With Reds roster exasperation on our minds, June 15 marks the anniversary date of two HUGE Reds trades….
1) June 15, 1977…The Reds acquire future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver for a number of players, namely infielder Doug Flynn, 1975 Rookie of the Year starting pitcher Pat Zachry, and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.
Seaver was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and was named to 425 of 430 Hall of Fame ballots in his first year of eligibility in 1992. Seaver was in his 11th year as a Met when dealt to the Reds after feuding with Mets ownership. Tom Terrific had already won three Cy Young Awards by the time he came to the Reds and was the best pitcher in baseball at the time.
Seaver was sensational for the Reds, too. He finished a 21-6 season by winning 14 of 17 decisions with the Reds in 1977, and then leading the league in winning percentage two of the next four seasons. He hurled his only career no-hitter in 1978. He finished the strike shortened 1981 season 14-2 with a 2.54 ERA, narrowing losing out in the Cy Young voting to the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela. Seaver’s 1981 was the closest any Reds’ pitcher came to winning a Cy Young Award.
The Reds gave up real value in acquiring Seaver. Henderson was considered a prime prospect who spent 12 seasons in the big leagues but never reached the stardom projected for him. Norman was an outfield reserve for four years, Flynn spent many seasons as a starting infielder, and Zachry had just been named National League Rookie of the Year for 1975. Still, the deal paid off.
Now imagine this….the Reds, seeking more starting pitching help, then tried to trade for Athletics star pitcher, Vida Blue. The Yankees had tried to purchase Blue, but major league commissioner said no deal, saying it was not good for baseball. So, the Reds tried a different tactic…they offered $1.75 million and threw in some players… Kuhn blocked that deal, too. Blue was later traded to the Giants that offseason for $300,000 and seven different players. Blue went 18-10 with a 2.79 ERA for the Giants that season. The Reds-A’s deal morphed into the Reds trading first baseman power prospect Dave Revering and cash to the A’s for reliever Doug Bair.
Sauer was a slow-footed, poor defensive, slugging leftfielder who struck out a lot for his day. Sauer had been having trouble in the minors, “getting around too fast” according to Total Baseball’s “Baseball the Biographical Encyclopedia.” His minor league manager gave him a heavier bat, and the slugger was born.
Sauer had had three trials with the Reds (at ages 24, 25, and 28) when he finally stuck with the Reds for good in 1948 at age 31…and he went on a tear, hitting 35 homers and driving in 97 runs. He also lead the league in strikeouts with 85 and that didn’t set well with the Reds’ brass or fans. He got off to a slow start in 1949 and the Reds dealt him to the Cubs, only to see him finish the season with 31 homers and 99 RBI.
Sauer won the National League MVP at age 35 in 1952 when he batted .270 with 37 homers and 121 RBI. Sauer had 41 homers in 1954. He finished his career with 288 home runs, hitting 281 of them after turning the age of 30.
So, who did the Reds get for Sauer? Hank Sauer was traded to the Cubs along with outfielder Frankie Baumholtz for outfielders Peanuts Lowrey and Harry “the Hat” Walker. Baumholtz joined Sauer in the Cubs’ outfield and became a quality singles hitter. Lowrey had been a star player for the Cubs, but spent parts of two poorly played seasons with the Reds before moving on to the Cardinals. Former batting champion Walker hit over .300 for the Reds that year, but it was the end of the line for Harry the Hat, who became a part time player for three more seasons with the Cardinals.
The Reds could have used Sauer’s bat during this time, both before and after his trading. The team was in the process of finishing below .500 for eleven consecutive seasons. Even with Sauer’s bat, the Cubs only reached .500 once, going 77-77 in 1952, Sauer’s MVP year.