This Week in Baseball History: July 26 – August 1

Here's why you should never trade Curt Schilling.

July 26, 2000 – The (Fourth) Curt Schilling Trade


With the upcoming trade deadline looming, let’s reflect on one of the most lopsided deals ever: the infamous Curt Schilling trade.

Now Schilling actually has a couple of trades under his belt. The Red Sox drafted him in 1986, but they traded Schilling with Brady Anderson to the Orioles for Mike Boddicker before Schilling’s major league debut. Did you remember that Schilling pitched three seasons for the Orioles? I didn’t.

Next, Schilling was shipped to Houston for one year before the Astros traded him to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley in a one-to-one swap. Pretty much all of these deals have tilted in favor of the team that got Schilling, but they all pale in comparison to Schilling’s next trade.

Schilling truly broke out in his time with the Phillies. In his first season, he went 14 – 11 with a 2.35 ERA/150 ERA+ and 0.990 WHIP in 226.1 IP. In 1997, Schilling has 319 Ks—the most since Nolan Ryan about 20 years earlier—and he finished fourth in Cy Young voting. The next year, he led the league again with 300 strikeouts exactly. In total, Schilling has the fifth most fWAR (38.6) of any pitcher in Phillies history.

But he alone wasn’t enough to drag the Phillies out of the basement in the NL East. Throughout Schilling’s entire tenure, the Phillies managed just one winning season in 1993, which culminated in a devastating World Series loss to Joe Carter and the Jays. In 2000, the Phillies were on their way to their worst record since the 70s. After Schilling’s last start on July 23, the Phillies sat at 44 – 53. Schilling wanted out, and the Phillies wanted some high-upside players in return.

In came an exciting new team called the Arizona Diamondbacks. After a last-place finish in their inaugural season in 1998, the Diamondbacks won the division and managed 100 wins in their sophomore year. They needed one more ace to accommodate Randy Johnson, and Schilling was the perfect fit.

And so, days before the deadline, a deal fell into place: the Diamondbacks receive Schilling and the Phillies get Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla.

Daal, who was excellent in ’98 and ’99, was in the midst of arguably his worst season ever in ’00: 7.22 ERA/66 ERA+ in 96 innings. Figueroa, in his rookie season, fared worse: 7.47 ERA/65 ERA+ in 15.2 IP. Lee’s career OPS barely hovered above .700. Padilla was the only person playing great at the time of the trade, posting a 2.31 ERA/208 ERA+ in 35 innings.

Within two years, it became clear that this trade was a massive blunder by Philadelphia. The four players they received combined for only 10 bWAR while playing for the Phillies. Schilling earned 8.8 bWAR in just his first full season with Arizona. In four years with the Diamondbacks, Schilling had 25.9 bWAR.

After the 2001 season, here is where things stood. The Diamondbacks won their first World Series thanks to Schilling, who went 22 – 6 with a 2.98 ERA/157 ERA+ and 293 strikeouts in 256.2 innings. In the postseason, Schilling earned a WS MVP with a 1.69 ERA and 0.656 WHIP in 21.1 innings.

As for the Phillies… Daal got traded to the Dodgers. Figueroa was selected off waivers by the Brewers. One year later, Lee went into free agency. The only player who survived and performed admirably was Padilla, who earned an All-Star nod in ’02 as he went 14 – 11 with a 3.28 ERA/118 ERA+ in 206 innings. But overall, Padilla became just another average pitcher whereas Schilling would’ve had three Cy Youngs if Randy Johnson didn’t exist.

If there is a moral to be learned from this story, it’s that you don’t trade Schilling. You are going to regret it.


July 30, 1990 – George Steinbrenner’s Lifetime Ban


George Steinbrenner is arguably baseball’s most notable and divisive owner. As the Yankees owner from 1973 to his death in 2010, he turned the franchise into the second most valuable sports team in the world. Along the way, he also won seven World Series.

But he had a tendency to butt heads with his players and coaches. Especially Billy Martin, who seemed to get fired and re-hired every single year.

Steinbrenner wasn’t afraid to spend money if he thought it would help the team. Before the 1981 season, Dave Winfield was the top free agent, and Steinbrenner was going to do whatever he could to sign him. The result: a record 10-year, $23 million contract with unique stipulations (e.g. the Yankees would make regular payments to Winfield’s charity). Steinbrenner thought he was paying Winfield just $15 million, but a “cost of living” clause added an additional eight million. This confusion would start their relationship off on the wrong foot.

Nonetheless, from ’81 to ’88, Winfield was one of the game’s top players, winning five Gold Gloves while making the All-Star team each year and averaging 25 HR, 102 RBIs, .291/.357/.497 in 144 games. But the Yankees didn’t win a World Series during this span, which greatly angered Steinbrenner.

“I let Mr. October get away,” Steinbrenner said referring to Reggie Jackson. “And I got Mr. May, Dave Winfield. He gets his numbers when it doesn’t count.”

