Strange Trades in MLB History
Strange Trades in MLB History
by Tamar Chalker
February 22, 2022
Given the lack of news about signings and trades due to the lockout – and little sign that it will end anytime soon – I thought I’d take a look at some of the stranger trades in baseball history.
Some of these trades have interesting reasonings behind them, while others just seem like they were meant as an insult. What I find most intriguing, however, is that you’ll find both Hall of Fame players and those who never made it to the majors on this list. So, without further ado, here are some of the weirder trades made in baseball history.
Food-Based Trades: Yes, there have been more than one trade where an adult baseball player was traded for some type of food. Third baseman Len Dondaro played 19 games for the St. Louis Browns in 1929, hitting a paltry .194. The following year he found himself playing in the Texas League for the San Antonio Indians, but was traded to the Dallas Steers – for a box of 12 donuts. Alas, whether said donuts were powered, glazed, or jelly-filled has been lost to history. San Antonio appears to have won this trade, as Dondaro never played for the Steers – and, I mean, donuts are amazing. Dondaro was hitting .296 for San Antonio prior to the trade, but only played another 58 games of minor league baseball after.
Joe Engel, the same man who tapped Jackie Mitchell to start against the Yankees, where she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, is not surprisingly responsible for another food-based trade. While running the Chattanooga Lookouts, he traded struggle shortstop Johnny Jones to the independent Charlotte Hornets for a 25-pound turkey. He is quoted as claiming that the bird was “having the better year.” He served the turkey at the Southern Writers’ Association dinner that winter, where it was reportedly a little tough. Engel decided that meant Charlotte won the trade.
Perhaps my favorite player for food trade was surprisingly recent. In 1998, Ken Krahenbuhl, a 27-year old right-handed pitcher. A minor league journeyman, he was tired of all of the Oxnard Pacific Suns’ losing and decided to return to the Greenville Bluesmen, who he had played for the season before. He informed Oxnard that they could trade him or not, but that’s where he was. Oxnard made a deal to trade him for $1,000 and a player to be named later, but last minute changed their ask to 10 pounds of catfish. Krahenbuhl was not pleased to find out what he was worth to Oxnard.
Deals for Future Hall-of-Famers: Lefty Grove was a pitcher who was playing for the Class D Martinsburg Mountaineers when Jack Dunn Sr., the manager/owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles decided he wanted him. Martinsburg had recently lost their center field fence in a storm and desperately needed the funds to replace it. Baltimore then sent the Mountaineer the $3,000 needed to replace the fence and in return they got Grove, who would eventually pitched 17 years in the Majors and is now in the Hall of Fame.
Cy Young was playing for the Canton Nadjys of the independent Tri-State League in 1890 and was already making a name for himself. Canton, however, decided to trade the future Hall of Famer to the Cleveland Spiders for $300 and a nice suit. The Nadjys couldn’t take on another player, so they decided this was the deal that worked for them. Or at least for the manager, who got the suit.
Tris Speaker made his major league debut in 1907 with the Boston Red Americans (I do and do not want to look into the history of that name…). Boston decided they needed to save some money, so they sent Speaker to the minor-league Little Rock Travelers. In exchange, the Travelers got to use Boston’s stadium during the entirety of their spring training in 1908. Speaker hit .350 in 127 games for LIttle Rock, before being reacquired by Boston and returning to the majors.
This is just a selection of my favorite strange trades during the history of baseball in America.
What are some of your favorites?