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:

“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.


Reason No. 437 for Hating the NY Mets: Jimmy Piersall

Mets center-fielder Jimmy Piersall set the gold standard for showing up the opposing pitcher, and he did so against the Phillies.

On June 23, 1963, the Phillies faced the Mets at Forbes Field.  Jimmy Piersall led off the bottom of the 5th inning with a home run against Dallas Green to put the Mets up 2-0.  The ball was little more than a pop-fly that just cleared the right field wall   It happened to be Piersall’s 100th career homer; and Piersall happened to be certifiable.  Instead of simply trotting around the bases and quietly celebrating the milestone, Piersall did what he vowed to do:  He circled the bases running backwards.

Duke Snider had hit his 400th career earlier in the season and Piersall didn’t think Snider received enough attention for the feat.  He wanted to make sure his 100th got noticed, and he even practiced the backwards trot.  When he was interviewed about his celebration after the game, he said “I did it good too.  I even shook hands with the coach on third base.”

The stunt didn’t amuse Commissioner Ford Frick.  Although he didn’t reprimand Piersall, he warned that if he ever did it again, “He’ll hear about it.  But then he probably won’t hit another 100 so the subject won’t come up.”  Casey Stengal, the Mets manager at the time, didn’t approve either.  He cut Piersall just two days later.


Dodgers Bat Out of Order in Wacky First Inning

They say you see something you’ve never seen before every time you watch a baseball game. I’m sure that fans that attended the May 4th, 1980 game between the Dodgers and Phils at Vet Stadium would agree. (Most of the the info in this story comes from retrosheet.org.)

In the top of the first, the Dodgers’ Davey Lopes singled and Rudy Law reached base on an error. After an out, Law stole 2nd, so now he was on 2nd and Lopes was on 3rd. Steve Garvey hit an infield single, scoring Lopes. Dusty Baker then came up. He hit into a force out, leaving him on first and Law on 3rd. However, Baker had batted out of order. Dallas Green came out of the dugout to protest. The man who should have batted, Ron Cey, was called out, and Baker got to bat again. This time he delivered a 3 run blast to left, giving the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Green went nuts, saying that the force out should have counted and Cey should have been out (which would have ended that half of the inning.) Green was ejected and then protested the game. He was wrong. The umpires got it correct. The Dodgers went on to win the game, 12-10.

In 2004, as manager of the Cubs, Baker would forget to inform an umpire of a double switch, and the Cubs batted out of order. When that resulted in an automatic out for the Cubs, Baker went wild. He was then ejected from the game, 24 years after his batting out of order had caused Dallas Green to lose his cool and get ejected. Baseball is a funny game.