The Forgotten Man
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the men left behind in the Great Depression “The Forgotten Man.” Baseball had the forgotten man (or men) long before FDR coined the phrase for those suffering from the economic calamity of the 1930s. The sport’s forgotten men are a part of baseball history, yet usually are not associated with those moments or events. Such as one-sided trades.
“Bad trades are part of baseball. I mean, who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake?” asked Annie Savoy in Bull Durham.
Robinson for Pappas isn’t forgotten, but what Annie and practically everyone else doesn’t remember is there were two other players involved in that trade made on December 9, 1965: pitcher Jack Baldschun and minor league outfielder Dick Simpson.
Baldschun had been a workhorse reliever for the Phillies, then was traded to Baltimore. Three days later, the Orioles included him in the Robinson deal.
“I was happy to go to Baltimore to get away from the National League, but two days later, I was traded to the Reds. Cincinnati wanted me back. I was with their organization four years or so before, and the only way there was to get me was to go to Baltimore and then, two days later (I was) traded to Cincinnati. That was in the works. So, Dick Simpson was thrown in at the end. But it was Pappas and myself for Robinson.”
Officially, the Reds said they were trading Robinson because he was 30 and past his prime. “They wanted to get rid of Robinson because he was caught carrying a gun,” said Baldschun. In 1961, Robinson got into a fight with several white customers and a white cook at a Cincinnati restaurant and was found to be carrying a gun; Robinson said he needed it for protection, but he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.
“Anyhow, they wanted to get rid of Frank, and so they made the deal that way. And, of course, the Reds wanted me back. And then Dick Simpson… got thrown in the deal, too. So that’s the way that ended up. But nothing was ever said about the trade other than that Robinson had the Triple Crown and we didn’t.”
In 1966, Baldschun was 1-5, with an ERA of 5.49 and no saves. He spent most of 1967 with the Reds AAA team and appeared in nine games with Cincinnati. In 1968, he pitched all year in AAA, and was released in April 1969.
Baldschun says, however, he was not injured nor washed-up.
“We had Dave Bristol as a manager there, and he was a little different. To the point where he wanted different things happening. And so you had to kind of obey a different way. And so it ended up that, we (Pappas and I) were under the gun a little bit, let’s say and we both had failing years there. It was just totally different types of using a pitcher, too. So it was a little bit different.”
After being released by the Reds, he signed with the expansion San Diego Padres, “then it was back to where I was in a normal situation,” he said, as his manager Preston Gomez “was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in baseball.”
He won seven games with one save in 1969 and pitched one more season before retiring.
Baldschun has seen Bull Durham with its Robinson for Pappas trade quote but, “I don’t want to see it anymore, though, because I was afraid I might be in there.”
Pappas won 122 games in seven seasons for the Orioles and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. He was 27 when dealt to the Reds. He won 28 games his first two seasons with Cincinnati, then got off to a bad start and was traded to Atlanta and went 10-8 the rest of the 1968 season. After two “middling” years with the Braves, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and won 17 games in consecutive seasons. He pitched one more year before retiring.
Baseball: Baltimore Orioles Milt Pappas (32) on mound during spring training game at Miami Stadium. Miami, FL 4/5/1964 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
Like Baldschun, Simpson was recently acquired by the Orioles. The Birds obtained him from California, and a week later sent him to Cincinnati. In his second year in the Angels minor league system, when he was 18, Simpson belted 42 home runs with 113 RBIs and batted 315. At 21, with Baltimore’s AAA team, he batted .301 with 24 HR and 79 RBIs along with 29 stolen bases. With the Reds, he played parts of two seasons and batted .238 and .259 with a combined five home runs. He also played with St. Louis, Houston, the Yankees and Seattle Pilots. His final totals were a .207 average with 15 HR and 56 RBI.
So, the trade wasn’t simply Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson. “But it wouldn’t have happened if they wouldn’t have got me in the deal. Right?” quipped Baldschun.
Another one-sided trade was the California Angels sending infielder Jim Fregosi for the Mets’ Nolan Ryan, who went on to strike out more batters than any other pitcher in baseball history. But Ryan did not go west alone. New York sent three others to the Angels on December 10, 1971: Frank Estrada, Don Rose and Leroy Stanton.
