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Guest Post: The Kansas City Athletic Connection

by Robert Seidenstadt

July 31, 2022

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Between 1955 and 1961, the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Athletics

were extreme trading partners. During that seven-year span, they made 14

trades and four cash transactions. If we narrow the focus a bit, from 1957 to 1959

the Yankees made eight trades with the Athletics. How did these deals turn out?


Daniel R. Levitt in a biography of George Weiss available from the Society for

American Baseball Research states, ”Yet, other than the deal that brought Roger

Maris to New York, the trades were not nearly as one-sided as is often

remembered.” Let’s use this as our starting point as we examine some of these

more memorable trades.


Background:

Arnold Johnson purchased the Philadelphia Athletics on November 8, 1954 and

the franchise was moved to Kansas City before the start of the 1955 season. As

it turns out, Johnson was friends with Yankee owners Del Webb and Dan

Topping. Indeed, Johnson purchased Yankee Stadium (the ballpark proper and

land) from Webb and Topping in December 1953. After he purchased the

Athletics, Johnson sold Yankee Stadium to avoid any apparent conflict of

interest. But as Peter Golenbock reports in his book Dynasty, the relationship went deeper

than that. The Yankee AAA affiliate at the time was the Kansas City Blues.

Topping and Webb sold the Blues to Johnson so that Johnson could move the

Athletics to Kansas City. Then, for good measure, the Kansas City Athletics first

GM was Parke Carroll who worked for George Weiss, the Yankee GM at the

time. As Golenbock describes it “the relationship bordered on incest.” Carroll was

the GM for two seasons. He was succeeded by George Selkirk who was a

Yankee outfielder in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Selkirk held the job for two

years when he was succeeded by Carroll who held the job for two additional

years. For the first six years of the Kansas City Athletics existence, there was a

Yankee connection in the Athletic front office.


May 5,1955.

On May 5,1955, the Yankees traded 39 year-old OF Enos Slaughter and 37

year-old relief pitcher Johnny Sain to the Kansas City Athletics for pitcher Sonny

Dixon. Dixon was optioned to AAA Denver and played in only one game for the

Yankees.


*Sain was released by the Athletics on July 16 after compiling a 2-5 record and a

5.44 ERA. That was the end of his distinguished 14-year Major League career.

Sain appeared in 3 All-Star games, two as a member of the Boston Braves and

one as a New York Yankee. He was immortalized in a poem that featured the

line describing the 1948 Boston Braves four-man pitching rotation: “Spahn and

Sain and two days of rain.” Notably, Sain pitched 314 innings in 1948.


* Slaughter is a member of the Hall of Fame and a 10 time NL All-Star. In 1954,

the St. Louis Cardinals traded him to the Yankees. His performance was what

one would expect from a 39 year-old. He played in 64 games was and batted

.248 with 1 HR. He was batting .111 when he was traded to the Athletics in 1955.

Slaughter played well for Kansas City, batting .322 in 1955 as their right-fielder.

And then, Slaughter returns (recalled) to the Yankees on a waiver claim in

August 1956 to help the Yankees in their stretch run for the pennant. Slaughter

hit .281 over 24 games. He excelled in the World Series playing in 6 games and

batting .350. With the Yankees down, 2 games to 0, he hit a pivotal home run in

Game 3 that started the Yankees en route to their 17th World Series

championship. And so we have the first player to find success as part of the

Kansas City shuttle. Slaughter played for the Yankees for three more years and

then went to the Milwaukee Braves on a waiver claim.


Analysis: The original trade that sent Sain and Slaughter was a win for Kansas

City. Sain and Dixon were non-factors. Slaughter generated a 3.4 WAR in his 1.5

seasons with the Athletics. After he was purchased by the Yankees in 1956, he

generated a 3.0 WAR over three seasons and contributed to the 1956 World

Series victory over the Dodgers.



October 15, 1956

* OF Bob Cerv, a power-hitting part–time outfielder was purchased by Kansas

City from the Yankees. He played three and one-half seasons for the Athletics.

Cerv was an All-Star in 1958 and finished fourth in the MVP voting. He hit 38 HR

and had a .305 BA. He was traded back to the Yankees on May 19, 1960 for 3B

Andy Carey. Cerv played 87 games for the Yankees in 1960 and hit 8 HR. After

the season, he was drafted by the newly formed Los Angeles Angels.


Analysis: Although not strictly a trade, this was another winning transaction for

Kansas City. During his time with the Athletics, Cerv generated a 8.0 WAR.



