June 15, 1949: Cincinnati Reds trade outfielders Hank Sauer and Frank Baumholtz to the Chicago Cubs for outfielders Peanuts Lowrey and Harry Walker.

February 16, 1953: Joe Adcock is traded as part of a 4-team trade by the Cincinnati Reds to the Milwaukee Braves. The Milwaukee Braves sent cash to the Cincinnati Reds. The Milwaukee Braves sent Earl Torgeson to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Brooklyn Dodgers sent Jim Pendleton to the Milwaukee Braves. The Brooklyn Dodgers sent Rocky Bridges to the Cincinnati Reds. The Philadelphia Phillies sent cash to the Milwaukee Braves. The Philadelphia Phillies sent Russ Meyer to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH

At a time when the Reds were suffering 11 consecutive losing seasons they trade away two of their best players. Sauer was a slow footed slugger that struck out a lot, but the Reds were offensively challenged during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s (Ted Kluszewski exploded in 1953). Adcock was a first baseman playing left field and was blocked by Kluszewski. The Reds essentially gave both of them away.

Hank Sauer was a late blooming outfielder who didn’t make the majors for good until age 31 in 1948. Sauer had had three previous trials with the Reds in 1941, 1942, and 1945, then spent two years in the Coast Guard. Upon his return, he switched to a 40 oz bat and the bombing began. In his first full season as a starter, Sauer batted .260 with 35 homers and 97 rbi. The 35 home runs was a Cincinnati record at the time, but he also led the league in strikeouts with 85 and was slow in the field. When he started slowly in 1949 (.237 with 4 homers in 42 games), the Reds packaged Sauer and good fielding, singles hitting center fielder Frank Baumholtz to the Chicago Cubs for veteran outfielders Peanuts Lowrey and Harry Walker.

Baumholtz was a pretty good player in his own right. He had finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year balloting playing for the Reds in 1947, leading the league in at bats with 711 and batting .283 with 32 doubles. He followed up in 1948 with a .296 average, mainly playing rightfield for the Reds. He was 29 years old at the time of the trade.

Lowrey and Walker were “professional hitters” nearing the end of the line for them. Lowrey was in his 7th season with the Cubs and typically hit around .280 with little power. Walker was in his 8th major league season and had led the league in hitting in 1947 with a .363 batting average. However he had only two other .300 seasons (one was a partial season). The Cubs had acquired Walker from the Phillies in the offseason and were trading him because of his slow .264 start.

Neither Lowrey nor Walker spent much time with the Reds. Walker lasted 86 games in 1948 and batted .318 and was traded to the Cardinals for infielder Lou Klein and outfield Ron Northey. Klein never played for the Reds and Northey played 27 games. Lowrey played parts of two seasons with the Reds, batting .271 and .227, before being sold to the Cardinals. He played five more lackluster seasons before retiring from baseball.

Sauer, however, went on to become the first MVP for a second division team with the Cubs. The Cubs finished fifth in 1952, but Sauer batted .270 and led the league with 37 homers and 121 rbi. He hit 11 home runs in his first month with the Cubs, and clubbed more than 30 homers five different times with a high of 41 at age 37. He finished his career with a .266 batting average and 288 home runs.

Joe Adcock was another huge hitter, but the Reds already had Ted Kluszewski at 1B. Kluszewski had not developed his home run struck at the time, but was a high average line drive hitting, crowd favorite at 1b. From 1953-56, though, Kluszewski powered 171 homers and drove in 464 runs, batting over .300 each year.

Adcock had already been traded to the Braves. He played three years in LF for the Reds, ages 22-24, and still was developing, too, batting .271 with 31 homers over that period. He requested a trade and the Reds obliged, dealing him to the Boston Braves in a strange four-team trade that netted the Reds weak hitting middle infielder Rocky Bridges and some cash.

Of the players in the deal, Adcock, fellow first baseman Earl Torgeson, and starting pitcher Russ Meyer were the quality players in the deal. Pendleton was a rookie prospect who had one good year for the Braves after the trade. Meyer was a good starting pitcher, who won 31 games over the next three years for the Dodgers. Torgeson was a good first baseman for the Braves; some power, lots of walks, .270 BA type of guy…he continued to do the same for the Phillies and other teams for the next eight years. Adcock became one of the most feared sluggers in baseball for the Braves.

Bridges was a 24 year old middle infield prospect, who earned the starting second base job for the Reds and batted .227. He was a starter one other year in his career…and he batted .227. Bridges’s lifetime batting average was .247 with 16 homers over an 11 year journeymen career.

Adcock went on to have a higher home run rate than Hank Aaron. His best season was 1956, when he batted .291 with 38 homers and 103 rbi. He also homered 35 times in 1961 and hit more than 20 in five other seasons (those 35 homers would have liked awfully nice on the Reds 1961 World Series team…). Adcock once homered four times in one game; amazingly he only swung at five pitches during that four homer game. Adcock homered 336 times in his career, including 10 grand slams, and 28 multi-homer games.

The Reds thought they had themselves protected with the acquisition of power hitting outfielder, Jim Greengrass. Greengrass was obtained in a trade with the Yankees in 1952 for a finished Ewell Blackwell and performed well. He finished sixth in the 1953 Rookie of the Year race on the strength of batting .285 with 20 homers and 100 rbi at the age of 25. He followed that with .290, 25 homers, 97 ribi, but he was struck with phlebitis and never performed at that level again. He was traded to the Phillies for good hitting catcher Smoky Burgess during the 1955 season and was finished by 1956.

Two different general managers accounted for these deals. Gabe Paul traded away Adcock; Warren Giles traded away Sauer. Both became famous executives; Giles has been selected to the HOF, and Paul served as George Steinbrenner’s Yankee president during the 1970s. For comparison’s sake, I tend to think of Sauer being an earlier Adam Dunn (without the walks), and Adcock’s situation would probably be compared to the Reds situation with Paul KonerkoSean Casey in 1993.

