manager, Wrigley eliminated the position and installed a "College of Coaches," of which Grimm was one.

Traded for $2,500 worth of pork 1998
A Romanian first division soccer club named "Jiul Petrosani" found itself so strapped for cash that it traded one of its players, midfielder Ion Radu, to a Romanian second division team for $2,500 worth of pork. At the same time, Jiul Petrosani also transferred defenseman Liviu Baicea to another Romanian club for 10 soccer balls.

Traded for a soccer ball 1971
The Kitchener Concordia Kickers of the Canadian National League deemed Istvan Gaal such a pathetic player that they swapped him to the Toronto Hungarians for a soccer ball worth $27.50. Kickers president John Fischer said, "I think it was a very fair trade. We didn't give him away for nothing."

Players swap families 1973
In March, Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich (a Mariners reliever in 1977) swapped families and houses. Marilyn Peterson, her youngest child and their dog went to live with Kekich. Susanne Kekich, her youngest child and their dog went to live with Peterson. The unusual trade prompted Yankees GM Lee McPhail to declare, "We may have to call off Family Day."

A manager for a player 1976
On Nov. 5, the Pirates traded C Manny Sanguillen to the A's for their manager, Chuck Tanner. The precedent having been set, in 2002 the Mariners allowed Lou Piniella to forgo the final year of his contract so he could become manager of the Devil Rays. In exchange, the D-Rays sent Randy Winn and Antonio Perez to the Mariners.

Traded for a team bus 1983
The Seattle Breakers of the Western Hockey League traded the rights to left-winger Tom Martin to the Victoria Cougars for a team bus. At the time of the swap, Martin was playing at Denver University and had stated that he wished to play in his hometown of Victoria. The Spokane Flyers purchased the bus from Trailways in 1981 for $60,000. When the Spokane franchise folded, the Cougars purchased the bus, but it remained in the United States because Victoria could not afford to pay customs, excise and sales taxes. The Breakers finally obtained the bus for Martin as well as $35,000. "I didn't think much about it at the time," Martin recalled later. "But it was a real nice bus."

Managers traded for each other 1960
On Aug. 3, the fourth-place Indians traded manager Jimmy Dykes straight up to the sixth-place Tigers for their manager, Joe Gordon, marking the only trade in-season of managers in major league history.

The ultimate player to be named later 1985
On Feb. 1, the Cardinals sent SS Jose Gonzales to the Giants in a package that included Dave LaPoint and Dave Green. After the swap, Gonzalez traded his old last name for his mother's maiden name, thereby becoming Jose "Uribe." Giants coach Rocky Bridges aptly noted, "Jose Uribe really is the player to be named later."

A horse for an apartment 1988
Trading for Wayne Gretzky wasn't the only astounding piece of sports commerce consummated by L. A. Kings owner Bruce McNall in 1988. He also traded a racehorse to Donald Trump in exchange for an apartment at The Trump Towers in New York City.

Traded for 12 dozen baseballs 1989
Tom Fortugno pitched for 15 pro teams during his career, among them six major league clubs. He is most remembered for a transaction in which his Reno minor league team sold him to Stockton for 12 dozen baseballs and $2,500.

Traded for 33 pounds of meat 2006
Romanian soccer club UT Arad sold defender Marius Cioara to Regal Horia in exchange for 33 pounds of meat. The deal turned out badly for Regal Horia because Cioara decided to retire. A Regal Horia official told Romania's Pro Sports daily, "We are upset because we lost twice -- firstly because we lost a good player and secondly because we lost our team's food for a whole week."

Traded for a cartoon 2006
As part of the shift of "Monday Night Football" from ABC to ESPN, broadcaster Al Michaels was allowed to jump to NBC in exchange for, among other things, the rights to a cartoon bunny named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt Disney, owners of ABC and ESPN, had created the Oswald cartoon in the 1920s, but NBC owned the rights to the character. Said Michaels: "I'm going to become a trivia question."

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