February 19, 1957

Before the season even started, the Yankees and Athletics were at it again. On

February 19, 1957, they completed a 13-player transaction. The Yankees sent

seven players to the Athletics including IF Billy Hunter, LHP Mickey McDermott,

RHP Tom Morgan and OF Irv Noren. Morgan and Noren had decent careers with

the Yankees. Morgan won 11 games in 1954 and then was converted into a relief

pitcher recording 11 saves in 1955 and again in 1956. He pitched one year in

Kansas City recording 9 wins and 8 saves. Noren made the AL All-Star team in

1954. In his one year with Kansas City he batted .214.

The six players the Yankees received included RHP Art Ditmar, RHP Bobby

Shantz and IF Clete Boyer.


*Ditmar pitched five seasons for the Yankees with a 47-32 record. His best year

was in 1959 when he was 13-9 with a 2.90 ERA and a 3.4 WAR. In June, 1961

he was traded back to Kansas City for Bud Daley.


*Bobby Shantz had a 16-year major league career, winning 8 Gold Glove

awards. In 1952, his 24-7 Won-Lost record, ERA = 2.48 and WAR = 8.8 earned

him the AL MVP. He was traded to the Yankees in his age 31 season. In 1957,

Shantz made the All Star team and had an 11-5 Won Lost record, a 2.45 ERA,

WAR = 3.1. In his 4 year Yankee career Shantz won 30 games and had a 2.73

ERA.


*Clete Boyer was the Yankee regular third baseman for seven years. He batted

.241 with 95 HR and a WAR=19.7


Analysis: This was a huge win for the Yankees. Ditmar, Shantz, and Boyer played

a combined 15 seasons with the Yankees and generated an average WAR =

10.3. Not one of the players that Kansas City acquired lasted more than one

season with the team. Their average WAR = -0.25.



June 15, 1957

After the infamous Copacabana incident in May, 1957, Billy Martin had to go. Not

a problem. Martin was traded with IF Woodie Held, OF Bob Martyn, and RHP

Ralph Terry to the Athletics for RHP Ryne Duren, OF Jim Pisoni, and OF Harry

Simpson.


* Martin played 6 years as the Yankee second baseman. He batted .262 with 30

HR. But his “on-field” claim to fame was his World Series performances. In the

1953 Series, Martin batted .500 (12 for 24, 2 HR) and had an OPS=1.478. Martin

lasted the year in Kansas City (73 games, .257 BA, 9 HR) and then he was

traded to the Detroit Tigers.


* Held only played 5 games for the Yankees before the trade. He played for the

Athletics for two years and then was traded to Cleveland as part of the Roger

Maris deal.


* Terry was 21 years old when he was traded to the Athletics. He played for the

Athletics for three years (W18, L33, ERA= 4.03) when, lo and behold, he was

traded back to the Yankees and established himself as an All-Star starting

pitcher.


* Duren came to the Yankees in his age-29 season as a hard throwing relief

pitcher and was with the team for 4 seasons. He made 3 All-Star teams (2 in one

year). He earned 41 saves and averaged 11.2 SO/9.


* Simpson was an All-Star in 1956 and was batting .296 at the time of the trade.

He lasted one year the Yankees and was traded back to the Athletics on June

15, 1958.


Analysis: The Yankees got an All-Star relief pitcher in Duren for a player that

George Weiss could no longer tolerate (Martin) or players who were not yet

ready for the big leagues (Terry and Held). However, WAR paints a much closer

picture of the trade. Duren generated a 5.4 WAR in his time with the Yankees.

This was offset by Terry (WAR = 2.3) and Held (2.6) as Kansas City Athletics.

The remaining players in the deal generated WAR hovering around 0.0.



June 15, 1958

RHP Bob Grim, a right-handed pitcher and the aforementioned Harry Simpson

were traded to the Athletics for RHP Duke Maas and RHP Virgil Trucks.


* Grim won 20 games for the Yankees in 1954 and earned the ROY award. He

was converted to a relief pitcher and lead the American League in saves (19) in

1957. For his 5-year Yankee career, Grim was 45-21 with a 3.35 ERA. The

Athletics converted Grim back to a starter and he was 13-16 for the two years he

was with the club.


* Trucks came to the Yankees in his age 41 season. He was a three time All-Star

and he tossed two no-hitters in the 1952 season. He played sparingly for the

Yankees in 1958, his last season in the major leagues.