Another factor that increased tension between Steinbrenner and Winfield was that Winfield wasn’t afraid to stand up for himself, especially when the Yankees wanted to trade away the struggling and injured outfielder toward the end of his contract.

In the 80s, Steinbrenner got connected with Howard Spira, a gambler indebted to the mob. Spira, who claimed he was once the publicist for Winfield’s charity, told Steinbrenner that he had proof Winfield had used the money intended for his charity on more debaucherous endeavors. That was exactly what Steinbrenner wanted to hear, and so he paid Spira $40,000 to get this information.

But Commissioner Fay Vincent caught wind of this, and he hired John Dowd, who investigated Pete Rose’s gambling scandal, to look into this.

The report was damning for Steinbrenner. Vincent asked Steinbrenner for an explanation of his relationship with Spira, and the result was 11 hours of rambling contradictions.

Vincent offered Steinbrenner a two-year suspension from baseball. Steinbrenner felt that the word “suspension” would affect his ability to remain on the US Olympic Committee, so he wanted to come to an “agreement” instead. Steinbrenner asked for a lifetime ban, and Vincent accepted.

On July 30, 1990, the two sides had a deal.


Just like that, one of baseball’s titans had fallen. But he wouldn’t stay down forever.

Two years later, Vincent announced that Steinbrenner could return for the 1993 season. But from that point on, Steinbrenner didn’t meddle in the day-to-day operations quite as he had done in the 70s/80s. In an odd turn of events, his hands-off approach to managing allowed the Yankees front office to develop the Core Four that anchored the 1996 – 2000 dynasty.

Check out Joel Sherman’s New York Post series for a more in-depth look at exactly how this scandal created the modern Yankees.


Aug. 1, 1945 – Mel Ott’s 500th Home Run


It may be hard to believe, but once upon a time, people didn’t hit that many dingers. No other hitter had 500 home runs until Babe Ruth founded the club on Aug. 11, 1929. 11 years later, Jimmie Foxx joined the Great Bambino.

Perhaps the most surprising fact is that for the first 69 years of its existence, the National League did not have a slugger in the 500 HR Club.

Until Mel Ott.

It’s only fitting that Master Melvin would be the first NL hitter to accomplish this feat. After all, he had a historic start to his career. Both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatís Jr. are in their age-22 season, and they have 56 and 69 homers, respectively. By July 26 of Ott’s age-22 season, he already had 103 career homers. He can thank the Polo Grounds and their extremely close foul poles (right field’s sat just 258 feet away).

Ott is still the youngest player to reach 100 homers… and 200… but not 300! That record belongs to Álex Rodríguez.

Even though Ott never had one absolutely phenomenal slugging season (he peaked at 42 HRs and .635 SLG in 1929), he was a consistent force at the plate, regularly clobbering 30+ dingers to lead the NL.

At the end of his age-33 season in 1942, Ott had 445 career bombs. He also became the Giants’ manager that same year. Then WW2 came running in. Teams lost their stars to military service, and the Giants got hit hard. They plummeted from an 85 – 67 record in ’42 to 55 – 98 in ’43.

The stress of trying to lead this team in ’43, combined with the inevitable decline associated with old age, resulted in Ott’s worst season (18 HRs, .234/.391/.418 and a 136 wRC+) since he was 18. A 136 wRC+ is still amazing. It just reflects how good Ott was in his prime.

He rebounded the next year to a 167 wRC+, but he only managed 26 homers and he played in just 120 games. Entering 1945, Ott sat at 489 career dingers. By the end of July, he bumped that total up to 499.

On Aug. 1, the Giants hosted the Boston Braves. In the first inning, Ott opened up the scoring with an RBI single to center off Nate Andrews. Two innings later, Ott led off the inning, this time facing Johnny Hutchings. And just like he had done hundreds of times before, Ott yanked a ball over the Polo Ground’s shallow right field wall, sending No. 500 into the crowd of 19,318 fans.

And with that blast, Ott became the third member of baseball’s 500 home run club.

The trio of Ruth, Foxx, and Ott had 15 years to enjoy the exclusivity of their club before it became super-inclusive—in the 60s, five new hitters blasted their 500th homer. As it stands now, this club has 27 members.


Photo by /Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

One response to “This Week in Baseball History: July 26 – August 1”

  1. Anon says:

    You can’t just gloss over the Orioles/Astros trade like that. They traded Schilling (80.5 bWAR), Steve Finley (44.5 bWAR) and Pete Harnisch (19.0 bWAR) for Glenn Davis (19.2 bWAR but only 2.1 of it came after the trade while the vast majority of the other 3 guys’ WAR came after the trade). Davis was horrible and out of the game in 3 years due in part to an injury his 1st spring training with the Orioles. It’s one of the most lopsided trades ever

    It is rather telling about Schilling that he was involved in 5 trades and the team dealing him got hosed every single time.

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