March 17, 2013 something bizarre occurred in major league baseball. Mike Cisco, the grand son of Galen Cisco, former MLB pitcher, and pitching coach , was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. So, what was so unusual about that? The Angels acquired the Philadelphia pitching prospect for nothing!
Mike Cisco, a prospect, pitched at Reading and Lehigh Valley for the Phillies last season for a combined 5-3, 1.80 record as a relief pitcher. I was actually at a game where he pitched for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
Mike Cisco’s reaction was, “I don’t really know what that is all about. I’ve heard some things about that, but whatever it was for, or even if it was for nothing at all, the Angels expressed interest in having me on their team.”
One explanation was that Cisco was stuck in the Phillies farm system. So, the Phillies front office was doing him a favor? Trading him for nothing? Sounds a little embarrassing to me.
When this story broke, I immediately thought of Dickie Noles, another former Philly pitcher. Noles was a hero of the 1980 World Series between the Phillies and Royals. Okay, maybe not a hero but he played a significant role in the series. Dickie relieved Larry Christenson in the first inning of game four, Philadelphia down 4-0 against Kansas City. Noles went on to toss 4 2/3 innings, giving up one more run. But the turning point of the game and what is considered the series was a fastball that he threw under George Brett’s chin, prompting a warning from the umpires, Brett struck out. The Philles won the series four games to two. But seven years later, Noles became known for another event.
On September 21, 1987, the Chicago Cubs traded pitcher Dickie Noles to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later. Before the trade, Noles, at the age of 30, had a record of 4-2, 2 saves and 3.50 earned run average. He appeared in four games with Detroit recording a 0-0, 2 saves, 4.50 earned run average in two innings. That year, the Tigers were involved in a fierce battle with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Tigers won the American League East over the Toronto Blue Jays by two games. They lost to the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS.
When Chicago and Detroit could not agree on the player to be named later, the Tigers sent back Dickie Noles. Essentially being traded for himself. At the time, he was the third player to be a part of such a strange deal. The others were Harry Chiti of the New York Mets in 1962 and Brad Gulden of the New York Yankees in 1980. The fourth player to have this occur was John McDonald who was also traded to the Detroit Tigers on July 22, 2005.
While the Noles’ trade seemed fair, it actually was not. Think about, Noles was a 30-year-old pitcher with a 4-2 and two saves with a 3.50 ERA when he was traded. When the Cubs received him back on November 23, 1987, he was 31 years old and with a higher ERA of 3.53.
The first time this type of trade was made involved Harry Chiti. The Cleveland Indians to the expansion New York Mets traded him on April 25, although he had not played for them yet. Harry was sent back to the Indians on June 15, 1962. He batted .195 in 15 games. When he was traded back for him self, he never played another game in the MLB, he played two more in AAA until retiring in 1964.
After Thurman Munson died in a plane crash, two young Yankee catchers were being counted on to fill the former captain’s shoes. On August 3, 1979, Brad Gulden replaced Jerry Narron in the ninth inning; it was the day after Thurman Munson’s death. Then on August 6th, the day after Thurman’s funeral, Narron replaced him in the ninth.
The following season the Yankees sent Gulden to the Seattle Mariners along with $150,000 for a player to be named later and Larry Milbourne. Brad became that ‘player to be named later.’ So essentially, Seattle sold Milbourne to the Yankees for $150,000.
Brad would play for three more teams before retiring. His statistics for his seven-year career is 5 (HR), 43 (RBI) and .200 (AVG). But while being traded for himself made him unique, it was his attitude that made him stand out. His disposition was indicative of why he made the San Francisco Giants in 1986. Gulden was a journeyman catcher at best. The spring training of 1986, Brad feared that the Giants would not keep him as the third string catcher behind Bob Brenly and Dough Melvin. But on the last day of spring training Craig called him into his office, and informed him that he made the club, because he was a “Humm-baby.”
Craig felt that Gulden was something special, he didn’t have a lot of talent, but he gave 180% that is the only way Brad could be, a Humm-baby. In 1986, he played in 17 games for San Francisco with no homers, 1 run batted in and an average of .091.
The fourth player that was traded for them was infielder John McDonald. He debuted with the Cleveland Indians in 1999. On July 22, 2005 John was traded to the Tigers by Toronto for future considerations. He started with the season with Toronto and in 37 games he batted .290, whereas he played 31 games for Detroit and batted .260. When he returned to Toronto, he played in over hundred games the following two seasons. He is still playing and was just picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2013.
While all of the players mentioned, share the same unique distinction, they are also true to themselves.