Behind the Scenes of the Worst Trade in Phillies History, and How Larry Bowa Got Back at the Phils

sandberg1In 1980, the fiery Dallas Green led the Philadelphia Phillies to their first ever World Series title. Just over a year later, Green was taken from the Phils, as the Chicago Cubs hired him to be their GM. He immediately went to work, firing Chicago fan favorites and bringing in Phillies players such as Keith Moreland, Dickie Noles, and Dan Larsen. But it was on January 27th, 1982, that the most memorable trade between the Phillies and the Cubs took place. The end result was the worst trade ever in a long Phillies history of terrible trades.

As soon as he ascended to the GM position, Green recognized that the Cubs needed some veteran leadership, and called his old friend Bill Giles in the Phillies front office. Phillies President Giles and Bowa were locked in a tense contract dispute, with Bowa wanting a 3-year extension and Giles (and GM Paul Owen) loathe to give so many years to a shortstop who was already 36-years old. Furthermore, the Phillies had two young shortstops waiting in the wings who were expected to take over at short in the near future. They were Luis Aguayo and Ryne Sandberg (above left).

By early January, rumors of an impending deal began to appear in the papers. In an interview on Philadelphia radio on January 7th, an angry Bowa said that the trade with the Cubs then being discussed by the two front offices would send him, Dick Davis, and Luis Aguayo to the Cubs for the all-glove no-bat Ivan DeJesus and a pitcher named Bill Caudill. DeJesus would essentially be a cheaper and slightly younger placeholder than Bowa until Sandberg came up, while also shoring up the defense.

But though the trade seemed imminent at that time, it wouldn’t be completed for another three weeks. Why? Because Dallas Green didn’t want Aguayo. He wanted the other young Phillies shortstop. The following comes from an interview with Green in the book Almost a Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the 1980 Phillies:

larry_bowa82“Ivan DeJesus was a proven-and marketable-shortstop. At first the Phillies tried to keep Ryne Sandberg from us. But I insisted on him if I was to make the deal. I think the Phillies knew Ryne was a good athlete. They just had no place to play him for two or three years. They were going for a pennant and there was some skepticism that he could play shortstop in the majors. Schmidt was at third. I always thought Ryne could play center field, but Maddox was there. The Phillies never really thought of him as a second baseman and besides Trillo was already there.”

On January 27th, Green finally convinced the Phillies to part with Sandberg instead of Aguayo, and the trade went through. The papers paid little attention to Sandberg. After all, the young shortstop had hit a paltry .167 in 1981 in 13 games played for the Phils. He was good, but most people saw him as a throw in on the deal. Bowa (right) realized his potential, however. When told that the “throw-in” was Sandberg, Bowa responded, “Well then, I was the guy they threw in because Sandberg is going to be a great player.” Those were the only kind words Bowa had to say about the deal, as he lashed out at the Phillies front office, telling the Daily News that the Phillies had once been like a family, but “That all changed when Giles took over. It’s all corporate now. No more family.”

Furious at the Phils, Bowa decided to get back at them by helping to groom Sandberg into a star. Again from the excellent book above, Cubs teammate Dickie Noles talks about Bowa and Sandberg.

“Ryne and Bowa were inseperable. They were at the ballpark before anyone else, working their tails off, taking ground balls, hitting, working the double play. I think Bowa also loosened him up a bit. Ryne was a real quiet guy. But Bowa got him to come out of his shell, to talk a little trash. He gave him a little cockiness, but in a good way.” 

By 1984, Ryne Sandberg was the best 2nd baseman in baseball, and was named NL MVP that year. He would go to the All-Star game 10 times and win the Gold Glove 9 times. His career .989 fielding percentage is the best ever for an MLB 2nd baseman. He is universally acknowledged as one of the best 10 2nd baseman in MLB history.

Ivan DeJesus turned out to be OK. He played for the Phils for three years, and it must be noted that his excellent defense did help the team make the 1983 World Series. And Luis Aguayo, the shortstop the Cubs didn’t want? He turned out to be…adequate is perhaps the kindest term, a utility player for the Phils for 9 years. As Whitey succinctly put it during one game during Aguayo’s tenure in Philadelphia: “Luis Aguayo is on deck. Aguayo hasn’t exactly been reminding anybody of Rogers Hornsby lately.”

Remarkably, most of these men’s futures would all also be tied in somehow to the Phillies. Sandberg has of course become manager of the team. Bowa was their manager from 2001-2004, and was just named bench coach. Green would later return to the Phils’ front office as a senior advisor. And Luis Aguayo was the New York Mets third base coach in 2008, the year they collapsed in September and blew it against the Philadelphia Phillies.


PREVIOUSLY: The Phillies trade Ferguson Jenkins to the Cubs for Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl.