By the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the Reds had some talent starting to arrive. Sauer, Adcock, Kluszewski, Wally Post, Frank Robinson, Roy McMillan, Johnny Temple, and Joe Nuxhall had been signed to free agent contracts. They began filling some holes by scouring for second tier pitchers and acquiring them from other teams…the table was set for some big power numbers at the end of the 1950’s.

7 Responses

  1. RiverCity Redleg

    I never understood why we traded Konerko so fast. I remember when we got him from the Dodgers, he was being touted as the next best thing. Then, we turn around and trade him. Though, I don’t remember who we got from The White Sox for him, do you remember? For that matter, I don’t remember what we gave to the Dodgers either. Seems like we got somebody good (at least good at the time), but can’t say for sure.

  2. Steve Price

    Konerko and Dennys Reyes were acquired from the Dodgers in exchange for Jeff Shaw, who was our lone all-star that year. Shaw was traded during the all-star break, and his first appearance in a Dodger uniform was at the all-star game. He signed a contract the previous winter that did not include a no-trade clause which turned out to be a mistake for him. He was from near Cincinnati, was pitching well, and took the “hometown” discount in lieu of not signing a no-trade clause, which made him imminently tradeable. GM Jim Bowden. Shaw was livid…after fulfilling his contract with LA (2 1/2 seasons) he filed for free agency and didn’t sign with anyone, retiring at age 34.

    Konerko then was traded to the White Sox for Mike Cameron, who was later included in the deal to the Mariners for Ken Griffey, Jr.

    The Reds had three first basemen at the time: Konerko, Sean Casey, and Robeto Petagine, all whom were projected to be outstanding hitters. Petagine had been the Minor League Player of the Year two consecutive years, Casey was acquired for Reds designated opening day starter Dave Burba (who was traded the day before opening day), and Konerko was one of the top five prospects in all of baseball.

    I’m going to write more about this in a week or two, but the stated reason for keeping Casey was that Petagine had failed a couple of trials and that Konerko had a “degenerative hip” condition that would shorten his career. Konerko had complained openly about Reds manager Jack McKeon and that didn’t help either. Everyone loved Casey and he had the sweet swing.

    No matter how beloved the Mayor became, is it safe to say we made a mistake?

  3. pinson343

    Trading Konerko may have been a mistake, but that trade led to such a different team that it’s hard to say what would have happened along a “time line” where we don’t trade him.

    Joe Adcock was a monster.
    In the game where he hit 4 HRS in 5 swings, didn’t the other swing result in a double.
    If I recall correctly, he had 18 TBs in that game, which still might be the ML record.

    And for all the power hitters who later came along in the 50’s, we didn’t have one at first base. In a game in 1961 the Reds and Braves were having a brawl. Frank Robinson was one of the toughest baseball players ever. But according to Jim Brosnan’s book Pennant Race, when Adcock grabbed Robby around the throat, Robby just pleaded: “Let go, Joe, I’m just trying to break it up.”

    As late as 1957, Sauer hit 26 HRs in 378 ABs for the NY Giants.

  4. RiverCity Redleg

    Steve, yes it is safe to say we made a mistake. Thanks for the refresher. I was mad we traded Konerko at the time, but I got over it quickly when we turned it into Griffey. Now looking back, the biggest mistake may have been losing Cameron.

  5. Steve Price

    RCR,

    I was thinking similar thoughts yesterday (about Cameron) when I read Pinson’s comment, but the stats actually don’t bear it out. Cameron does play great defense and is a good hitting centerfielder, but he’s not the kind of guy that teams build around (he’s on his fourth team since leaving the Reds), so I realize it was more a perception of our disappointment than reality.

    I don’t know why Cameron is rarely traded; he usually leaves through free agency.

    Griffey hit 210 homers and batted .270 while with the Reds. Cameron has also hit 210 homers and batted around .255, never having a below average season; his high point has been a 121 OPS+. Griffey had a couple of 140+ OPS+ seasons for the Reds.

    As far as money goes, Cameron’s overall contract is much less, which would swing the pendulum in his favor, but as far as team management, there’s no doubt that Griffey sells tickets and merchandise. I don’t think Cameron would be a draw to anyone, despite being a good player. My guess is the contract evens out due to the merchandising and ticket sales. I don’t think Cameron would’ve won us any more games than we did.

  6. GregD

    It’s hard to admit to making a mistake when we don’t know what other teams were offering for Casey. Maybe the WhiteSox wouldn’t give up Cameron for Casey?

    I also doubt that Konerko plays in Cincinnati for as long as he has in Chicago. So, him lasting longer in Chicago than Casey did in Cincinnati isn’t a fair comparison either. In fact, he was a free agent the same year Casey left, so the Reds could have spent the money to sign him after the 2005 season, but chose not to.

    Konerko & Casey both played with their respective teams through 2005. After the 2005 season, Konerko re-signed a 5-yr $60M deal with the White Sox. Casey moved on to Pittsburgh.

    IMO, it’s a little too close to call a mistake…

    Casey, OPS+, PA
    1999, 132, 669
    2000, 124, 545
    2001, 108, 588
    2002, 81, 476
    2003, 102, 629
    2004, 136, 633
    2005, 109, 587

    Konerko, OPS+, PA
    1999, 116, 564
    2000, 111, 586
    2001, 119, 650
    2002, 124, 630
    2003, 83, 495
    2004, 127, 643
    2005, 136, 664

    After a great finish to his previous contract, Konerko signs a new 5-yr contract

    2006, 134, 643
    2007, 116, 636
    2008, 102, 514
    2009, 122, 363
    2010, TBD