1917 – The Phils sell star pitcher Grover Alexander, twice a 30-game winner, and his personal catcher “Reindeer” Bill Killefer to the Cubs for righthander “Iron” Mike Prendergast, C Pickles Dillhoefer, and $55,000. Phils owner William Baker later admits he made the trade because, “I needed the money.” The 5th-place Cubs expect the addition of Alexander to greatly strengthen their staff, but Alex will be drafted in the Army.
1930 – The BBWAA votes to continue the custom of selecting an MVP for each league. Beginning in 1931 the annual vote of the BBWAA will designate a player for this honor in each league. Previous MVP winners will be able to repeat under the new rules, something that was prohibited by the American League in the 1920s.
1945 – The Giants obtain a genuine “phenom,” pitcher/outfielder Clint Hartung, from Minneapolis for $20,000 and three players. Much ballyhooed, Hartung hit .358 in 66 games in 1942 for Eau Claire (Northern League) while winning three games. He was then in the military for the next three years, and will be still playing in the military for the 1946 season. The New York World Telegram’s Tom Meany writes, “Hartung’s a sucker if he reports to the Giants. All he has to do is sit at home, wait till he’s eligible, and he’s a cinch to make the Hall of Fame.”
Branch Rickey announces that the Dodgers have signed an agreement with Bud Holman and the city of Vero Beach to rent 104 acres of a former pre-war municipal airport. They will pay $1 a year and take over the maintenance. In 1952 the Dodgers will sign a new 20-year lease for $1 a year, and on March 11, 1953, a new field will be named Holman Stadium.
1950 – At the winter meetings, held in St. Petersburg, FL, Major League owners vote 9-7 against renewing Commissioner Happy Chandler’s contract for a new term, starting in 1951. The Cardinals’ Fred Saigh led the opposition to Chandler, who had jeopardized the reserve clause and ordered investigations of the alleged gambling activities of several owners.
A. B. ‘Happy’ Chandler’s contract as commissioner isn’t renewed for a second term when he receives only nine of the twelve owners’ votes needed for re-election. The former Kentucky Senator, an 1982 Hall of Fame inductee due to his lasting contributions to the game, is given credit for helping to integrate the majors, putting six umpires on the field during the World Series, and establishing the players’ pension fund in 1947, with the $475,000 made by selling the rights to broadcast the World Series on the radio.
“I can no longer produce for my ballclub, my manager, my teammates, and my fans the sort of baseball their loyalty to me deserves.” – Joe DiMaggioAt the Yankees’ Fifth Avenue suite in the Squibb Tower, a tearful Joe DiMaggio, two weeks after his 37th birthday, announces to the press his decision to retire from baseball. The Bronx Bomber outfielder, claiming he “no longer has it” due to age and injuries, ends his thirteen-year career with a lifetime .325 BA and 361 home runs, rejecting owner Dan Topping’s $100,000 offer to play next season.
The Pirates name Fred Haney to be the team’s manager, replacing Billy Meyer who was selected as The Sporting News Major League Manager of the Year in 1948 following his first season at the helm. The Bucs will finish in last place each season, compiling a dismal 163-299 (.353) record during their new skipper’s three-year tenure in Pittsburgh.
The Phillies purchase Connie Mack Stadium for $1,675,000 from Arnold Johnson, the A’s new owner who acquired the ballpark as part of his purchase of the American League team. The Phils, who had been paying a minimal amount of rent to share the park with their Junior Circuit rivals, are now the sole occupants with the relocation of the Athletics to Kansas City and will play in the aging downtown facility for another 15 years before they move to Veterans Stadium in 1971.
A major league player association is formed with Bob Feller, a future Hall of Fame hurler with the Indians, being named its first president. The labor organization, one of many attempts by the players to form a union, will prove to be very successful a decade later when Marvin Miller is hired to be the MLBPA’s first executive director in 1966.
When the Pirates reject their offer to exchange Dick Groat for Roger Maris, the A’s, prohibited from trading the slugging outfielder to the Yankees for 18 months after obtaining him from the Indians on June 15, 1958, send the right fielder and two other players to New York in exchange for Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern, and Marv Throneberry. The year-and-a-half moratorium on the potential trade was put in place to alleviate the perception that Kansas City was serving as a ‘big league’ farm club for the Bronx Bombers.
The Angels trade two catchers, Ed Kirkpatrick and Dennis Paepke, to the Kansas City A’s for Hoyt Wilhelm. Before being traded to Atlanta in September, the right-handed knuckleballer, who will post a 5-7 record along with ten saves while compiling a respectable ERA of 2.47 during his five months with the Halos.
The Mets trade Kevin Mitchell, a rookie who played six positions for the eventual world champs, along with prospects Stan Jefferson and Shawn Abner, and two additional minor leaguers to the Padres for outfielder Kevin McReynolds, southpaw Gene Walter, and a minor leaguer. After being traded to the Giants during the season, the San Diego native will become the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1989.
The A’s obtain Jesse Orosco from the Mets and then trade the southpaw reliever along with shortstop Alfredo Griffin and right-hander Jay Howell to the Dodgers for pitchers Matt Young, Bob Welch and Jack Savage. New York gets Savage as well as right-handed hurlers Wally Whitehurst and Kevin Tapani from Oakland to complete the three-team, eight-player deal.
The A’s obtain Jesse Orosco from the Mets and then trades the southpaw reliever along with shortstop Alfredo Griffin and right-hander Jay Howell to the Dodgers for pitchers Matt Young, Bob Welch, and Jack Savage. New York gets Savage as well as right-hand hurlers Wally Whitehurst and Kevin Tapani from Oakland to complete the three-team, eight-player deal.