Estrada, a 5’8” catcher, played one game for the Mets in 1971, going 1 for 2. He never played in the majors again, spending time in the minor league systems of California, Baltimore and the Cubs.
Rose was pitching winterball in Venezuela when his phone rang at 3 a.m.
“I got a call from Joe McDonald, who was the GM of the Mets. And he goes, – uh, about three o’clock in the morning – and he says, ‘He goes, you can’t tell anybody this.’ I said, Joe, I have to make a reservation to call out of here. You know, a week in advance for international call. And everybody here speaks Spanish and nobody is awake anyway. So what am I gonna tell? And that was when he told me I’d been traded.”
Rose said he was sorry to leave the Mets, but he grew up near Anaheim: “I was at Disney World the day it opened”, he said.
The four players had played with each other in the minors, and Rose was friendly with all of them.
“Nolan at the time was considered a bust, he couldn’t throw the ball over the plate,” said Rose, “the Angels let him throw, and he was learning his craft, so at least he could get the ball over the plate. The Mets were not willing to do that because they had Seaver and Koosman , McCann, Drew and Gary Gentry. And they had all these players that had control and command. And Nolan Ryan didn’t, so he was expendable. I was very happy to go over with him. And what a wonderful guy he was. Probably 15 years after I retired, he’s with Houston, and I yelled at him out of the clubhouse. He came running over, spent an hour talking to me and my son. I said, ‘When are you gonna retire?’ and he said, ‘They’re paying me five million a year, you know. But (his success) never, never went to his head.”
Rose pitched two scoreless innings in one game for the Mets. With the Angels, he was 1-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 1972. On July 6, 1973 he was traded with Bruce Christensen to San Francisco for Ed Figueroa. He pitched two games for the Giants, and San Francisco’s AAA team the following year. Before the season ended, he had decided to retire and return to college. He was 29.
Leroy Stanton #23 of the New York Mets during the 1971 season. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
“I decided I want to make my living with my brain instead of my body. I left Stanford University to go to play, so I went back to Stanford and (had my) business career afterwards,” he said.
He majored in Political Science and minored in Japanese Studies, which he used. He made about 150 trips to Japan and other Asian countries working in high technology, sometimes overseeing more than $250 million a month in sales.
When he talks about his career with people: “They usually asked me, ‘What was like to play the big leagues?’ So I tell them that the pride comes not from any accomplishment. It’s from having the guts to try.”
On May 24, 1972, against the Oakland A’s, Rose started the game. In the top of the third inning, he did something only one pitcher had accomplished: on the first pitch of his first major league at-bat he homered off of Diego Segui.
“I was the second pitcher to do that,” said Rose, who immediately said, “Clise Dudley was the first, in 1929.” A pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Dudley accomplished his feat on April 27 against the Phillies.
Rose got the win and the loss went to Vida Blue, pitching in his first game back for the A’s after “retiring” following the 1971 season because the team wouldn’t pay him what he wanted.
The best “prospect” of the quartet the Mets dealt for Fregosi was probably Stanton, an outfielder. In 1971 playing with the Mets’ AAA affiliate he batted. 324 with 23 HR and 101 RBI. In 1970 and 1971 he played a combined nine games for the Mets. With California, he had five “decent” seasons, with 443 hits, 47 home runs and 242 RBIs. He lost his starting right field job to Bobby Bonds at the start of the 1976 season after Bonds was acquired from the Yankees for Mickey Rivers. He was then selected by Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft. In 1977, he had his finest season hitting 27 home runs with 90 RBI in 135 games, but in 1978 he batted only .182. Stanton played his final year of professional baseball in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers in 1979. He died in a car accident in 2019.
Halos Heaven, a Los Angeles Angels blog, ranked Stanton as the 68th best Angel in franchise history: “Stanton saw a lot of action as an Angel, never truly excelling into greatness, never swooning into uselessness. That is why he and his 594 games under the Halo stand at number 68.”
(Original Caption) After making a runaway race of it all season, the Yankees won the American League pennant. They took the opening series of the year from the Athletics, of Philadelphia, and held the lead until the end; their victory was due mainly to the heavy hitting of ``Babe`` Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and other members of the team; pitching staff is also considered one of the best ever assembled; Miller Huggins is the manager. The photo shows Koenig, the Yankee shortstop. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run was a solo shot.
Roger Maris’ 61st home run was a solo shot.