Buzz Arlett, the Original Chris Coste

Buzz_ArlettFor 13 long years, Buzz Arlett toiled in the minors, putting up incredibly gaudy numbers as both a pitcher and a hitter. Major league teams came calling, but his team, the Oakland Oaks, wanted far more money for his services (minor league teams used to sell their players to the Majors) than any team was ready to spend. And so, year after year, he destroyed Pacific Coast League pitching, setting a record for most home runs in the minor leagues that still stands today and regularly hitting in the high .300s. Finally, in 1931, the pitiful Philadelphia Phillies decided to pay the money and give him a shot.

He started the 1931 season on fire, and after six weeks, he was leading the majors with a .385 average and had already hit 11 homers. Fans at the Baker Bowl had something to cheer about for the first time since 1915. But he hurt his leg while sliding, then broke his thumb in June. His defense, always a liability, had certainly not improved with age and injuries, and he made regular blunders in the field. He would finish the season with a .313 average, 18 homers, and 72 RBIs. Despite those numbers, the Phillies decided to waive him, and he was claimed by minor league giants the Baltimore Orioles, where he played for several more years. He would play in the minors until 1937, never again getting a cup of coffee in the pros. In 1984, SABR named him the greatest minor league ballplayer of all time.

A Brief History of the Cubs and Athletics

October 4, 1929 (CHICAGO)- Hello there sports fans, Hap Jackson here. So glad you’ve decided to join us here at the Philadelphia Bugle for exclusive coverage of the 1929 World Series between the National League champion CHicago Cubs and American League champion Philadelphia Athletics. Let’s take a look at the history of these squads, starting with Chicago.

CHICAGO CUBS- The Cubs were founded as the White Stockings in 1871, though they didn’t play the next season due to the Great Chicago Fire.  In 1876, they became one of the charter members of the National League. Led by and later owned by Albert Spalding (founder of Spalding Sporting goods), the team was quite successful in the 1880s, and went through several name changes, first the Colts and then the Orphans.

In 1902, Spalding sold the team to Jim Hart, and they became known as the Cubs. Led by Tinkers, Evers and Chance, (Does any schoolboy in America not know the poem about them by heart?) the squad was the bee’s knees, winning 4 pennants and 2 World Series between 1906 and 1910. That includes the 1910 World Series, which they lost to Mack and the A’s, 4 games to 1. Therefore their last World Series win was way back in 1908. Can they end their 21-year drought this year? We’ll soon find out.

Strangely, the Cubs are both owned and managed by Philadelphia natives. The team is owned by William Wrigley, who took over majority ownership in 1921. They are led on the field by Joe McCarthy, who took over management duties in 1926.

PHILADELPHIA A’S- The A’s got their start in 1901 (There were other teams called the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1870s but none was a forerunner of this team). The new American League wanted a team in Philly to compete with the Phillies. Former Pittsburgh Pirate catcher and manager Connie Mack agreed to take over control of the team and purchase 25% of it. He convinced sporting good magnate Ben Shibe to become majority owner.

The team then went about poaching players from the National League, including the highly controversial signing of Nap Lajoie. The battle between the Phillies and the A’s for Lajoie was so acrimonious that he was finally sent packing to Cleveland. Less than 10 years after forming, the team was a dominant force in the majors, winning the World Series in 1910, 1911, and 1913, and getting upset in the 1914 Series. But after Mack sold all of his star players in 1915, the team tanked harder than any team ever has before, going 43-109 in 1915. They finished last 7 straight years before finally starting to right the ship in the past few years. In 1927, the A’s finished 2nd to the Yankees, and in 1928, they missed a pennant by 2 games. This year, they dominated, and cruised to the pennant, rocking Ruth and the Yankees by 18 games.

It’s Gonna Be a Chess Match

Athletics Story

by S.O. Grauley, staff writer, Philadelphia Inquirer. The following are excerpts from a wonderful piece on Connie Mack by S.O. Grauley in today’s Inquirer.

Connie Mack has regained his peak. After fifteen long, nerve-racking years, crammed with worries, brimful of disaster and invariably discouraging, the “Lean Leader” of the Athletics has again that honor which was his so many times when the famous White Elephants ruled the baseball kingdom.

Year after year, since the utter rout of his champions of 1914, Mack could never build a winner…He faced long bleak seasons of untold bitter disappointments and most discouraging endings. Seven times he finished the AMerican League season in last place.

Such a showing would have driven most baseball men to despair. Many would have tossed up their arms and and said, “What’s the use? Fate is against me.”

But Mack, like Ben Hur, who in the climax of the chariot race, was grateful for the grueling years at the oars of the galley, became hardened to those sneers. The elongated leader of the club had fait in his own convictions, own judgement and was firm in his determination to again prove to Philadelphians…that he could come back. Year after year, during those lean seasons when the Athletics were the door mat of the American League Connie often was assailed with the sneering remark, “Get another manager, youre too old to stay in modern baseball.”

