Wow, talk about a timely “this date in Reds history,” only in a better world. Well, not that much better, since the 1981 season will be our “tainted” season; we had baseball’s best record, but didn’t make the playoffs due to the strike and the split season format.
On May 28, 1981, Reds’ reliever Doug Bair, connects for the only home run of his major league career, a three-run line drive in the top of the ninth inning, to provide the winning margin in a 10-7 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Bair’s home run gave the Reds a 10-5 lead, but the extra runs were necessary as the Reds committed three ninth inning errors before closer Tom Hume struck out Hector Cruz with the bases loaded to nail it down for the Reds.
Bair’s home run came on his 52nd career major league at bat and accounted for three of his career four runs batted in during a 15-year major league career.
Bair was the player the Reds’ received from the Oakland A’s in exchange for 25 year old minor league slugger, Dave Revering and cash on February 25, 1978. Revering had initially been traded to the Oakland on December 9, 1977, for star lefty starting pitcher Vida Blue and $1,750,000.
At the time, Blue was one of the most dominant left handed pitchers in baseball. He was a three-time 20 game winner, with his best season coming in 1971 when he went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA, 301 K’s, and 8 shut outs. A’s Owner Charlie Finley was trying to dump his players rather than losing them to free agency. The Reds saw an opportunity to team Blue with the best righthander in baseball, Tom Seaver, at the top of the Reds rotation and took advantage of some excess cash (available after years of winning) and made the deal with the A’s.
The Reds’ starting pitching had begun to break down in the mid-1970s. Years of available star pitching talent had begun to deteriorate due to injuries (Jim Merritt, Jim Maloney, Don Gullett, Jim McGlothlin, Gary Nolan, Wayne Simpson) and others had been dealt to other teams for spare parts (Ross Grimsley, Joaquin Andujar, Milt Wilcox, Dave Tomlin, Mike Caldwell). The Reds had the money and the desire to make a deal to take their dynasty to a new level.
However, Major League Baseball commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, nixed the deal, saying the trade had “too much money involved in the deal and that the sale of players would create competitive imbalance.” (Redleg Journal). Of course, the Reds were looking to create their own competitive imbalance by having possibly the two best starting pitchers in baseball on their squad.
Kuhn canceled the deal a full seven weeks after the trade was finalized. Meanwhile, the Reds had already printed their media guides with Blue included. Blue’s hat had been airbrushed to include a “C” and the conservative Reds had airbrushed off Blue’s moustache for the photograph.
Blue was later traded to the San Francisco Giants for six players and $400,000, the maximum amount of cash that Kuhn said could be included in a trade. Reds’ GM Bob Howsam and Finley had tried to restructure the deal with no success. Meanwhile, some trivia…according to baseball-reference.com, Vida Blue is the last switch hitter to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award and the only pitcher to get All-Star game pitching wins for both leagues. And, he was a Red for seven weeks one winter.