Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tigers' Most Memorable Hot Stove Moves of The 70s and 80s

Where were you the day the Tigers traded Mickey Lolich for Rusty Staub?
(Photo credit: Topps Company, Inc.)

A while ago, I listed the Tigers most memorable off-season transactions of the last 25 years.  Today, I will do the same for the 1970s and 1980s,  By "most memorable", I don't mean "best".  Sometimes, a move seems great at the time it's made and then turns out to be a bad one or an insignificant one.  I'm judging this by my own memory of which moves excited or intrigued me most as they were made.  I chose one move (or two related moves) each year.  The list is below.  Keep in mind that 1970 (for example) indicates the move was made in between the last game of 1970 and the the first game of 1971.

1970 - On October 9, my eight birthday, the Tigers traded pitcher Denny McLain along with utility man Elliott Maddox and infielder Don Wert to the Washington Senators for shortstop Eddie Brinkman, pitcher Joe Coleman, pitcher Jim Hannan and third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez.  I doubt I heard about this trade on my birthday.  We didn't have Twitter telling us about trades days before they were officially announced back then.  I likely heard about it the next day at the earliest, but I do remember it being the first trade that really impacted me as a young fan.  I was too young to fully understand what was going on with McLain in 1970 (gambling suspension), but I knew how great he was in 1968-1969.  I didn't know much about the players they go in return, but it turned out to be one of the most favorably lopsided deals in franchise history. 

1971 - I've got nothing here.  The only thing that was vaguely memorable was the trade of pitcher Bill Denehy to the Cardinals for pitcher Chris Zachary and the only reason I remember that at all was because my father was a Cardinals fan.  If it happened today, I would have noticed that Zachary's FIP (2.82) was much lower than his ERA (5.32), but that was another era.  

1972 - The Tigers traded minor league pitcher Danny Fife to the Twins for veteran pitcher Jim Perry.  The brother of the great spit baller Gaylord Perry, Jim was a fine pitcher in his own right and he gave the Tigers one solid year before he was traded to the Indians after the season.  

1973 - Long-time Tiger second baseman Dick McAuliffe was traded for outfielder Ben Oglivie.  This trade was kind of big deal for me because I lived near Boston.  Oglivie had a few pretty good years as a platoon outfielder for the Tigers, but became even better after he was traded to the Brewers before the 1978 season.

1974 - Brinkman, outfielder Dick Sharon and pitcher Bob Strampe were traded to the Padres for slugging first baseman Nate Colbert.  Colbert had a poor year for San Diego in 1974 but, at 29 years of age, he seemed like a good candidate for a comeback.  I got excited when Colbert blasted two home runs and collected seven RBI in his first three games with Detroit, but he did virtually nothing after that.  

1975 - After losing 105 games including 19 in a row in a miserable 1975 season, the Tigers were wheeling and dealing at the winter meetings that year.  First, they acquired pitcher Jim Crawford, catcher Milt May and pitcher Dave Roberts in a seven-player deal with the Astros.  A few days later, 
They acquired outfielder Rusty Staub for pitcher Mickey Lolich in a four-player deal with the Mets.  Roberts and Staub became important pieces in the Tigers resurgence in 1976 known as the year of The Bird.  

1976 - The Tigers signed 33-year-old second baseman Tito Fuentes as a free agent.  Fuentes batted .309 with a .348 on-base percentage in 1977 and then seemingly fell all the face of the earth in 1978.           
1977 - In December, Oglivie was traded for pitchers Rich Folkers and Jim Slaton.  It seemed like a steal at the time, because free agency was new and I didn't really think about Slaton having just one year left. He had a good year with the Tigers and then re-signed with the Brewers the next season. To make matters worse, Oglivie became a star for the Brewers.  

1978 - The Tigers traded minor league pitcher John Murphy and left-hander Bob Sykes to the Cardinals for outfielder Jerry Morales and pitcher Aurelio Lopez.  At the time, I thought Morales would be the key player in the deal, but Senor Smoke turned out to be the prize.  

1979 - My favorite player, Ron Leflore, was traded to the Expos for pitcher Dan Schatzeder.  I probably over glorified Leflore, but this trade made no sense to me at all and I hated it.  It turned out to be much ado about nothing as each player only had modest success after the trade.