But those who sneered and jeered at the silent man of the team, the man who has become famous again through his persistency to come back and win games by signaling his players’ movements in the field, via his famous scorecard, are now the first to acclaim this man, who is now nearly three score and ten, as the greatest manager in baseball.

That he and his wonderful team will go into the 1929 World Series bearing the good wishes of every local fan is quite evident. Timely hitting, good pitching, and a strong defense has carried the A’s to the American championship. Well managed, well balanced, and well executed plays enabled the Macks to sweep aside the Yankee menace and bring to Philadelphia a pennant so greatly desired.

Philadelphians always made much of the Athletics. Ever since 1901 when the American League swept east, planted a team here and there on the Atlantic coast, fans took to the new invasion. Here in Philadelphia the Athletics went over big…The fight between the new league and the National over players and the showing of the Athletics in the race brought Philadelphia fandom flocking to the gates of the new park out 29th street. So popular became the Mackmen that the expression of “Follow the crowd”, which the Inquirer had so timely suggested as a slogan, became famous throughout the land of baseball.

Twenty nine years of baseball. Seven pennant winners, six second places. Surely Mack has just cause to feel proud of this achievment. The Inquirer extends hearty congratulations to the Man Who Came Back.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

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Teams on Airplanes, West Coast Teams in Baseball’s Future?

CLEVELAND, Oct. 3, 1929 (AP Story)- An interesting story from the AP this week, really makes you wonder about the future of baseball. :

The Major Leagues of the future will transport their teams in airplanes and may…include one or two Pacific cities, believes Billy Evans, general manager of the Cleveland Indians. Evans gave his views in turning down an airplane company’s efforts to sell the Cleveland club a ship to fly around the circuit, although he was impressed by the amount of time that could be saved and the elimination of spending nights in train berths. 

And yes, that’s the same Billy Evans who made his bones for so many years as an umpire (left). His Indians finished the year the 1929 season with an impressive 81-71 record.

Wanna Go to Chicago for Game 1? Make it to There in Under 22 Hours!

1929 Chicago Cubs Starters

Here’s a bit of info on each member of the Cubs starting lineup. Links on their names will go to photos of each player. You can click on the pic above to see larger view. 

CATCHER: The Cubs had a disastrous season behind the plate, as numerous catchers went out with injuries. Zach Taylor will be their starter for game 1, but Mike Gonzalez, Earl Grace, Johnny Schulte, and Gabby Hartnett all played in more than 20 games as well.

FIRST BASE: Charlie Grimm mans the bag at first. “Jolly Cholly” as he’s known actually began his career with the Athletics in 1916 as a 17 year old. Ironically, while he is now playing against a team many consider the best of all time, that 1916 squad was the worst of all time. A .298 hitter, he’s even better known for his defense…and his vaudeville act. He’s a skilled left handed banjo player.

SECOND BASE: Rogers Hornsby may be 33 years old, but he certainly shows no signs of slowing down. Five years ago, in 1924 with the Cardinals, “The Rajah” had one of the most remarkable hitting seasons of all time, batting .424. That’s a record I don’t foresee being broken for some time to come. He and Cobb are the greatest pure hitters in the history of the game. And though he doesn’t have as much power as Ruth, he can still pop that old sphere over the fences, hitting 39 homers and knocking in 149 Runs this year, his first season with the Cubs. The only knock on Hornsby is his attitude, which is why he seems to bounce around the league. But make no mistake…he’s still one of the premiere players in the Bigs, and he’ll have a big impact on this Series.

SHORTSTOP: Considered the clubhouse leader, even at the young age of 23, Woody English is one of the few players on the squad who gets along with Hornsby, and his diplomacy has been vital in keeping the squad on even keel. A contact hitter and an average defensive shortstop, he batted .276 this season.

THIRD BASE: The Cubs have  journeyman Norm McMillan at third, probably the weak link on this team. He is an average hitter (.276 this season) and not particularly good in the field (led the NL in errors this year). His biggest claim to fame is that just over a month ago he hit the shortest home run in MLB history. The Cubs were playing the Reds, and the game was tied at 5 with the bases loaded. Let’s let Norm tell the rest: “I hit a ball that bounded over third base. It bounced foul and into the Cubs’ bullpen and slipped up inside the discarded jacket of relief pitcher Ken Penner, which had been lying on the ground about ten feet behind the base. As it turned out, the ball went up the sleeve of the jacket and while the Reds’ left fielder, third baseman and shortstop were all looking for the ball, we all raced home.”

LEFT FIELD: The Cubs outfield is incredible, as all three outfielders had over 100 RBIs this season, the only time in baseball history that has ever happened.* In left, they have Riggs Stephenson. Riggs is a question mark defensively thanks to a bad shoulder, but there is no questioning his offensive prowess. He put up a .362 average with a .445 OBP, with 17 homers and 110 RBIs.