* Maas was the centerpiece of the trade for the Yankees. In his four-year career

as a starting pitcher he was 26-12 with a 4.21 ERA.


Analysis: It’s hard to say who won this trade. Simpson didn’t do much for the

Yankees and Trucks was at the end of his career. So, it seems that the Yankees

traded a Grim, a good relief pitcher for Maas, a good starting pitcher. WAR

presents another picture. Maas and Trucks were in negative WAR territory, -2.2

and -0.6 respectively while Grim (WAR = 1.5) and Simpson (WAR = 1.1) were

slightly positive. Advantage to Kansas City.



May 26, 1959

The Yankees traded RHP Johnny Kucks, RHP Tom Sturdivant and INF Jerry

Lumpe to the Athletics for RHP Ralph Terry and OF/INF Hector Lopez.


* Kucks had a 5-year Yankee career. His best season was in 1956 when he went

18-6 and made the All-Star team. He pitched a 3-hit shutout in the Yankee Game

7, 9-0 victory over the Dodgers to win the World Series. He went 24-30 over his

next three seasons and he was off to Kansas City in 1959.


* Sturdivant had a career arc similar to that of Kucks. Two good seasons, 1956

(16-8) and 1957 (16-6) and a World Series complete game victory over the

Dodgers in 1956. He faltered in 1958 (3-6) and he too was off to Kansas City.


* While Kucks and Sturdivant had “boom or bust” careers, Lumpe was more

“slow but steady”. As a Yankee, Lumpe was a reserve infielder and only played

sparingly (159 games over four years). When he was traded to Kansas City,

Lumpe found a home. In his five years with Kansas City he batted .279.


* Lopez had a 5-year Kansas City career as their third baseman. He was reliable

player over that time span. He played on average, 138 games per season. His

high BA was .294 and his low BA was .261. He lifetime WAR with the Athletics

was 9.5. With the Yankees, Lopez was converted to an outfielder. He played

through the 1966 season (age 36) with a lifetime BA = .262.


* Terry was the centerpiece of this trade for the Yankees. After his two year “tour-

of-duty” in Kansas City, Terry returned to the Yankees and became one of the

mainstays of the pitching staff, starting 142 games over the next five years. In

1962, he won 23 games, pitched 298 innings and had a WAR = 4.0. Terry’s

World Series exploits are part of Yankee legend for both bad and good. Terry

gave up the Bill Mazerowski winning World Series home run in Game 7 of he

1960 Series. But Terry redeemed himself in the 1962 World Series against the

SF Giants. He was the series MVP, winning 2 games and losing one

(WHIP=0.76). He pitched a complete game, 1-0 victory in Game 7 at Candlestick

Park.


Analysis: Neither Kucks (WAR = 0.4) nor Sturdivant (WAR = -0.2) accomplished

anything of note after they went to Kansas City. Lumpe became a reliable

infielder, first for the Athletics (WAR = 9.0) and then the Tigers. Lopez (WAR =

3.4) had an acceptable career for the Yankees but it was Terry (WAR = 9.6) who

made the trade for the Yankees.



December 11, 1959

Christmas is two weeks away and Yankee fans are demanding a present. What

would you like? Roger Maris. OK. We’ll talk to Kansas City about this.


The Yankees traded OF Hank Bauer, RHP Don Larsen, OF Norm Siebern and

1B Marv Throneberry to the Kansas City Athletics for OF Roger Maris, SS Joe

DeMaestri and 1B Kent Hadley.


* Bauer was a charter member of the Yankee 1950s dynasty. He was on seven

winning World Series teams and was named an All-Star three times. From 1950-

54, he batted .301 as the Yankee right fielder. He was traded to the Athletics in

his age 37-season and played for two years in Kansas City.


* After his “perfection” in 1956, Larsen pitched three more years for the Yankees.

In 1959, he was 6-7 with a 4.33 ERA. The trade was not good for Larsen. In his

one year in Kansas City, he was 1-10, with a 5.38. Larson had a 14-year career

and his best 5 years were with the Yankees.


* Siebern batted .287 in two years with the Yankees. He matched that

performance with Kansas City, batting .289 over four years and gained 3 All-Star

nominations. Out of all the players mentioned, Siebern performed at the same

level once he left the Yankees and so he may be along with Bob Cerv, one of the

ones “who got away”.


* Throneberry was billed as left-handed power hitting first baseman who would

thrive in Yankee Stadium. He played in 141 games over two seasons, hitting 15

home runs. He played two years in Kansas City and hit 17 HR with a .246 BA.