Babe Ruth’s 60th home run drove in two runs.
Yankee shortstop Mark Koenig tripled with one out in the eighth inning and scored when Ruth belted his then record-setting home run on the final day of the season, September 30, 1927.
Koenig made his major league debut with the Yankees on September 8, 1925. The next four seasons, he was New York’s starting shortstop hitting .275, .285, .319 and .292. In 1930, he slumped, and on May 30 was traded to Detroit where he played for two seasons. He later played for the Chicago Cubs, and in their book Baseball Anecdotes, Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf wrote how Koenig in 1932 “was a major factor in (the Cubs’) pennant drive.” He also played for the New York Giants.
Who doesn’t know Henry Aaron hit his 715th homerun off Al Downing to break Babe Ruth’s record? But here are the forgotten men of that game on April 3, 1974:
Ralph Garr and Mike Lum were on base in the bottom of the first when Aaron connected on his record home run? As he rounded the bases, two fans – Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtenay – both 17 years old, jumped on the field and ran alongside him. The home run ball was caught in the Braves’ bullpen by pitcher Tom House who pitched to one batter in the eighth inning, and walked him. The game did not have a storybook ending as the Braves lost. With the score tied 6-6 in the top of the 10th, Caesar Geronimo came to the plate with two outs. Pete Rose scored the winning run from second base on a wild pitch by Buzz Capra, who was charged with the loss. Reds pitcher Clay Carroll earned the victory.
Lum was on first base during that at-bat. Did he think he might be a part of history?
“No, no, I had other things to worry about. I never realized that I would be part of history. It’s just I play the game. That’s who I am,” said Lum.
“I don’t think about any other things that’s going on, but at the moment, I think about what I have to do. It’s like the players or kids nowadays. They get autographs, they collect things — I never did that. I could have. That was just me. I mean, I could get autographs. I could get stuff like that. That doesn’t interest me because I don’t think about stuff like that. It’s just what I have to do. I think it’s important because I have a job to do. So, let’s worry about what I have to do and not worry about (the history),” he said. He was thinking what were the chances he could score from first on a double to the leftfield gap, or on a ball to the rightfield gap.
Was he thinking about which outfielder had the strongest throwing arm?
“You already knew that,” he said.
After retiring, Lum was a supervisor for hitting coordinators in the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates systems. One piece he does have is an autographed bat from Michael Jordan, who Lum met while the former basketball star was playing at the White Sox’s AA affiliate in Mobile, AL. He gave the bat to his daughter. “Not too many people have a Michael Jordan autographed bat,” he said.
It was the top of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Cleveland’s Larry Doby and Al Rosen on base with no outs and the score tied at two. New York Giants manager Leo Durocher replaced starter Sal Maglie with left-hander Don Liddle to face left-handed hitter Vic Wertz. Everyone knows what happened next, as Wertz struck the ball and it seemed to be heading to the ends of the Earth, but in reality was traveling to the deepest part of the Polo Grounds, where Willie Mays made “The Catch.” With right-handed hitters coming up, Durocher replaced Liddle with Marv Grissom.
Grissom walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases; he retired the next two batters on a strike out and fly out. He then pitched a scoreless ninth and tenth innings. Cleveland starter Bob Lemon also pitched a scoreless ninth but gave up two hits in the bottom of the 10th. Monte Irvin was due to bat, but Durocher called on left-handed outfielder James LeMar “Dusty” Rhodes to pinch hit against the right-handed Lemon. On the first pitch he saw, Rhodes belted a three-run home run to give the Giants a 5-2 victory and the start of a four-game sweep.
Rhodes played a key role in the series. In game two, with the Giants trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Bobby Thomson led off with a single and went to third on a single by Wille Mays. Irvin was due to bat, but again Durocher pinch hit Rhodes for him and he singled to tie the score, 1-1. The Giants scored another run and led 2-1 going into the sixth. Rhodes stayed in the game and took Irvin’s spot in left field. Leading off the seventh, Rhodes hit another home run, making it 3-1 Giants, which was the final score of the game.
Rhodes pinch-hitting for Irvin – a future Hall of Fame inductee – was becoming a regular event: in the top of the third in Game 3, he batted for Irvin and singled, driving in two runs.