The Mets obtain twelve-time All-Star 2B Roberto Alomar in an eight-player deal with the Indians. In addition to Alomar, New York also receives P Mike Bacsik and OF-1B Danny Peoples. Cleveland gets OF Matt Lawton and blue chip prospect Alex Escobar, P Jerrod Riggan, and pitching prospect Billy Traber.
After declining offers from the Yomiuri Giants and his former team, the Chunichi Dragons, Kosuke Fukudome comes to terms with the Cubs on a four-year deal reported to be worth $48 million. The 30 year-old Japanese outfielder, also sought by the Padres, White Sox, Giants, and Rangers, compiled a .305 batting average during his 13-year tenure in Japan’s Central League.
The Royals sign free agent catcher Jason Kendall to a two-year contract, replacing Miguel Olivo who became a free agent himself. In other signings, the White Sox add former Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz to their bullpen. Putz’s season with the Mets ended on June 9th when he underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery.
Clearly stating he wants to be an everyday player on a winning team, Ivan Rodriguez agrees to a $6 million, two-year deal with the Nationals, the worst team in baseball last season. The 38 year-old catcher will share playing time and his experience with Jesus Flores, Washington’s young up-and-coming backstop.
“He was a guy who was a class act and he meant more to the city than the players. When he walked down the street people knew him. He’s more recognizable than any player that’s been here.” – KEN GRIFFEY, JR., former Mariners superstar speaking of Dave Niehaus in a video message played at a Safeco Field tribute to the late broadcaster. The Mariners honor Dave Niehaus, the team’s long-time broadcaster, who died suddenly last month, with a Safeco Field ceremony that is attended by his family, team officials, former players, and thousands of fans. The Hall of Fame announcer, a fixture in the Seattle booth since the franchise’s first pitch in 1977, is eulogized Rick Rizzs, who becomes overwhelmed with emotion reminiscing about his broadcast partner for 25 years.
In a three-team trade, the Reds obtain OF Shin-Soo Choo and IF Jason Donald from the Indians, sending OF Drew Stubbs to Cleveland and SS Didi Gregorius to the Diamondbacks. Arizona sends Ps Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw to the Indians and also receives 1B Lars Anderson and P Tony Sipp from the Tribe.
Seattle continues to be busy this off-season, as they sign free agent OF-1B Corey Hart to a one-year deal, and acquire a similar player in Logan Morrison, from the Marlins in exchange for P Carter Capps. In other deals, the Mets sign P Bartolo Colon to a two-year deal, and the Tigers ink OF Rajai Davis, also for two years.
At the Winter Meetings, owners vote to ban home plate collisions over concerns about serious injuries recently suffered by catchers such as Buster Posey or Alex Avila. The exact wording of the rule still needs to be worked out, but baserunners will now be called out if they deliberately run into the opposing catcher, and will face a fine or suspension for particularly grievous offenses. catchers will also be banned from blocking access to the plate without the ball.
The annual winter meetings, taking place in San Diego, CA, conclude with a flurry of deals, some of which still need to be confirmed. The Reds trade two members of their starting rotation, with Mat Latos going to Miami for prospects Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach and Alfredo Simon headed to Detroit for Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford. The Tigers, in turn, send P Rick Porcello to Boston for OF Yoenis Cespedes and Ps Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier. The Dodgers clear their outfield logjam by sending Matt Kemp and C Tim Federowicz to San Diego for C Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin. Finally, Miami GM Dan Jennings trades his namesake, P Dan Jennings, to the White Sox for another pitcher, Andre Rienzo. There are also a number of free agent signings, with Boston repatriating P Justin Masterson, the Cardinals adding 1B Mark Reynolds, the Royals inking DH Kendrys Morales, the Mets signing OF/1B John Mayberry, and the Twins rumored to have reached a four-year deal with P Ervin Santana worth $54 million.
Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg concedes that plans to build a new ballpark in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, FL, announced with much fanfare a year ago and again last July, are dead in the water, as financing is not available, something Commissioner Rob Manfred had pointed out a day earlier. That means the team will play in outdated Tropicana Field at least until 2024. Sternberg says the team is “down to its last strike” as time is running out to find a solution to the ballpark issues that have plagued the Rays since their inception.
During the annual winter meetings in Las Vegas, NV, the Phillies announce the signing of free agent OF Andrew McCutchen for three years and $50 million, while the Pirates trade P Ivan Nova to the White Sox in return for a minor leaguer and $500,000 in international bonus pool money. For their part, the Blue Jays decide to take a financial hit and dump the remainder of SS Troy Tulowitzki’s contract, worth $38 million, estimating that there is little chance that he will ever again be a productive player after missing all of 2018 with injuries and putting up a very sub-par season the year before.
2003 – Lefthander Andy Pettitte signs a three-year deal with Houston for $31.5 million. It’s both a surprise that the Astros would spend again on a top-dollar free agent and that Houston would snatch him away from the Yankees where he had won 149 games over nine seasons and pitched in six World Series. At the time, Pettitte had more postseason victories to his name than the franchise he was joining.
2000 – Disappointments Mitch Meluskey, Roger Cedeno and Chris Holt are sent to the Detroit Tigers for catcher Brad Ausmus and pitchers Doug Brocail and Nelson Cruz. It’s the second trip to Houston for both Ausmus and Brocail. Meluskey leaves with a .291 career average and 15 homers but questions arose about his abilities behind the plate. Holt leaves with a 21-42 record.