The Cubs began trading away the stars of the famed 1969 team in the 1973-74 offseason. There was one more dealt in ‘74, but not until after the season had ended.
March 19: Acquired Willie Prall from the Giants for Ken Rudolph
A modern catcher who played as little and as poorly as Ken Rudolph did in five years and 178 games for the Cubs would probably just be released.
Somehow, Rudolph stuck around to post a .531 OPS in those 178 games. How? He was pretty good at throwing runners out — 48 percent between 1969 and 1973.
All that brought in trade was the lefthanded Prall, a third-round pick of the Giants in 1971 whose minor league numbers included walking about seven per nine innings.
He made three starts for the Cubs in September 1975, allowed at least four runs in each, and was out of baseball after 1977.
This was a nothing deal for both teams.
March 23: Acquired Scipio Spinks from the Cardinals for Jim Hickman
Hickman, a fan favorite, was pretty much done after 1973, when he hit just three home runs in 201 at-bats at age 36. He played in only 50 games for the Cardinals, then retired.
Spinks was a Chicago native (Harlan High School, Kennedy-King College) who was signed by the Astros as an undrafted free agent in 1966. The Cardinals acquired him by trade in 1972. He pitched in a few games in the Cubs system at Triple-A Wichita in ‘74, eventually finishing up in the Yankees and Astros organizations, never pitching in the major leagues for the Cubs. After his playing career he coached and scouted for more than 20 years, mainly in the Padres organization.
April 1: Acquired Tom Dettore from the Pirates for Paul Popovich
Another fan favorite who was basically done after ‘73, Popovich played in just 84 games for the Pirates in ‘74 and ‘75, primarily as a pinch-hitter, with a .513 OPS.
Dettore, a third-round pick of the Pirates in 1968, was a well-regarded prospect in their organization but was just awful for the Cubs, posting a 5.10 ERA in 56 games (14 starts) from 1974-76.
It was Dettore who served up what was thought to be a 520-foot home run to Dave Kingman, then with the Mets, on a windy Wrigley afternoon April 14, 1976. Dettore served up another homer to Kingman the next day, a three-run shot in the ninth inning that won the game for the Mets 10-8. Less than a week later, Mike Jorgensen homered off Dettore and the Cubs apparently had seen enough at that point, because he was released the next day.
July 28: Acquired Rick Stelmaszek from the Angels for Horacio Pina
Another nothing deal — Pina threw reasonably well in 11 games in Anaheim (2.31 ERA), but they released him before 1975 Opening Day.
Stelmaszek, another Chicago-area native (Mendel Catholic HS) hit .227/.364/.341 in 22 games for the Cubs in ‘74 with one home run. His main claim to fame is the 32 years he spent as the Twins’ bullpen coach from 1981-2012, which made him the longest-tenured coach in Twins history. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2017, after which he received these tributes from Twins folks:
My Grandpa taught me to throw lefty. Todd Oakes taught me how to be a man. Stelly taught me how to be a pro. Cancer took all 3. FU Cancer.— Glen Perkins (@glenperkins) November 7, 2017
The Cubs could have used a coach like that.
October 23: Acquired Darold Knowles, Bob Locker and Manny Trillo from the Athletics for Billy Williams
It was sad when Billy left, but everyone knew it was time for those great players to move on. Billy had one good year and one mediocre one in Oakland before he retired and he and Ken Holtzman were the only major players from the 1969 Cubs to play in the postseason after that year. (Other players who were ‘69 Cubs who played after that year in the postseason: Joe Niekro and Oscar Gamble.)
This trade didn’t look too bad on its face. Knowles had been a World Series hero for the A’s in 1972 but he was just awful for the Cubs in ‘75, with a -1.9 bWAR season that included seven blown saves. That ‘75 team was third in the NL in runs and set a franchise record for walks that stood until 2016. They started 20-10 and might have had a postseason chance if they’d had any decent pitching — they allowed a horrifying total of 827 runs, which was the worst in the league by 88.
Knowles was better in ‘76. That got him traded in a deal I’ll cover later in this series.
Locker — well, they’d traded him away basically for nothing previously and he was bad in 22 appearances in ‘75 before the Cubs released him in June.
Manny Trillo was the centerpiece of this deal, at the time he was a 24-year-old prospect. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in ‘75 and made the NL All-Star team in ‘77 before, you guessed it, sent away in another deal that wound up a lot better for the other team.
December 5: Acquired Mike Adams from the Twins for Tom Lundstedt
Lundstedt was kind of the “new Ken Rudolph” in that he barely played as a backup catcher and didn’t hit when he did play.
He didn’t do much of either for the Twins and was out of baseball after ‘75.
Adams was a spare-part infielder who played little for the Cubs in ‘76 and ‘77 and was eventually sent to the A’s for cash considerations.
Wow. Talk about a nothing deal.
Sigh. D for these.
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