If you’re a long time Yankee fan, it was one of those multi-player trades you just don’t forget, the likes of which will probably never be seen again. Back in the 1950s, trades involving two big league teams and six to ten players were not unusual but they normally took place between a team in a pennant race and a team outside of one. In June of the 1976 season, the Yankees were battling Baltimore for supremacy in the AL East, when the two clubs announced a pretty stunning deal.
New York sent their backup catcher, Rick Dempsey, veteran starter, Rudy May, a young left-handed reliever named Tippy Martinez, pitching prospect Scott McGregor and starter/reliever Dave Pagan all to the Birds. In exchange, the Yankees received starting pitchers Ken Holtzman and Doyle Alexander, reliever Grant Jackson and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Elrod Hendricks. Baltimore definitely got the best of this deal long term, as Dempsey became their starting catcher for the next decade, McGregor turned into one of the league’s premier starters and Martinez evolved into one of the best relievers in all of baseball. Even Rudy May paid dividends, going 29-21 during his two seasons with the Orioles. But the most immediate benefit went to the Yankees. During the second half of that season, Holtzman, Alexander and Jackson won an incredible 25 decisions between them, helping New York beat out the Birds for the AL East and capture the team’s first AL Pennant in over a decade.
Elrod Hendricks became the forgotten man in that transaction. He only got into 18-regular season games as a backup to the very durable Thurman Munson during his first half season in the Bronx. In 1977, the ten year big league veteran actually agreed to go down to the Yankee’s triple A team in Syracuse for most of the season, ceding his backup receiving role with the parent club to Fran Healy. But baby boomer aged fans like me remember when Hendricks caught those great Baltimore pitching staffs of the late sixties and early seventies. He was a solid receiver with a great arm. Hendricks is a native of the Virgin Islands who was born on this date in 1940. He passed away on the day before his 65th birthday in 2005.
|BAL (11 yrs)||658||2031||1781||191||395||63||7||56||214||1||213||299||.222||.306||.359||.666|
|NYY (2 yrs)||36||68||64||7||15||2||0||4||10||0||3||12||.234||.265||.453||.718|
|CHC (1 yr)||17||56||43||7||5||1||0||2||6||0||13||8||.116||.321||.279||.600|
Having three brothers talented enough to become professional anythings is not easy. Take my family as an example. My older brother Matt has a great singing voice. People tell me I could have been the next Sinatra. But any chance the three Cinquanti brothers might have had to become professional entertainers was squashed by our oldest brother Jerry, who couldn’t carry a tune to save his life.
The three Alou brothers, on the other hand, had no weak link when it came to baseball talent. The oldest, Felipe, was the best all-around player of the three. The youngest, Jesus, put together a .280 lifetime batting average over fifteen big league seasons. But only middle sibling, Matty, won a batting championship and finished his big league career with a batting average above .300 (.307).
Matty was not always the best hitting Alou brother. When he came up with the Giants, he used a light bat and an upper cut swing because that’s the way his older brother did it. It was not until he got traded to Pittsburgh, in 1966, and came under the hitting tutelage of Harry “The Hat” Walker that Matty started hitting for average. Walker gave his new outfielder a heavier bat and using Roberto Clemente as an interpreter, convinced Matty to start swinging down on the ball. The results were immediate. Matty won the 1966 NL batting title with a .342 average and did not hit below .331 during his first four seasons with the Pirates. When he finally did (.297 in 1970), Pittsburgh traded him to St Louis.
He ended up with Oakland and a championship ring in 1972 and the Yankees got him in a trade before the 1973 season. For a while, he was reunited with Felipe until New York traded the elder Alou to Montreal late in that same season. Matty hit .296 during his one year in pinstripes and then got sold back to the Cardinals.
How good were the Alou brothers? Between the three of them, Joe, Dom and Vince DiMaggio had 4,853 career hits during their big league careers. Felipe, Matty and Jesus had 5,094.
Matty was born December 22, 1938 and was three years younger than Felipe and four years older than Jesus. He passed away in November of 2011 from complications caused by diabetes. He was 72-years-old.
|SFG (6 yrs)||453||1131||1048||136||272||32||7||12||72||21||59||101||.260||.304||.338||.642|
|PIT (5 yrs)||743||3224||3018||434||986||129||34||6||202||98||147||165||.327||.360||.398||.758|
|STL (3 yrs)||268||1103||1024||132||322||45||8||10||106||30||59||50||.314||.352||.403||.756|
|OAK (1 yr)||32||136||121||11||34||5||0||1||16||2||11||12||.281||.341||.347||.688|
|SDP (1 yr)||48||88||81||8||16||3||0||0||3||0||5||6||.198||.241||.235||.476|
|NYY (1 yr)||123||538||497||59||147||22||1||2||28||5||30||43||.296||.338||.356||.694|
The Yankees acquired Tom Underwood in the same 1979 postseason trade in which they picked up catcher Rick Cerone from Toronto in exchange for Chris Chambliss and Damaso Garcia. At the time this transaction was made, I was not impressed with it because I did not think Cerone was that good an all-around player and I was also a huge Chambliss fan. As it turned out, New York did get a very good and very quick return on the deal. Cerone had a career year in his first season in pinstripes and Underwood became a valuable 13-game-winning member of New York’s 1980 starting rotation that included Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Luis Tiant and Rudy May. That Yankee team won an impressive total of 103 games and captured the AL East Division for skipper Dick Howser before they were knocked out of fall-ball by the Royals. Underwood did not get a start in that postseason series and when he started the following season going 1-4, the Yankees dealt him to the A’s.
This southpaw was born in Kokomo, Indiana on this date in 1953. His younger brother Pat also became a big league pitcher for the Tigers. The siblings actually faced each other in Pat’s first big league start in Toronto, on the last day of May in 1979. In a classic duel, Tom lost that game, 1-0 to his younger brother on an eighth-inning Jerry Morales home-run. In all, Tom pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues for a half-dozen different teams. He had a lifetime record of 86-87, with 18 saves and six shutouts. Unfortunately, Underwood passed away in 2010, a victim of pancreatic cancer. He was just 56-years-old.
|PHI (4 yrs)||28||20||.583||4.02||89||60||10||10||2||3||421.1||434||202||188||24||170||245||1.434|
|OAK (3 yrs)||22||15||.595||3.59||123||30||40||3||0||12||348.2||329||156||139||28||143||187||1.354|
|NYY (2 yrs)||14||13||.519||3.77||47||33||6||2||2||2||219.2||195||102||92||17||79||145||1.247|
|TOR (2 yrs)||15||30||.333||3.88||64||62||0||19||2||0||424.2||414||218||183||46||182||266||1.403|
|BAL (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.52||37||1||10||0||0||1||71.2||78||33||28||8||31||39||1.521|
|STL (1 yr)||6||9||.400||4.95||19||17||2||1||0||0||100.0||104||61||55||7||57||66||1.610|