8 Nights of Brendanukkah: One Great Trade

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In this dead time of winter when we think of trades to be made, we'll remember one of the greatest trades in Reds history on this, the sixth night of Brendanukkah.  On July 20, 1916, the Reds sent Buck Herzog and Red Killefer to the New York Giants.  This pair of middling infielders produced exactly nothing for the Giants.  In fact, Killefer only played two games with them and then was out of baseball.  And who did the Reds receive from New York?  Three future Hall of Famers: Christy Mathewson, Bill McKechnie, and Edd Roush. 

Mathewson is a baseball legend, one of the best pitchers to ever play the game and an original member of the Hall of Fame.  The Reds had actually acquired him from a team in Norfolk at the beginning of his career, but then immediately traded him to the Giants.  He pitched one game for the Reds, which he won despite giving up 8 runs and 15 hits.  It was his 373rd career win, and then he immediately took over as the manager, filling in for the just-traded Buck Herzog.  The Reds had been terrible under Herzog, finishing in last or next to last place for the last two seasons and heading that way again in 1916.  The Reds begin to get better under Mathewson, but in 1918, Mathewson enlisted in the Army to go fight in World War I.  Interestingly, if you grant Mathewson the exception for his one game played in 1916, the Reds had a string of five player managers from 1913-1918 (Joe Tinker, Buck Herzog, Ivey Wingo, Christy Mathewson, and Heinie Groh).

Bill McKechnie was not much of a prize as a player, either.  He spent the next season and a half with the Reds and posted a .590 OPS.  After two more seasons in Pittsburgh, he was done as a player.  But as a manager, he proved to be brilliant.  He led the 1925 Pirates to a World Series championship, and then did the same with the 1940 Reds.  He was also a coach and mentor to young manager Lou Boudreau on the 1948 champion Cleveland Indians.  As a manager, he had 1,898 wins, the fourth most when he retired.  He was the first manager to lead two different teams to World Series glory.

McKechnie's path was intertwined with that of Edd Roush.  They were teammates in the Federal League playing for the Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1914, and again on the Newark Pepper in 1915.  They were both purchased from the Pepper two days before Christmas by the New York Giants, and of course came to the Reds together in the same trade.  Roush would go on to become a bona fide star as a player in Cincinnati, however.  In his series on the 100 Greatest Reds, riverfront76 does a great breakdown of Roush's skills and time in Cincinnati.  I'll just add that Roush was the kind of centerfielder even Highlifeman21 would have a hard time hating.  He never batted below .321 in a season, and he won a batting title the year he hit that low.  For five straight years from 1917-1921, he finished in the top 5 in the league in OPS, including top of the heap in 1918.  His standout regular season in 1919 helped get the Reds to the World Series, although his .214 average during the Series suggests that Chicago mobsters did more to help the Reds win their first championship than Roush did.  Still, Roush ranks in the top 10 of most major offensive categories throughout Reds history.  His .331 average is second all-time, just one point behind Cy Seymour in 2,500 more at-bats.  Only nine more men ever played more games in a Reds uniform. 

McKechnie and Roush made one final journey together, as they were both selected by the Veteran's Committee to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.  It was a fitting honor, and until the era of the Big Red Machine, Roush was considered to be the greatest Red.  Indeed, by the time Roush threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the last game at Crosley Field in 1970, only Frank Robinson could have challenged that claim.  Roush died in 1988, the last man alive who had played in the Federal League.  He really was named Edd; it wasn't short for anything.

We've seen some lopsided trades in the past decade, like Stevens for Phillips, Pena for Arroyo, and $50,000 to the Cubs for Hamilton, but none of them come close to a trade that swaps managers, nets the greatest centerfielder in franchise history, and nabs three Hall of Famers.  Even with their brand new World Champion apparel, that's gotta chap some hides for Giants fans.

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