This article was written by Mark Armour
This article was published in Baseball’s Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016
The 1971 baseball Winter Meetings took place in Phoenix, Arizona, from Saturday, November 27, through Friday, December 3. As was the custom, the National Association meetings took up the first few days, while the major-league meetings got going on Wednesday.
Rule 5 Draft
In the annual major-league draft, the big-league clubs claimed 13 players at the $25,000 price tag. Cleveland had the first choice and selected Jim Moyer, a right-handed pitcher, from the Giants system. Two outfielders who had recently held down starting positions in the big leagues were also selected: Steve Hovley (by the Royals from the Athletics) and Brant Alyea (by the Athletics from the Twins).
The most interesting name might have been Bob Gallagher, an infielder the Red Sox selected from the Dodgers. Gallagher was the grandson of Shano Collins, who played for and managed the Red Sox in the 1920s and 1930s.1
The rule governing “players to be named later” was modified to prohibit such a player from appearing in the same league as the team to which he was traded, between the date of the trade and the date of its completion. This provision was added to keep a player from directly competing with a club to whom he had been traded. The rule was also modified to require that a cash amount be specified so that the teams could later agree to use the cash consideration instead of the player.2
During the 1971 season several players — notably St. Louis outfielders Lou Brock and José Cardenal and San Diego outfielder Ivan Murrell — began using a so-called “Japanese teacup bat,” which had a hollow end. NL President Chub Feeney approved its use pending the eventual opinion of the Rules Committee, which met at the meetings and approved. Committee chairman Johnny Johnson, an administrative aide to the commissioner, claimed that the bat did not provide the hitter an advantage.3
Johnson also announced that two rules proposals made by the general managers were rejected. One suggested that a line drive intentionally dropped would result in the batter being out, the ball remaining “in play,” and no runners able to be retired. The prevalent rule — providing that the runners could advance at their own risk — remained in place. The second rejected suggestion was that the coaches’ boxes be lengthened toward the outfield. Coaches rarely place themselves within the box, which the committee determined was acceptable.4
The committee ruled that all Double-A players would be required to wear an earflap helmet beginning in 1972, and all Triple-A players by 1973.5
Every year fans across the country anticipate dramatic player dealing, especially trades involving their favorite team, at the winter meetings. The fans were not disappointed — in no year in history was there as much payoff as there was in 1971. What happened on Monday was plenty enough for a few meetings, with three huge deals involving some of the game’s biggest stars, and it kept going throughout the week.
The Oakland Athletics traded center fielder Rick Monday to the Chicago Cubs for left-handed starting pitcher Ken Holtzman. The Cubs had considered center field their biggest weakness, while Holtzman, a two-time 17-game winner, had run afoul of manager Leo Durocher for throwing too many offspeed pitches.6
The Cincinnati Reds made a franchise-altering trade, dealing first baseman Lee May, second baseman Tommy Helms, and utilityman Jimmy Stewart to the Houston Astros for second baseman Joe Morgan, infielder Denis Menke, outfielder Cesar Geronimo, right-handed pitcher Jack Billingham, and minor-league outfielder Ed Armbrister. For the power-strapped Astros, the key man was May, who had hit 39 home runs in 1971 — 26 more than any Astro had hit.7 The Reds coveted Morgan’s speed, his left-handed bat, and his ability to get on base. The deal also allowed the Reds to move Tony Perez from third base to his natural spot at first base, while slotting Menke at third.8
The Cleveland Indians traded left-handed pitcher Sam McDowell, a six-time All-Star, to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed pitcher Gaylord Perry and infielder Frank Duffy. “McDowell gives us the left-handed pitcher we needed so badly,” said Giants GM Charlie Fox, “a left-hander who can strike someone out. McDowell is 29 and Perry is 33, so the age factor is in our favor.” McDowell guaranteed a pennant for the Giants, who had lost in the most recent NLCS.9Perry had a long track record of success, but Indians GM Gabe Paul was particularly excited about getting Duffy, a highly sought-after young shortstop.10
The Chicago White Sox dealt left-handed pitcher Tommy John and infielder Steve Huntz to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Dick Allen. Allen, the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year, had had a lot of trouble with management and fans when he played in Philadelphia, but the White Sox were excited about his potent bat. “I know when he goes on the field he gives you 100 percent,” said manager Chuck Tanner. “He gives you a good day’s work. I judge a player strictly on what he does for me.”11
The Astros, having acquired May, sent young first baseman John Mayberry and a minor leaguer to the Kansas City Royals for lefty Lance Clemons and right-hander Jim York, two of the better pitching prospects in the game.12
The New York Yankees dealt starting pitcher Stan Bahnsen, the 1968 AL Rookie of the Year, to the White Sox for infielder Rich McKinney. Yankees GM Lee MacPhail had made it known he would trade a starting pitcher for an infielder, but many were surprised that he settled for an untried player like McKinney.13
The American League champion Baltimore Orioles traded their heart and soul, veteran outfielder Frank Robinson (plus left-hander Pete Richert), to the Los Angeles Dodgers for four young players — right-handed pitcher Doyle Alexander and southpaw Bob O’Brien, catcher Sergio Robles, and infielder Royce Stillman. American League rivals cheered the loss of Robinson to the NL, but the Orioles were thinking of the future. “It’s a 1974-75 type deal for us,” said Baltimore manager Earl Weaver.”14 Robinson took the deal well, saying, “I’m leaving one classy organization and going to another.”15
