November 25, 1969: The Reds trade outfielder Alex Johnson and infielder Chico Ruiz to the California Angels for pitchers Jim McGlothlin, Pedro Borbon, and Vern Geishert.
We discussed this trade in our Redleg Trade Review Series on July 27th, 2009. Johnson was an outstanding hitter tormented by personal demons. The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has a detailed biography on Johnson that’s worth a read.
Johnson was a career .288 hitter over 13 seasons during one of the worst offensive eras in baseball history. In two seasons with the Reds, he batted .313 (119 OPS+). He won the American League batting title in 1970.
Ruiz was seemingly the polar opposite of Johnson. Everyone liked Chico, a career utility player who once was jokingly quoted as saying “Bench me or trade me” after being pressed into starting service following some injuries to several Reds players. Ruiz is also the only player to pinch hit for both Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. Ruiz was even friends with Johnson until they got in an argument during a game (after their trade to the Angels) and Johnson accused Ruiz of threatening him with a gun in the team clubhouse (see SABR story).
Ruiz was one of the more colorful players in Reds history, having wrestled with Atlanta Braves mascot “Chief Noc-a-Homa” between innings of a baseball game, wearing alligator cleats, and with some daring baserunning. Ruiz is even the central figure in one reason Philadelphia Phillies felt they were baseball jinxed: the “Legend of Chico Ruiz” can be read here and you’ll enjoy that story, too.
On the flipside, McGlothlin was a young all-star pitcher whose arm did not last. Upon joining the Reds, McGlothlin was superb the first half of the season. Through June 14, McGlothlin was 9-3 with a 2.35 ERA, but he soon faded. For the remainder of the season, McGlothlin was 5-7 with a 4.78 ERA. In 1971, McGlothlin was 8-12 with a 3.22 ERA and was 9-8 with a 3.91 ERA in 1972 before arm injuries ended his effectiveness. In four seasons with the Reds, McGlothlin was 34-33 with a 3.89 ERA.
Pedro Borbon became the prize of the deal, becoming one of the best relievers in baseball through the 1970’s. Borbon seemed to have a rubber arm and could pitch at almost any time for any length of time. He appeared in 593 games, pitching 1026 innings, with a 69-39 record and a 3.52 ERA and 80 saves. In ten seasons with the Reds, Borbon was 62-33 with a 3.32 ERA in 531 games with 76 saves. In twenty postseason games, Borbon was 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA and three saves.
Geishert never pitched in the majors with the Reds, but had made 11 appearances with the Angels. He was later traded with shortstop Frank Duffy to the San Francisco Giants for George Foster.