1980 - Utility infielder Mark Wagner was traded to the Rangers for reliever Kevin Saucier.  There was not much to see there, but I had reached the age where every Tigers transaction was big news.  

1981 - Outfielder Steve Kemp was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Chester Lemon.  Kemp was a good hitter and one of my favorites, but Lemon was a better all around player and I'm still not sure how Tigers General Manager Jim Campbell pulled it off.  Kemp's career was derailed by injuries, while Lemon became a star on the great Tigers teams of the 80s.

1982 - The Bengals Traded pitcher Dave Tobik for Johnny Grubb during spring training.  This was the type of trade I could only find in the transactions section of the local paper - must reading for a serious baseball fan in those days.   Grubb was a pretty solid bench player for a few years though.

1983 - The Tigers were finally getting close to a division title and they had a big off-season.  They signed Rod Allen as a free agent...but it got even bigger that that.  Campbell had a reputation for being cheap, but he shocked the fan base with the signing of  third baseman/ first baseman Darrell Evans.  Back in those days, MLB used to have a draft of all the available free agents and teams could only make offers to players they drafted.  There were no mystery teams. Every year, the Tigers would draft a few boring non-impact players if they selected anyone at all, so it was seen as a minor victory when they drafted Evans.  Still, more than half the teams drafted Evans, so nobody thought the Tigers had a chance.  It was a big surprise when the announcement was made in December.

Then, in spring training, they completed their team by trading outfielder Glenn Wilson and popular utility man John Wockenfuss for reliever Guillermo Hernandez and first baseman Dave Bergman.  I saw this trade while watching the Reuter's sports news scroll on cable TV.  I thought that was the coolest thing and would check it out several times a day!  I think I was looking for spring training scores and all of the sudden this trade popped up.  Everything came by surprise back then.  It was nothing like today when we see trades developing on the computer.

1984 - After winning the World Series, the Tigers traded third baseman Howard Johnson for pitcher Walt Terrell.  This was an unpopular deal as there were high hopes for Johnson and it didn't seem like manager Sparky Anderson gave him the chance he deserved.  Terrell was a good pitcher for a few years, but Johnson developed into a star and they Tigers really could have used his bat.

1985 - The Tigers traded fire baller Jaun Berenguer, catcher Bob Melvin (yes, that Bob Melvin), and minor league pitcher Scott Medvin to San Francisco for pitchers Eric King and Dave LaPoint and catcher Matt Nokes.  I was pretty excited about Dave LaPoint, but he ended up having far less impact than King and Nokes.  Nokes was a huge surprise exploding for 32 home runs in his first year with the Tigers at age 23.

1986 - The Tigers re-signed free agent outfielder Kirk Gibson.  This was memorable because it seemed like the Tigers were going to lose him which would have been a big loss.

1987 - The Tigers traded pitcher Dan Petry to the Angels for speedy outfielder Gary Pettis.  Petry had had several very good seasons with the Tigers, but he wore out his elbow.  Pettis was one of the best defensive outfielders the Tigers ever had and surprisingly put up a .375 on-base percentage in 1989.

1988 - The Tigers made no major moves, but it was fun to see them make three trades in one day near the end of spring training - Infielder Tom Brookens to the Yankees for pitcher Charles Hudson; utility man Luis Salazar to the Padres for infielder Mike Brumley; Eric King for utility man Kenny Williams (yes, that Kenny Williams)
1989 - After a horrible 103-loss season, the Tigers acquired free agents Tony Phillips and Lloyd Moseby at the December Winter Meetings.  I was at graduate school at UConn and had no television or computer.  Even though the moves were officially made two days apart, I learned about both of them on the same day in the newspaper.  

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, seems like the Tigers came out ahead far more often than they were taken, and some of the trades were quite lopsided in Detroit's favor. HoJo for Terrell was maybe the worst one, although Oglivie for one year of Slaton was pretty bad too. But Brinkman, Rodriguez and Coleman for the dessicated corpse of Denny McLain was an outrageous steal, and we got plenty of other valuable properties--Lemon, Tony Phillips, Staub, Senor Smoke and so on--for pennies on the dollar. Clearly, Campbell was a clever old operator. Thanks for putting this together.



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