* Maris came up with Cleveland in 1957, his aged 22 season. At the trading

deadline in 1958, he was moved to Kansas City with two other players for

Woodie Held and Vic Power, both products of the Yankee farm system. Maris

had good seasons in Kansas City and made the 1959 All-Star team. The trade

to New York worked wonders for Maris, placing him in a ballpark ideally suited for

his swing. He was the AL MVP in 1960 and 1961.


* DeMaestri was the regular Athletic shortstop from 1952 until trade time. With

the Yankees, he was a non-factor, playing 79 games over two seasons (.184

BA).


*Hadley played in 55 games for the Yankees with BA = .203.


Analysis: Who won this trade? The Yankees. There’s nothing to discuss. Maris

was a two- time AL MVP and re-wrote baseball history with 61 HR in 1961. Some

60 years later it is still the American League record for home runs in a single

season. WAR agrees with this judgment. Maris generated WAR = 26.3 with his

time with the Yankees. Siebern spent four years with the Athletics with a WAR =

11.2. The others players in the trade had negligible WARs. Bauer was at the end

of his career, Larsen became the journeyman pitcher he was before his Yankee

career, and Throneberry never materialized as a consistent left handed power

hitter.



June 14, 1961

The Yankees traded P Art Ditmar and IF/OF Deron Johnson to the Athletics for

LHP Bud Daley.


* After Ditmar was “returned” to Kansas City, he pitched for two more seasons

but did not win a game.


* Johnson was a top Yankee prospect. He averaged 26 HR and 95 RBI in his

three seasons at AAA. He only played in only 19 games for the Yankees in 1959

and 1960.He batted .208 for Kansas City before being sold to Cincinnati.

Johnson had a 16-year career and actualized his potential as a slugger by

leading the NL in RBI (130) in 1965.


* Daley was an AL All-Star in 1959 and 1960 winning 16 games in each season,

accounting for 25% of the Athletic victories. As a Yankee he did not live up to

expectations with an 18-16 record over 4 seasons. He pitched 6.2 relief innings

to win the fifth (and final) game of the 1961 World Series.


Analysis: The Yankees. Daley did provide value to the Yankees albeit below

expectations (WAR = 0.7) Ditmar (WAR = -0.5) was at the end of his career and

Johnson (WAR = -1.5) had not as yet realized his potential.


Summary:

To return to the opening question: Was the Maris trade the only one of the trades

that was one-sided? While Roger Maris certainly claims the brightest spotlight of

all the players the Yankees acquired in this trading bazaar, the light also shone

on All-Stars Shantz, Terry and Duren. While not at the All-Star level, Boyer and

Lopez were regular members of the Yankee starting line-up and Ditmar and

Daley were part of the starting rotation.


For Kansas City, Bob Cerv and Norm Siebern achieved All-Star status; Jerry Lumpe was a good, solid ballplayer and Slaughter had a good year. Overall, the Yankees acquired eight “plus” ballplayers; the Athletics acquired four.


The WAR analysis showed a distinct Yankee advantage in three of the trades. In

fact, the largest discrepancy of WAR between players received by each team

was not the Maris trade but rather the Ditmar, Shantz, Boyer trade that took

place just before the 1957 season. This trade was nothing short of highway

robbery. As already discussed, the Yankees received three important ballplayers

and ceded absolutely nothing. The 1959 Terry trade also turned out favorably for

the Yankees not only from a WAR perspective but also because of Terry’s

contributions in the 1962 World Series.


Is there an accounting for all of this? The familiarity the organizations had with

each other certainly facilitated the number of trades. But is there anything that

accounts for the obvious imbalance in the outcome in some of the trades.

Perhaps, it is nothing more complicated than George Weiss’s greater skill as a

GM than either Parke Carroll or George Selkirk. We shall never know.


Postscript:

What happened after 1960?

Frank (Trader) Lane assumed the GM role in Kansas City in 1961. He made 14 trades that year but only one with the Yankees (Daley for Ditmar).


From 1962 through 1967, the Kansas City Athletics made 18 trades but only two with the Yankees.


In 1968, the Athletics franchise was moved to Oakland and the Charles Finley era in baseball history began.


For the Yankees, Dan Topping ended George Weiss’s 29-year reign in the

Yankee front office after the 1960 season. In the post-Weiss era through 1967,

the Yankees made 22 trades, but only three with Kansas City.

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