A Baseball Trade That Will Never Be Topped

By Scott A. Rowan

The Chicago Cubs are no stranger to unusual trades. But there’s only one trade in the team’s history so unusual that it will probably never be repeated. To underscore the uniqueness of this trade, it helps to examine some of the other highly unusual trades in Cubs history that were rare, but not unprecedented.

This excerpt is from “The Cubs Quotient: How the Chicago Cubs Changed the World” by Scott A. Rowan. Available now at Amazon and SherpaMultimedia.com.

In 1987, Cubs pitcher Dickie Noles was traded to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later; he appeared in only four games for the Tigers before being named as the player to be traded the next month—completing a trade for himself. But Noles was actually the third of four players to be exchanged for himself in baseball history. The others were Harry Chiti (1962, Mets/Indians), Brad Gulden (1982, Yankees/Expos), and most recently John McDonald (2005, Tigers/Blue Jays).

On May 4, 1960, Cubs owner Philip Wrigley swapped manager Charlie Grimm, whose team opened the season 6–11, for WGN announcer Lou Boudreau, who had been in the booth for two seasons after managing for 15 combined years for the Indians, the Red Sox, and the Athletics. The swap did nothing for the Cubs, however, who ended in seventh place in the NL (60–94), prompting Wrigley to begin his “College of Coaches” the following season.

Wrigley’s unusual swap of Boudreau for Grimm was just the first of several managers hired from the broadcast booth, though at least Boudreau had previous managing experience. There was no such history on the resumes of Larry Dierker (1997, Houston), Bob Brenly (2000, Arizona), and Buck Martinez (2000, Toronto), who were all hired to take over a team that they had been covering as a broadcaster in the years prior to becoming skipper. No, none of the teams’ former managers took over the broadcasting duties for their team, making the the Grimm/Boudreau trade the only one in history in which a manager and a broadcaster changed duties.

Max Flack

On May 30, 1923, the Cubs and the Cardinals completed a trade that was unique because it involved a doubleheader, something that MLB teams hate to schedule. The Cubs traded Max Flack for the Cardinals’ Cliff Heathcote after the first game of a doubleheader between the teams. Then Flack reported to the St. Louis locker room and Heathcote went to Chicago’s. In the first game, both players had been hitless for their teams. Flack started in right field for the Cubs and went 0-for-4, while Heathcote went 0-for-3 and started in center field. In the second game, Flack went 1-for-4 for St. Louis, again starting in right field; Heathcote went 2-for-4 and also started in right field. This incident marked the only time in MLB history that two players were traded for each other and then played for two teams on the same day.

Since the 1920s, doubleheaders have become an increasingly rare part of the game, and their future seems doubtful. Teams are reluctant to schedule doubleheaders because they feel that playing two games on one day reduces their revenue. Nearly all doubleheaders today are the result of rained-out games forced into the schedule as necessary. There were 34 doubleheaders in 2011, and only 20 in 2012. The 2013 season had only one doubleheader scheduled before the start of the season.

Cliff Heathcote

Only two other players in MLB history experienced what Flack and Heathcote went through physically and emotionally that day in 1922. On August 4, 1982, Joel Youngblood helped the New York Mets beat the Cubs 7–4 in a day game at Wrigley Field with a single in the third inning. Then, in the middle of the game, he was told he had been traded to the Montreal Expos, who were playing in Philadelphia that night. Youngblood left the Friendly Confines, hopped on a plane, and made it to Philadelphia for the evening game, in which he hit a single in the top of the seventh inning off Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton.

That feat made Youngblood the only player in MLB history to have a hit with two different teams on the same day (since Flack and Heathcote were both hitless in the first game of their doubleheader). A dearth in doubleheaders combined with players usually taking the full 72 hours to report to their new team after a trade make Flack, Heathcote, and Youngblood the only players in league history who will likely ever play for two teams on one day.

 

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