Late July is always a nervous time for MLB players. The end-of-month trade deadline leaves most players susceptible to being dealt at a moment’s notice, especially good ones on bad teams in the last year of a contract. San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley fit the bill in all three categories. So, it wasn’t a big surprise when he got the news Tuesday morning that he’d been dealt to the New York Yankees. With NFL training camps opening up, a deal like that would have created little attention. But what followed the deal made for a summertime treat that the grand old game sometimes delivers.
The Padres were in Chicago for a series with the Cubs when Headley got the call in his hotel room in the morning that the trade had gone through. Headley immediately headed to Wrigley Field for a goodbye to his teammates and a shave of his beard – the Yankees don’t allow facial hair. Told that his new team was playing at home against Texas, Headley figured he wouldn’t have any trouble finding a flight from Chicago to New York. He was right. It was off to O’Hare for a 3:30 flight to LaGuardia, which landed at 6:30. Into a cab and out at Yankee Stadium, he was inside the ballpark by the second inning. Headley slipped on the legendary pinstripes with number 12 on the back and the fun began.
After introducing himself to his new teammates, Headley took a seat in the dugout, ready if needed. In the 8th inning, he was needed to pinch hit in the scoreless game. Headley struck out, but stayed in the game. On to extra innings and another plate appearance – a groundout. In the 12th he was back at the plate with the bases loaded – another groundout. Finally in the 14th, Headley delivered the game-winning walkoff single.
Headley is not the first to be with two teams in the same day, or play for different teams on consecutive days. That’s actually more common than you might think. In fact, it makes it quite simple when the deal involves teams in a series against one another when the trade is completed. There’s no traveling. Just one clubhouse to another. Check out the deals made in just the last three years:
6/30/11 Sergio Mitre, Brewers to Yankees
8/15/11 Delmon Young, Twins to Brewers
5/14/12 Ryan Spilborghs, Indians to Rangers
7/23/12 Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners to Yankees
8/5/12 Danny Valencia, Twins to Red Sox
7/31/13 Bud Norris, Astros to Orioles
7/31/13 LJ Hoes, Orioles to Astros
In 1987, Phil Garner and the Astros were playing a series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, when got the word that he’d been dealt to the boys in blue. Garner later said he hated the Dodgers. That was the team he always wanted to beat. They were usually good. Garner wasn’t happy, but sucked it up and put on his new uniform. Sitting on the bench the next game, Astros second baseman Bill Doran had a base hit. Garner said his first reaction was to jump up and cheer but, “then I remembered I’m in enemy territory now.”
Thirty-five years ago, when doubleheaders were common, we could have had a player play for two different teams on the same field on the same day. On August 2, 1979, the Philadelphia Phillies, playing at Shea Stadium, dealt aging Jose Cardenal to the home team Mets between games of a doubleheader. As the teams prepared for the second game, a stunned Cardenal walked into the Mets clubhouse and was met by catcher John Stearns, who said, “What are you doing here?”
Cardenal asked to see manager Joe Torre, who told his new outfielder that he’d like him to play in the second game. Cardenal said he was in shock and begged off. He should have taken the opportunity to play. Cardenal played only 11 games for the Mets the rest of that season, and only 26 the following year before being released.
Three years later, nearly to the day, we had a two-team performance that may never be topped. Joel Youngblood had two hits in two cities for two teams, off two future Hall of Famers.
Youngblood started August 4, 1982 batting third for the New York Mets at Wrigley Field in an afternoon game against the Cubs. Facing Ferguson Jenkins in the third inning, Youngblood came through with a two-run single to give the Mets a 3-1 lead on their way to a 7-4 win. But Youngblood wasn’t around for the finish. He was removed by Manager George Bamberger, who told him he was traded to Montreal. Bamberger said they were short on players and would like him to report as quickly as possible. The Expos happened to be playing in Philadelphia that night, and like Headley this week, he made it to his new team while the game was in progress.
After putting on his new uniform, Youngblood introduced himself to his new manager, Jim Fanning, and took a seat on the bench. In the sixth, Fanning sent Youngblood out to right field to replace Jerry White. An inning later, Youngblood found himself at the plate facing Steve Carlton. He singled. Final count; two cities, two time zones, two teams, two hits – both off future Hall of Famers in Ferguson Jenkins and Steve Carlton. Not a bad day.