The Cincinnati Reds swapped relief pitchers with the Twins, sending right-hander Wayne Granger to Minnesota for Tom Hall. The Reds now believed they had the best bullpen in the game. “Hall gives us balance in the bullpen since he’s left-handed,” said general manager Bob Howsam.16
The Astros traded three minor leaguers — right-handed pitcher Bill Greif and left-handed pitcher Mark Schaeffer and infielder Derrel Thomas — to the Padres for left-handed pitcher Dave Roberts. Roberts had turned in a 14-17 season for a Padres team that had lost 100 games, and his 2.10 ERA was second in the National League only to Tom Seaver’s 2.82.17
On Tuesday, baseball officials met with a congressional delegation from Washington who were concerned with the recent announcement that the Washington Senators were moving to Arlington, Texas. “We just laid it on the table,” said B.F. Fisk (Democrat of California). “Of course, there was some discussion of the antitrust laws, and baseball’s exemption, and the reserve clause, because they asked about those things.”18
Governor John L. McKeithen led a Louisiana delegation that presented a plan to the AL for the Cleveland Indians to play 30 games in the New Orleans Superdome in 1974. “The group made a fine presentation,” said AL President Joe Cronin, “and we’re appointing a committee to look into the main details before the league makes a determination.”19 Oakland owner Charlie Finley, always looking to keep his own options open, voiced his opposition to the plan.20
On Friday baseball held its joint meeting between the major and minor leagues, which wrapped up the week. A nine-member committee was formed to study the relationship between the majors and minors — three men from each major league, and three from the minors. “We have long recognized the minor leagues have serious financial problems,” said Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. “They have continuously had to ask for more money and we are interested in a better, more lucrative contract for them.”21
The group consisted of Jim Campbell (Tigers), Joe Cummiskey (Red Sox), Gabe Paul (Indians), Bob Howsam (Reds), Peter O’Malley (Dodgers), Jim Fanning (Expos), Joe Buzas (Pawtucket, Eastern League), Roy Jackson (Eastern League president), and Wallace McKenna (Carolina League president).22
The deadline for interleague trading, formerly 10 days after the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, was changed to be midnight prior to the last scheduled day of the meetings. In making the announcement, Commissioner Kuhn said the purpose was to increase trades during the meetings. Given the large number of deals, the press room filled with laughter. “It certainly wasn’t needed this year,” allowed the commissioner.23
The White Sox lobbied the American League to be moved from the Western Division to the Eastern Division. They had previously tried in October, when the Washington franchise moved to Texas and changed divisions, but the Milwaukee Brewers were the team chosen to make the corresponding move to the Eastern.24 The AL was also granted permission to play a single game prior to the league-wide Opening Day. Previously this privilege had been granted to the Washington club every year.
The American League made a proposal to prohibit exhibition games more than 28 days before the start of the regular season. The purpose of the proposal was to save money, but the National League voted against the change, and Commissioner Kuhn cast the deciding no vote. 25
There was also a proposal to expand the playoffs to have the second-place teams play each other in a best-of-three series. This proposal was rejected. 26 Kuhn did announce that the middle three games of the World Series (played during the week) would be played at night.27
American League President Joe Cronin, whose contract was due to expire in December 1972, received a three-year extension. He was given the additional titles of chairman of the board and chief executive officer.28
Phil Piton, the president-treasurer of the National Association (the minor leagues) for nine years, officially ended his term and was succeeded by Hank Peters, formerly the Cleveland farm director.29
The story of the 1971 winter meetings was the frantic wheeling and dealing. There was little talk of labor negotiations, though concerns about the expiring pension and benefit plan would dominate the game’s headlines over the rest of the offseason.
1 Stan Isle, “Majors Pay $325,000 to Draft 13,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 43.
2 Stan Isle, “15 Deals Steal Spotlight at Meetings,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 43.
3 Stan Isle, “Nippon Bat Okayed by Rules Group,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 44.
4 Isle, “Nippon Bat Okayed.”
6 Edgar Munzel, “Cubs See Monday’s Bat, Glove Filling a Big Void,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1971: 46.
7 John Wilson, “Astros See Home-Run Boom With May and Shorter Fences,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1971: 48.
8 Earl Lawson, “Red Hopes Take Off With Joe the Jet in Tow,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1971: 49.
9 Pat Frizzell, “ ‘Giants to Win Flag,’ Sam Promises,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1971: 46.
10 Russell Schneider, “Tribe Glad to Have Perry, But Duffy Was Sway Key,” The Sporting News, December 11, 1971: 51.
11 Jerome Holtzman, “Chisox Crowing Over Allen-Melton Power Duo,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 51.
12 John Wilson, “Big-Dealing Astros See Contender Role in 1972,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 52.
13 Jim Ogle, “Yank Fans Are Disgusted Over Bahnsen’s Departure,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 58.
14 Phil Jackman, “Orioles’ Rivals Celebrating the Departure of F. Robby,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 50.
15 Bob Hunter, “Dodgers Thrill Over Flag Insurance at Little Cost,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 50.
16 “‘Tom Hall Gives Us Majors’ Finest Bullpen,’ Reds Grin,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 52.
17 Wilson, “Big-Dealing Astros.”
18 Isle, “15 Deals Steal Spotlight.”
23 Ben Henkey, “Majors Shorten Interleague Trading Period,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 45.
24 Isle, “15 Deals Steal Spotlight.”
27 Henkey, “Majors Shorten Interleague Trading Period.”
29 Ben Henkey, “Piton Hands the Reins to New Boss Peters,” The Sporting News, December 18, 1971: 46.