by Harold Friend
Steve Laden is a die-hard Red Sox fan who had died hard more times than he can remember. A few days ago, he was perusing his grandfather's collection of old baseball books, and much to his delight, discovered yet another New York Yankees' trade that was almost as bad as trading future Hall of Famer Fred McGriff to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dale Murray.
The Yankees Trade Urban Shocker
In one of the worst trades ever made, the New York Yankees traded right handed spit ball pitcher Urban Shocker to the St. Louis Browns in exchange for 300 game winner Eddie Plank and infielder Del Pratt on January 22, 1918. Pratt had three respectable seasons with the Yankees before they traded him to Boston in the winter of 1920, but the 41 year old Plank retired.
The Yankees Raided the Weak Sisters
Sending Del Pratt to Boston illustrated how the Yankees, even then, raided teams that were in dire financial straits. They acquired Hall of Fame Red Sox right hander Waite Hoyt, who was instrumental in helping the Yankees dominate baseball during the 1920s.
Four Consecutive Twenty Win Seasons
Shocker was drafted into the United States army in May, 1918 to help his country fight the war to end all wars. After a decent season in 1919, Shocker won at least 20 games for the Brownies in each of the next four seasons.
In 1921, Shocker was 27-12, with a 3.55 ERA and a 127 ERA+, which is an even better record than it seems to be. The Black Sox scandal had raised some questions in fans' minds, and the lords of baseball realized that if the game became more offensive, fans might be more easily seduced to watch baseball.
The Yankees' reject won 24 games in 1922, and finished the streak with a 20 win season in 1923. The following season, the 33 year old Shocker slipped to 16-13, with a 4.20 ERA and a 107 ERA+. The Yankees decided to make their move.
The Yankees Admit Their Mistake
At the winter meeting in Chicago in Dec. 1924, the Yankees re-acquired Urban Shocker. When the Browns first made it known that Shocker was available, the Yankees made an offer, but they had competition from the Senators as well as from their friends in Boston. The Browns wanted the Yankees to include Waite Hoyt in the deal, but the Yankees refused. Browns' manager George Sisler consulted president Phil Ball, and the Browns relented. As has been the case for more than 100 years, when the Yankees want a player, they usually get that player.
The Yankees finished a dismal seventh in 1925, winning only 69 games. Shocker had a decent season, going 12-12 with a 3.65 ERA and a 117 ERA+. The next season, the Yankees won the pennant as Shocker won 19 games, but in the World Series, Shocker was ineffective, allowing 5 runs and 13 hits in seven and two-thirds innings as the Cardinals won the World Championship.
A Great Final Season
In 1927, the Yankees dominated baseball. Shocker was 18-6, with a 2.84 ERA and a 136 ERA+. The Yankees swept the Pirates in the World Series, but manager Miller Huggins did not need Shocker as the Yankees started Hoyt, youngster George Pipgras, Herb Pennock, and Wilcy Moore.
The Yankees soured on Shocker after 1927, and he was displeased with their offer for the 1928 season. He threatened to retire and run his radio shop in St. Louis, but finally joined the Yankees in May. Shocker pitched only three innings and realized he was finished. He returned to St. Louis, and sadly, following an illness of several weeks, passed away on Sept. 9, 1928 of pneumonia and heart failure.
SHOCKER TUMBLES YANKS TO DEFEAT :Urban Avenges His Transfer from New York Before Joining Army. (1918, May 19). New York Times (1857-1922),29. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 98265448).
Special to The New York Times.. (1924, December 18). SHOCKER A YANKEE; TRADED FOR BUSH :Gaston and Giard Also Go to Browns in Exchange for Star Spitball Twirler. DEAL CLOSED IN CHICAGO No Money Passed in Transaction. New York Times (1923-Current file),26. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 101628169).
URBAN SHOCKER DIES IN DENVER HOSPITAL :Former Yankee Pitching Star Passes Away After an Illness cf Several Weeks. Shocker Started as Catcher.. (1928, September 10). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 27. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 95610625).