Mays may have made “The Catch” and Grissom got the win, but Rhodes was the “forgotten man” of the game. Had the Indians won, Mays’ “catch” might have been lost to history.
“Bucky” Dent’s first name is Russell – and his middle name is Earl, not F!#%in’ – as it’s often referred to in Boston. The shortstop’s career moment came in the one-game playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox for the AL East championship on October 3, 1978.
Red Sox starter Mike Torrez, who pitched for New York the year before, began the seventh inning leading 2-1. Graig Nettles flew out to right. Then first baseman Chris Chambliss and outfielder Roy White both singled. Jim Spencer pinch hit for Brian Doyle and flew out to right field. Dent then homered over the Green Monster (using a bat he borrowed from Mickey Rivers). It was only his fifth homer that season. The Yankees added another run, but Boston closed in making it 5-4 going into the ninth. \
The Red Sox had the tying run at third and the winning run on first with Carl Yastrzemski – who had homered earlier – at the plate. Goose Gossage got him to pop out foul near third base, giving New York the division title and Dent his infamous middle name. He will always have a place in baseball history, but Chambliss and White were on base when Dent added to the misery of Boston fans.
Five years later, Gossage was involved in one of the most controversial moments in baseball.
On July 24, 1983, with two outs in the top of the ninth and U.L. Washington on first, George Brett homered off Gossage, giving the Royals a 5-4 lead. But Yankees manager Billy Martin went to home plate umpire Tim McClelland and suggested Brett’s bat was covered with more pine tar than the rules allowed.
After examining the bat, McClelland agreed with Martin, voiding Brett’s home run, and declared him the game’s final out. An enraged Brett stormed out of the Royals’ dugout and had to be restrained. The Royals protested the game, and American League President Lee McPhail overruled McClelland.
The game was resumed on August 18 at Yankee Stadium with less than 2,000 fans in attendance. Yankees reliever George Frazier struck out Hal McRae to end the inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Royals’ closer Dan Quisenberry retired the side in order to seal the win. So, the answer to the trivia question, who did Brett hit his “pine tar” homerun off of, is Gossage. The forgotten man was U.L. Washington, who singled and was on base when Brett hit his four-bagger.
Then there was the homerun call that is arguably second to only Russ Hodges’ announcing “The Giants win the Pennant!”
“I don’t believe what I just saw! I don’t believe what I just saw!” exclaimed Jack Buck, as a gimpy-legged Kirk Gibson slowly ran the bases following his two-run home run to give the Los Angeles Dodgers the first game of the 1988 World Series against the Oakland A’s, 5-4.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium, the crowd cheered as Gibson made his way to the batter’s box to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Vin Scully, calling the game for NBC-TV (Buck’s call was on CBS Radio), told fans Gibson had two bad legs, a bad left hamstring and a swollen right knee. He would be facing A’s closer Dennis Eckersley – the future Hall of Famer who had 45 saves that season. On a full count after more than a dozen pitches, Gibson homered to right field. Scoring ahead of Gibson was Mike Davis, who had played seven years for the A’s before joining Los Angeles that year. Davis walked and stole second base, which, as Scully noted, took some pressure off Gibson: he didn’t need to provide an extra-base hit; a single would have scored Davis, tying the game.
Davis became the regular right fielder for Oakland in 1983, with his best seasons coming in 1985-87 in which he hit 65 home runs. He was granted free-agency and signed with the Dodgers prior to the 1988 season.
With the Dodgers, Davis batted only .196 in 310 at-bats, but in the World Series In the fourth inning of Game 5, he launched a two-run homer to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead and the Dodgers wound up winning 5-2 to clinch the series. It was his only hit of the series, but he also walked four times, stole two bases, and scored three runs, finishing with a .455 OBP. He played one more year for Los Angeles, then played in the minor league systems for the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants. But drawing that walk in front of Gibson’s home run enabled the Dodgers to win that first game, en route to winning the championship.
More than 20,000 have played in the major leagues since 1876. 268 have been enshrined at the Baseball Hall of Fame, hundreds more have been selected for the All-Star game. Taking into account players who have played on multiple World Series champions, about 2,500 have been on the roster for World Series victors since 1903.
Then there are the near-great, the good, the average ones, the marginal ones, and those who had a cup of coffee or two.
And there are those of us who try to remember the forgotten men of baseball.