This season produced a handful of minor deals that didn’t move the needle much — and one big trade that set the tone for nearly a decade.
January 15: Acquired George Altman from the Mets for Billy Cowan
This was a very odd trade. Altman had been sent to the Cardinals in a 1963 deal that proved to be good (brought Lindy McDaniel, among others), and when he had a mediocre year in St. Louis they sent him to the Mets for Roger Craig, who threw well during the 1964 World Series. Imagine that, playing for a 100+ loss team two years in a row, then being traded to a team that would win it all.
Cowan had been given the Cubs’ starting center field job in 1964 over Ellis Burton, who had played well in 1963. Cowan had been the Pacific Coast League MVP in 1963 when he batted .315/.332/.519, scored 100 runs, hit 25 home runs and drove in 120.
He wasn’t a good defender in center field and though he hit 19 home runs, his 128 strikeouts ranked second in the N.L. (FWIW, 128 strikeouts in 2023 would have ranked tied for 79th in MLB.)
So the Cubs chose to dump Cowan and reacquire Altman, hoping to recapture his good play of only a few years earlier.
Injuries had taken a lot out of Altman, though, and he played in just 90 games, hitting four home runs. After two more years with the Cubs, Altman headed to Japan, where he played eight seasons, batting .310/.378/.561 with 205 home runs.
April 7: Acquired Bob Humphreys from the Cardinals for Hal Gilson and Bobby Pfeil
This was a solid trade for the Cubs, as Gilson didn’t play for St. Louis until 1968, and then just for a few games. Pfeil never played for the Cardinals, not surfacing in the big leagues until 1969 with the Mets.
Humphreys had a good year in the Cubs bullpen, posting 1.1 bWAR and a 3.15 ERA in 41 appearances. He pitched in what was called a “side-saddle” motion — and I wish there was surviving video, because it’s hard to describe, it’s kind of like a submarine motion, only he would kind of touch his hips with his glove and pitching hand before he threw. It was surprisingly effective.
Just before the 1966 season, Humphreys was traded to the Washington Senators for Ken Hunt, who had previously had a real good year for the Angels in 1961, never replicated. Hunt never played a game for the Cubs, while Humphreys had four good years for the Senators and one for the Brewers before retiring — yet another reliever who’d have looked pretty good in the Cubs’ beleaguered 1969 bullpen.
After retirement Humphreys coached college baseball at Virginia Tech, making the NCAA tournament twice.
May 29: Acquired Ed Bailey, Bob Hendley and Harvey Kuenn from the Giants for Dick Bertell and Len Gabrielson
Another deal trying to recapture previous glory. Kuenn had been a star for the Tigers in the 1950s (A.L. Rookie of the Year in 1953, seven-time All-Star, hit .353 with 42 doubles in 1959), but by 1965 was almost done. He played in only 58 games for the Cubs, batting .220/.336/.260.
What the Cubs should have done was kept him around as a coach; later he became a successful manager with the Brewers in the 1980s.
Bailey — same thing, an All-Star with the Reds in the 1950s, playing out the string by 1965.
Hendley was a decent pitcher for a short time; his main claim to fame was being the losing pitcher in Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, despite throwing a one-hitter.
December 2: Acquired Bill Hands and Randy Hundley from the Giants for Don Landrum and Lindy McDaniel
While McDaniel was a very good pitcher — he would still be active nine years later — this was an outstanding deal for the Cubs. Hands would be a mainstay in the rotation for eight seasons and Hundley could have been a great catcher if Leo Durocher hadn’t ruined him by catching him in 149+ games four years in a row. That helped lead to the serious knee injuries that wrecked Randy’s career.
Hundley and Hands combined for 24.9 bWAR in their Cubs careers. Landrum and McDaniel produced a total of -0.3 bWAR for the Giants (though McDaniel had more later). It’s not totally crazy to say this deal might have cost the Giants the 1966 N.L. pennant, as they finished just 1½ games behind the Dodgers.
These trades get a solid B+ for 1965.
Give the Cubs a grade for their 1965 trades.
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