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August 3, 2001

by Bill Hogan



The baseball trade deadline has just passed. From the average ball player (average meaning not a super star) who is still in the same city he was in last week and still playing for a contender, a sigh of relief can be heard.

From any player toiling with a cellar dweller and still receiving mail at the same address, that sigh might be construed as a groan (or, perhaps, a moan).


I can understand the position of those involved with a losing team. Everyone wants to play for a winner. And if you are the one paying these guys to lose ninety or a hundred games each year, you're gonna do your best to unload the old and the overpaid in favor of some bargain "prospects".

What puzzles me is why a team that finds themselves in the middle of a pennant race would feel an urgent need to make changes.

I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The reason a team is in a pennant race goes beyond the performance of the men on the roster. It also has a lot to do with chemistry (also known as karma, juju, mugombo and mojo). Why break up a winning solution in hopes of assembling a better winning solution?

Fans hate the idea of having their team's success attributed to the assemblage of a bunch of late season hired guns. They (I) want to see the same guys they've (I've) rooted for all season drenching each other in champagne come October.

I, for one, gain more satisfaction out of watching my team BUILD a winning ball club (as opposed to assembling one). Take five years, and build me a winner! (If it takes longer than five years, all you're building is animosity).

* * * * *

Historically speaking, there have been good trades, bad trades, "block buster" trades, unusual trades and bizarre trades dating back to Babe Ruth and beyond. And then there was one life threatening trade:

After the 1948 season, Chicago Cubs All-Star first baseman Eddie Waitkus was traded to Philadelphia. (The Phillies sent Monk Dubiel and Dutch Leonard to the Cubs but that's not really important - I just thought you'd get a kick out of the nicknames).

Waitkus returned to Chicago in 1949 with the Phillies to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. On June 14, 1949, he was "lured" to a Chicago hotel room by a 19-year-old local girl named Ruth Ann Steinhagen. Upon entering the room, Steinhagen took a .22 caliber rifle and shot Waitkus. (Sounds like a Robert Redford scene from "The Natural", doesn't it?)

Steinhagen was obsessed with Waitkus during his three years with Chicago and became distraught over his move to Philadelphia. She figured she had no chance at starting a relationship with the All-Star and vowed that nobody else would either.

Plain and simple, this girl was nuts. First of all, I've seen pictures of Eddie Waitkus, and believe me, he's no Bob Redford. Bob Dole, maybe, or Bob Hope - but certainly nothing to become obsessed about. It's not like these guys were making any real money in 1949.

Secondly, if she had successfully "lured" Waitkus to her room, what made her think she didn't have a shot? (No pun intended - o.k. it was intended).

Waitkus recovered from his injuries and played well enough the following season to become the 1950 Comeback Player of the Year (naturally). I don't know what happened to Ruth Ann Steinhagen after the incident, but I believe they're still looking for the Milton Berle stalker. Hmmm.

* * * * *

Baseball history is filled with bizarre trades, none more so than this off-field swap:

On March 5, 1973, it was revealed that N.Y. Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich had traded families. That's right - wife, kids, dog, house, patio furniture - the works! (Brings new meaning to the phrase "the grass is always greener…").

Can you imagine?

What do the kids call "the new guy"? The dogs must have gone nuts trying to figure out what slippers to bring to whom. Did the wives have any say in this decision? I wonder if they were kicking themselves for not signing a prenuptial agreement with a no trade clause.

I can't think of a single scenario where such an arrangement would benefit my family or me. My neighbor, on the other hand, may have an inclination. Not because he is disenchanted with his wife, or interested in mine for that matter (as far as I know) - but switching households would give him the opportunity to, once again, use his tools!


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