Known for Bad Trade, Pappas Still Managed Solid Career

Milt Pappas 1967 001Just look at the stats.

He had a career pitching record of 209 wins and 164 losses.

He had a career ERA of 3.40 to go with 43 shutouts and 1,728 strikeouts.

Not too shabby unless you were traded for a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame named Frank Robinson.

According to multiple accounts, Cincinnati Reds general manager Bill DeWitt believed Robinson was getting old fast.

So in late 1965, the Baltimore Orioles received a Christmas present from the Reds for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson.

After nine seasons with the Orioles, Pappas was 110-74. Unfortunately, the numbers he had in 1966 couldn’t compare the Triple Crown marks that Robinson put up as he became the only person to ever win a Most Valuable Player Award in both the National and American Leagues. He had 49 homers, 122 RBI and a .316 batting average.

Before his trade to the Atlanta Braves in 1968, Pappas was 30-29 and had an ERA of 4.04 with the Reds. Meanwhile, Robinson continued with his all-star seasons as the Orioles won the World Series in 1966 and 1970. Ironically. the last title was against Cincinnati as The Big Red Machine was just starting to rev its engines.

Baldschun, who began his career in the minors with Cincinnati, had been acquired three days prior to the Robinson deal from the Philadelphia Phillies where he posted a 39-35 mark in five seasons. He was 1-5 in two seasons with the Reds and was eventually released. He ended his career with an 8-2 record over two years with the expansion San Diego Padres.

Simpson played for six teams in his seven-year career with 136 games for the Reds in 1966-67. He had five homers and 20 RBI with a .246 batting average. Simpson was eventually traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Alex Johnson in 1968.

Obviously, the pressure was on Pappas as the focal point of the trade. It just didn’t work out.

Frank Robinson 1967 001In the six seasons that Robinson played for Baltimore (1966-71), the Orioles won four pennants and he made the all-star team five times. Those numbers just don’t balance with Pappas, but an awful trade doesn’t mean you’ve had a bad career.

Pappas, who was a two-time all-star for the Orioles, was the first pitcher in major league history to be a 200-game winner without winning 20 games in a season. Others to have done that since Pappas are fellow all-star hurlers Chuck Finley, Charlie Hough, Dennis Martínez, Jerry Reuss, Kenny Rogers, Frank Tanana and Tim Wakefield. Members of that group may not be inducted into Cooperstown, but it sure would be a pretty solid pitching staff.

Traded by the Braves to the Chicago Cubs in 1970, he led the National League with five shutouts in 1971.

Pappas had his best statistical season in 1972 with a 17-7 record and a 2.77 ERA. That year he also won his 200th game and came within one out of a perfect game against the San Diego Padres. Despite the controversial ending of the game, Pappas did get his no-hitter. As of the 2015, it remains the most recent no-hitter in Wrigley Field. His 17-year career ended when he was released by the Cubs just before the 1974 season.

There are two other interesting things that standout in the career of Pappas. On Sept. 24, 1971 against Philadelphia, he struck out Greg Luzinski, Don Money and Mike Anderson on nine pitches. At the plate, Pappas trailed Robinson in the home run category. Robinson retired with 586 longs balls, which has him currently in ninth place all-time. Pappas is a little behind with 20 homers in his career. Against the Minnesota Twins in 1961, he tossed a two-hit shutout, while blasting a pair of homers in a 3-0 victory.

As with all baseball players no matter how good, Robinson’s skills finally began to decline. The Orioles traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 1971 season. The Dodgers moved him to the California Angels a year later.

Late in the 1974 season, Robinson found himself being traded to the Cleveland Indians for Ken Suarez and Rusty Torres. During his time with the Indians, Robinson became the first African-American to be a manager in the major leagues.

The bottom line is that both Robinson and Pappas had successful careers, but they will forever remain linked by a fateful trade on Dec. 9, 1965.


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