CENTER FIELD: There are few legends in baseball bigger than Hack Wilson. As sportswriter Shirley Povich once wrote: “He was built along the lines of a beer keg and not unfamiliar with its contents.” Hack has even admitted, “I never played drunk. Hungover, yes, but never drunk.” Hack hits even harder than he parties. This year, he hit .345 with 39 dingers and 159 RBIs.

RIGHT FIELD: Out in left, the Cubs sport the fast, brash, and excellent hitting Hazen “Kiki” Cuyler. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was part of that Pirates team that won the 1925 World Series, so he’s got experience in these big games. He was traded to the Cubs in 1927, and has done a stadnup job, batting .360 this year with 15 Homers and 102 RBIs.

*As of 2012, it still has never happened again.

1929 A’s Starting Lineup

Here’s the A’s starting lineup for Game 1 and a brief bio of each player. Links on the names will take you to a photo of the player. 

CATCHER: The A’s have the best catcher in baseball, possibly the best ever, Mickey Cochrane. Was actually a better football player in college, but without an established pro league, he turned to baseball. Good thing for old Connie that he did. Cochrane won the MVP last year, and was none too shabby this season, either, with a .331 average.

FIRST BASE: At first base, the A’s have one of the finest young studs in the game Jimmie Foxx. The 21-year old man known as The Beast is just that, hitting .354 with 33 Homers and 118 RBIs this season. Many pitchers are scared of Foxx when he digs in, and prefer to give him a free pass. He had more walks than the Babe this season, and again. he’s only 21. This pretty boy (he’s a big fan of manicures and loves to cut off his sleeves to show off his muscles) is bound to get even better.

SECOND BASE: Short and feisty, second bagger Max Bishop doesn’t pack a lot of wallop, but they don’t call him “Camera Eye” for nothing: he led the majors in walks with 128. He struggled and only hit .232 this season, but had the same OBP (.398) as superstar Al Simmons, who hit .365. His job is to lead off and get on the pond so the sluggers behind him, such as Foxx, Simmons, and Cochrane, can get the 5’8″ sparkplug home, and he does a terrific job of it. In fact, in a game against the Yankees in April, he walked 5 times. Despite having zero official at  bats that game, he scored three runs. He’s also an excellent defenseman.

SHORTSTOP:  At shortstop, the A’s have one of the most unheralded players in the game, Silent Joe Boley. Boley spent the prime of his career in the minors, not because he couldn’t make the majors, but because nobody would pay the owner of his independent team enough to get him. The A’s fnally secured his rights in 1927, and he was the cat’s meow his rookie year. Unfortunately, since then he’s struggled with a “dead arm”, exacerbated when he was hit by a bottle thrown by Cleveland fans (who were aiming for a nearby umpire). He had a .251 average this year, and only played in 91 games, but he does play excellent defense when healthy. And don’t look to him for a postgame quote; he didn’t get the name Silent Joe for nothin’.

THIRD BASE: If anyone on this team has earned this, it’s third baseman Jimmy Dykes. Debuting in 1919, he has played on this team for many of its lean years. Only reserve catcher Cy Perkins has been on the team longer. Dykes is as versatile as anyone in the league, and once played seven positions (including pitcher!) in a single game. He has perhaps the strongest arm in baseball, and he’s none too shabby at the plate, either, hitting .327 this season with 79 RBIs.

LEFT FIELD: Sorry Babe Ruth, but the best outfielder in baseball plays his home games in Philadelphia. He was born with the name Aloisius Szymanski, but he’s better known as Al Simmons. Despite his unorthodox batting style (they call him Bucketfoot Al), he rips the rawhide off the ball. He finished the season hitting .365 with 34 long balls and a league-leading 157 RBIs. He is so smooth defensively that it looks as if he’s not trying. That has led to him (incredibly and absurdly) not being a fan favorite in Philadelphia, because the fans think he coasts. But Connie Mack sure loves him plenty. Listen to this glowing praise from Mack: “Simmons is one of the few players that spring up oncei n a decade with the baseball instinct. Other players of the type were Napoleon Lajoie, Honus Wagner, and the great and only Ty Cobb. When one says this he says it all.”

CENTER FIELD: In center is Mule Haas, who made huge strides in this, his sophomore season. A .313 hitter with plenty of defensive speed, he’s also got some power, as his 16 homers and 41 doubles can attest.

RIGHT FIELD: In 1926, Connie Mack sent Bing Miller off to the St. Louis Browns. He labored in the painful obscurity that is St. Louis Brown baseball, but hit well enough that in 1928 Mack decided to bring him back. It was a smart choice. He hit an impressive .331 this season, and despite being 34 years old, he also led the team with 24 stolen bases.