Joel Youngblood and a Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens penned his A Tale of Two Cities in 1859. Joel Youngblood played his version of the classic on August 4, 1982.
Before being traded to the New York Mets on June 15, 1977, Joel was an obscure baseball player. He came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 1976 and batted .193 in 55 games. Then at the beginning of the 1977 season, he played 25 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .185.
The first time his name was mentioned in the New York tabloids was for his part in the infamous “Midnight-Massacre” on June 15, 1977. That night before the trading deadline, the Mets pulled off three trades. That primarily perpetuated by a feud-triangle involving their star pitcher Tom Seaver, Joe MacDonald (Mets GM) and Dick Young (NY columnist).
Seaver blamed MacDonald for not improving the once proud Mets’ organization. MacDonald and the team’s star engaged in a nasty battle of words that spring. Dick Young, a noted “muck-raker” sports writer sided with the Mets GM. As far as Seaver was concerned, Young’s words at the end of one of his columns was the straw that broke the camel’s back or what made him demand a trade.
“…Nolan Ryan is getting more money than Seaver and that galls Tom because Nancy Seaver and Ruth Ryan are very friendly and Tom Seaver has treated Nolan like a little brother.”
So on August 4th, Joe MacDonald accommodated Seaver by trading him to the Reds for Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman. Then the Mets GM followed this up by sending Dave Kingman, who was in a contract dispute, to San Diego for Bobby Valentine. In a third but minor deal he sent Mike Phillips to St. Louis for Joel Youngblood.
Neither of the first two trades proved successful, at least in replacing two of the Mets’ biggest stars. It was the third one that yielded the most satisfying results!
Youngblood became a ‘super-utility’ player. During his career he played all infield and outfield positions including catcher. He caught his only game in 1976.
Joel has a place in baseball’s history and lore, not because of his versatility but because of that trade he was involved in on August 4, 1982.
As Youngblood recalls, his day began with morning batting practice at Wrigley Field. He then started in centerfield for the matinee game against the Cubs. He struck out in the first inning, and then drilled a single off of future Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins for the winning run in the third inning. Before the game ended, Mets’ manager George Bamberger took him out of the game because he had been traded to the Montreal Expos, who were playing in Philadelphia that evening.
When Bamberger took him out, he also explained that the Expos were short players and “They’d like you to get to Philly as quick as possible.”
Youngblood arrived at the Montreal dugout at Veterans’ Stadium in time for the game. Then in the seventh inning, Expos manager Jim Fanning sent him up to pinch hit against another future Hall of Fame pitcher, Steve Carlton. He hit a single. After his debut as an Expo his average climbed to .261 and whereas he finished at .257 as a Met the earlier the same day.
So on that August night, Youngblood became only the third player to ever play in two games with two different teams on the same day. The other two were Max Flack and Clifton E. Heathcote on May 30, 1922. They were traded for each other in between games of a double-header. Neither player had a hit in their first game but hit safely in their debut with their new team.
What set Joel Youngblood apart is that he played for two different teams on the same day, in two separate cities, while getting hits in each game! This was and is still the first time it has occurred in Major League history!