Two trades that did benefit both teams


Allegany Communications Sports

With the Orioles and the New York Yankees wrapping up a rare four-game series today in Baltimore, and given their long history of competing against each other in the American League East since 1969, not to mention the often chippy relationship that has existed between the two organizations from as far back as the late 1950s, one would think that neither of them would ever be in a position to willingly help the other one find success.

In other words, you wouldn’t think the Orioles and the Yankees would ever be willing trade partners with each other, and though the transactions between the two have been few, two of them in particular have been significant.

In December 1954, the Orioles, fresh off their first season in Baltimore, traded 17 players with the Yankees, including many former St. Louis Browns players, helping to establish the franchise’s identity in Baltimore.

Still the largest trade in baseball history, the Yankees sent a package headlined by catcher Gus Triandos and infielder Gene Woodling to the Orioles for pitchers Bob Turley and Don Larsen, and infielder Billy Hunter. Turley and Larsen would go on to fill critical roles in the Yankees rotation for the rest of the decade, with Turley being a part of four championship teams and Larsen pitching the only perfect game in World Series history.

The teams pulled off a more significant 10-player deal 22 years later in June of 1976 when the Yankees traded catcher Rick Dempsey and pitchers Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, Scott McGregor and Dave Pagan to the Orioles for pitchers Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Freeman, Ken Holtzman and Grant Jackson, and catcher Elrod Hendricks.

The deal, orchestrated by Yankees general manager Gabe Paul and first-year Orioles GM Hank Peters, paid off immediately for the Yankees, as they won the 1976 pennant, ending their longest pennant drought (11 years) since they started winning pennants in 1921.

The trade also had a remarkable, long-lasting impact on the Orioles, as Dempsey, McGregor and Martinez went on to be Orioles Hall of Famers, all playing an enormous role in two AL pennants and the Orioles’ 1983 world title, with McGregor pitching a complete-game shutout in the clincher and Dempsey being named World Series MVP.

Funny thing was, the deal came this close to sending pitcher Ron Guidry to Baltimore as well, but Paul pulled his name off the table at the last minute. Even funnier, the only players involved in the deal who were happy about it were Alexander and Holtzman, who died last month. Both of them wanted out of Baltimore yesterday and Peters couldn’t get them out of town soon enough, calling Holtzman “the most miserable human being I have ever met in my life” shortly after making the trade.

”Guidry was in the deal and out of the deal,” Peters told the New York Times’ Murray Chass in 1986. “(Bobby) Grich was mentioned, (Graig) Nettles was discussed. We took a future approach; they took the immediate approach, and it paid off for them.”

Yes, but that doesn’t mean they got the best end of the deal.

Guidry was removed from the deal, Peters explained, because the Yankees already had agreed to give the Orioles three left-handed pitchers. “It wasn’t that they were that high on Guidry,” Peters said. “He was left-handed and they didn’t want to give up any more left-handed pitching.”

Elrod Hendricks, who would return to the Orioles in 1978, first as a part-time player, then as a longtime coach, and who would go on to wear an Orioles uniform in more games than any person in franchise history, was not happy about the trade either.

Hendricks told Chass that Manager Earl Weaver called Alexander and him into his office after the deal had been made.

“I’ve got good news for you, Doyle, and bad news for you, Ellie,” Weaver told them. ‘”The good news is you’ve been traded to the New York Yankees, Doyle. The bad news, Ellie, is you’ve also been traded to the New York Yankees.”

”I broke down and cried,” Hendricks told Chass. “It hurt. Not that I felt I shouldn’t have been traded, but my wife was pregnant and she was sick all during her pregnancy. We had been on the road for two weeks and now I’m traded and I’m going to be on the road the rest of the year. For a brief while, I thought about retiring. My wife knew I wanted to quit and told me she didn’t want to hear me regretting it two days after I quit. So I kept playing. Once I got there, I enjoyed it. I met a lot of people, a lot of fans.”

Dempsey was so unhappy he kicked his suitcase all the way from the hotel lobby to his room.

“It wasn’t a very happy day,” Dempsey told Chass. “I had grown close to a lot of the players – Nettles, Munson, Hunter, Lyle. It was tough to leave them. I wanted to be part of the pennant. I was hoping I’d finish out the season with the Yankees, then go to an expansion team the next year. When I got to the Orioles, I was pretty depressed for a couple weeks; I wasn’t playing. Then I got a chance to play and things changed. I found my place here. I made a career out of Baltimore. It’s been the light of my life being here. I couldn’t find a better organization.”

Safe to say, Baltimore is still happy to have the Dipper, as he remains a friendly and popular face around the ballpark. Hendricks, who died in 2005, other than Brooks Robinson, was likely the most beloved person to wear an Orioles uniform, and Martinez and McGregor, so integral in the Orioles’ success for over a decade, can frequently be found at Camden Yards as well.

Contrary to popular belief, baseball trades are made with the idea of helping both teams involved. Who, though, would have ever imagined it would be the Yankees and the Orioles who helped each other so much, not once, but twice.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on X at @MikeBurkeMDT