May 24, 2006
Even before the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for some cash and a song, professional sports teams have been committing atrocious gaffes when it comes to trading away their players. In the first of a two-part column, here are some of the real laughers made by popular New York teams. Some are obvious, some are more obscure, but rest assured, they'll all leave you wondering, "What were they thinking?"
Mr. All-Time Strikeout King, We Hardly Knew You
Mets Brass decided to kick off the holiday season by making one of the worst deals in the history of professional baseball, trading young flamethrower Nolan Ryan to the California Angels on December 21, 1971 for Jim Fregosi and three washed up minor leaguers. Ryan would go on to assemble one of the highest-profiled careers in professional sports that included 324 total wins and eight All-Star selections. However, what Ryan was known best for was striking out more batters than anyone in baseball history, along with pitching a record six career no-hitters en route to a first ballot Hall-of-Fame induction.
Fregosi, the premier power-hitting shortstop in the American League during the 1960s, was way past his prime before he ever set foot in smoggy Flushing and injuries along with an ill-timed shift to third base further derailed his career. He was sold to Texas after two lackluster seasons with the Mets.
No, Not Doctor J!
In October of 1976, struggling New York Nets owner Roy Boe sold Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76'ers for a mere $3 million. "Dr. J" hopped on the New Jersey Turnpike South and was handed a $3 million raise by Sixers' team owner Eugene Dixon who pronounced Erving, the "Babe Ruth of basketball," upon his arrival. Erving would go on to lead Philadelphia to the NBA Championship in 1983 and to the NBA Finals on three other occasions.
In 1981 he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player. His long and illustrious career included 11 NBA All-Star team appearances, all while playing for the Sixers.
Incidentally, the wrath dealt to the New York Nets organization because of the trade was even more incredible. Nets season ticket holders took the team ownership to court, demanding full refunds for a trade that fans and critics alike deemed "a franchise killer." The season ticket holders won! Less than a year later, financial downfalls forced the Nets to move their franchise off Long Island and into the swamps of New Jersey, where for more than 20 years, they were considered one of, if not the worst professional basketball team in the free world. Nice move Mr. Dixon.