This Date In Baseball History: December 11, 1975- The Pittsburgh Pirates trade pitchers Dock Ellis, Ken Brett and minor league second baseman Willie Randolph to the New York Yankees for pitcher George ‘Doc’ Medich. Being a Pirates fan since the late 1960’s this trade stands out as being the worst in my lifetime as a Pirates fan. I must admit at the time of the deal I liked the trade. Dock Ellis had worn out his welcome with Pittsburgh’s management. Ken Brett was coming off a so-so injury plagued season and Willie Randolph was a promising minor league second baseman- but the Pirates had Rennie Stennett who it appeared would have second base nailed down at least into the next decade. What the Pirates were always in need of was good pitching and George ‘Doc’ Medich at 25 years old who had three seasons in the major leagues- had won 14, 19 and 16 games in those seasons. An added plus was Medich was coming home- he was a Pittsburgh native.
This trade just didn’t work out at all for the Pirates- Medich would spend one injury plagued season as a Pirate- he had a record of 8-11- he was then traded to Oakland. In his career he never matched those first three years with the Yankees.
Everyone always thinks of the Yankees building their 70’s dynasty by throwing big money at free agents but they also made some very crafty trades. This was the first of two trades they made on this day- which helped greatly in the short term and long term. Dock Ellis was a short term help- in his only full season in New York- 1976 he won 17 games. Ken Brett was a non-factor he only pitched in two games as a Yankee. The real bonanza was the young Willie Randolph who as a 21 year old rookie was an all-star and would go on to play 13 seasons with the Yankees and was one of the best second baseman in baseball during the period.
Where this hurt the Pirates was- you can never tell the future. Randolph looked expendable in December 1975- the Pirates second base situation since the mid 1950’s- Bill Mazeroski held down second until 1970- then Dave Cash came a long and was solid for a few years. Young Rennie Stennett made Cash a trading chip- and Stennett as I noted earlier looked to be the second baseman into the 1980s. Stennett was leading the National League in hitting in August 1977- with a .336 average. On August 21st he slid into second base- and broke his leg. I remember listening to the game on the radio and it was one of those injuries that you immediately sensed was a serious one. It was- Stennett would never fully recover from that injury and he is once promising career would be over by 1981. The Pirates sure could have used Willie Randolph.
The other trade the Yankees made on this day was trading Bobby Bonds- a talented but troubled star to the Angels for outfielder Mickey Rivers and pitcher Ed Figueroa. Rivers would be the Yankee centerfielder for three and a half seasons-adding speed to the top of the Yankees batting order. Figueroa would also have three outstanding seasons as a Yankee having the best years of his career- winning 19, 16 and 20 games. The Yankees who hadn’t been to the post-season since 1964- would win the American League pennant in 1976 and the World Series in 1977-78. Rivers and Figueroa- and Randolph would be key players in those seasons.