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A look at Cubs trades in the expansion era: 1964

Well, here’s the worst one.

Lou Brock with the Cubs in 1962
Getty Images

There’s no sugarcoating this year. In it, the Cubs made the worst trade in their history and what is arguably the worst trade in major-league history, sending Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio.

To understand why the Cubs made that deal, a little background is necessary.

In 1963, the Cubs actually contended for the N.L. pennant for a while in June and July, this after posting three straight seasons with 90 or more losses and a franchise record 103 in 1962. The 82-80 final record was the team’s first winning season since 1946.

So management was actually excited about 1964, especially having young Dick Ellsworth, who won 22 games with a 2.10 ERA in 1963, leading the staff, and Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl backing him up.

And then: Clunk.

The Cubs got off to a 12-18 start and were in ninth place after losing to the Cardinals May 21.

Panic? Who, the Cubs? Yes, they panicked. First:

June 2: Acquired Lew Burdette from the Cardinals for Glen Hobbie

Yes, THAT Lew Burdette, who had been a World Series hero for the Braves in 1957 and 1958. But that was years earlier, and Burdette, now 37, was just about done. This was a typical Cubs deal of the time, giving up on a young(ish) player — Hobbie was 28 — for a star of the past. Burdette did little for the Cubs and eventually was sent to the Phillies for “cash considerations” the following year.

But that still didn’t solve the Cubs’ perceived pitching problem — and they weren’t having a winning problem, because after that 12-18 start, the Cubs won 15 of their next 24 to get to .500 at 27-27.

They had been talking to the Cardinals about other pitchers besides Burdette, too. Richard Dozer of the Tribune reported May 26, about three weeks before the Brock-for-Broglio deal, that the Cubs and Cardinals were talking about swapping Brock for a pitcher... but not Broglio:

The Tribune has learned that the Cubs and Cardinals are close to making a deal, possibly involving Lou Brock, Chicago’s powerful, fast and sometimes erratic right fielder.

General Manager John Holland of the Cubs admitted yesterday that the Cubs are closer to dealing with the Cardinals than anyone, despite the fact that they would like to obtain Cincinnati’s Joey Jay. The asking price for Jay is likely more than the Cubs can give up — probably Lindy McDaniel.

It was learned that the Cubs have sought Ray Sadecki, but a proposed deal involving Brock and this Cardinal southpaw was stalled by the reluctance of someone in the St. Louis front office. Sadecki, in whom the Cardinals invested a big bonus, won 10 and lost 10 last year.

Jay got injured not long after that and his career ended after 1966.

Sadecki, though? Now THAT would have at least been a decent deal; Sadecki was still pitching in 1977 and had several good years with the Mets and Giants. (Leo Durocher likely would have burned him out, though.)


June 15: Acquired Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz from the Cardinals for Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth

The deal was really Brock for Broglio; Clemens, Shantz, Spring and Toth were mostly just throw-ins.

At the time, this was thought of as a great coup for the Cubs. Brock was considered talented but “erratic” and Broglio was a “proven winner,” having had a 21-win season (and third-place Cy Young finish) in 1960 and 18 wins in 1963.

Most of the writers of the time praised this deal — for the Cubs. So did Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who was quoted (and called “outspoken,” a precursor of things to come) in a Tribune article that said he was “jubilant,” quoted him as saying, “I just couldn’t believe it,” when hearing about the deal, and:

Santo’s comment reflected a general feeling among the Cubs that Chicago definitely got the best end of the deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, which involved five other players.

“I’ve been with this club for five years now, and I’ve never had the feeling before that we could go all the way. With our pitching staff now, we can win the pennant.”

Well, obviously it didn’t work out that way.

Whether the Cardinals knew that Broglio was “damaged goods” at the time of the trade is still an open question. According to this article by George Castle at the Chicago Baseball Museum, Broglio’s elbow didn’t show signs of trouble until after the trade:

The first physical manifestation of Broglio’s elbow problems took place Aug. 23, 1964, more than two months after the trade, in New York. Broglio woke up in his hotel room complaining his elbow had “locked up.” In response, roommate Joey Amalfitano decided to play comedian by tossing Broglio the room key. Broglio flew back to Chicago to be examined. He did not pitch again until Sept. 1.

A few days before the elbow locked, Broglio was handled in barbaric fashion by Cubs head coach Bob Kennedy. In an Aug. 17 start, Broglio was routed in a 2⅔-inning start in Philadelphia. The next night, faced with a spent pitching staff in a long game, Kennedy summoned Broglio to finish the game with a one-inning outing in the 16th inning. The back-to-back outings could not have helped whatever deterioration was going on in Broglio’s elbow.

It’s pretty clear, from our viewpoint nearly 60 years later, that Broglio likely had a UCL tear — the injury that in modern baseball sends pitchers to have Tommy John surgery. But that surgery wouldn’t be invented until 10 years later, and medicine didn’t even have a proper way to diagnose such injuries in 1964.

So, basically:

  • The deal wasn’t unreasonable at the time, but
  • It didn’t really have to be made at all, because the Cubs were playing well, and
  • Brock was terribly mishandled by Cubs management.

There were two other minor trades made by the Cubs in 1964 after the season ended.

December 1: Acquired Frank Baumann from the White Sox for Jimmie Schaffer

Baumann pitched in only four games for the Cubs in 1965, spending most of the year at Triple-A Salt Lake City. Looking at his numbers, it seems clear he was injured. This was reported at the time by longtime Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman to be the first player-for-player deal between the Cubs and White Sox. The Sox eventually traded Schaffer to the Mets for pitcher Frank Lary.

December 9: Acquired Roberto Pena from the Pirates for Andre Rodgers

Rodgers had been the Cubs’ starting shortstop from 1962-64. Pena was supposed to be “the shortstop of the future” and he went 3-for-6 with a double and home run on Opening Day 1965. But his fielding was suspect and his hitting went south and he lost his starting job to Don Kessinger. Pena played through 1971, including being the regular shortstop for the 1969 expansion Padres.

If I could give the Cubs a grade lower than “F” for the Brock deal, I would. Like, maybe a “Z”.

Overall the deals this year get an F.


Give the Cubs a grade for their 1964 trades.

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