If they could trade Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby, and they could trade Lefty Grove and Mark McGwire, then they could trade Ken Griffey, Jr.
And, of course, they just did.
Griffey became the centerpiece of baseball's biggest trade in years Thursday when he was swapped by the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal he forced. Like most big deals these days, money played a significant part in the exchange.
Of the 30 players on the All-Century team selected last summer, Griffey is the eighth to be traded. And some of the others were dealt more than once.
Ruth was the original money player, swapped by Boston owner Harry Frazee to the New York Yankees for cold, hard cash -- $125,000, plus a $300,000 loan, much of which Frazee invested in the Broadway production of "No, No, Nanette." Ruth lasted longer than the show and the Red Sox have regretted the deal ever since.
Hornsby, who batted over .400 three times and finished with a .358 career average, was traded three times, once for fellow Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch, but also for a variety of other players, including some anonymous ones like Socks Sebold and Percy Jones.
It should be noted that Sebold and Jones were accompanied by three other players and the not insignificant sum of $200,000 when they were traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Boston Braves for Hornsby.
Two current players from the All-Century team were swapped -- slugger Mark McGwire by Oakland to St. Louis, where he hit a record 70 home runs two years ago, and five-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens from Toronto to the New York Yankees, where he helped win a World Series last season.
Lefty Grove was coming off a league-leading 24-win season in 1933 when he was traded by the Philadelphia Athletics to Boston as part of a Depression salary dump by owner Connie Mack, who got $125,000 as part of the deal. Grove would spend eight years with the Red Sox and reach 300 wins for his career.
Even Cy Young, who won a record 511 games, was traded, swapped by Boston to Cleveland in 1909 for Charlie Cheech, Jack Ryan and $12,500, which was a king's ransom at the time.
Like the Griffey trade, Cincinnati was in the middle of two other major deals involving future Hall of Famers. One worked out well, the other did not.
Tom Seaver was the centerpiece of the New York Mets pitching staff for 10 seasons, cornerstone of pennant winners in 1969 and 1973. But in 1977 he was in the middle of a messy contract squabble and was swapped to the Reds for four players. He helped Cincinnati to the National League West title two years later and pitched his only no-hitter with the Reds.
A decade before Seaver came up with the Mets, Frank Robinson was one of the National League's top sluggers with the Reds. He won the MVP award in 1961 when the Reds won the pennant, but not the next year when he enjoyed his best season, batting .342 with 39 home runs.
In 1966, though, the Reds decided he was done at age 31, and traded him to Baltimore for three players. Robinson responded by batting .316 with 49 home runs and becoming the only man to win the MVP in each league.
He finished a 21-year career with 586 home runs, fourth on the all-time list behind Hank Aaron, Ruth and Willie Mays.
Besides his power numbers, Robinson shared another distinction with those other Hall of Fame sluggers. They were traded, too, Ruth in the Boston boondoggle, Mays to finish his career in New York and Aaron to end his in Milwaukee.
Jan. 3, 1920:
The Boston Red Sox trade Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and $300,000 loan to Sox owner Harry Frazee.
Dec. 12, 1933:
The Philadelphia Athletics trade Lefty Grove, Rube Walberg and Max Bishop to the Boston Red Sox for Bob Kline, Rabbit Warstler and $125,000.
Dec. 10, 1935:
The Philadelphia Athletics trade Jimmie Foxx along with Johnny Marcum to the Boston Red Sox for Gordon Rhodes, minor leaguer George Savino and $150,000.
Dec. 9, 1965:
The Cincinnati Reds trade Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson.
April 2, 1976:
The Oakland A's trade Reggie Jackson, Ken Holtzman and Bill Van Bommell to the Baltimore Orioles for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell.
June 15, 1977:
The New York Mets trade Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman.
Dec. 5, 1990:
The Toronto Blue Jays trade Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.
Aug. 31, 1992:
The Oakland Athletics trade Jose Canseco to the Texas Rangers for Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt, Jeff Russell and an undisclosed amount of money.
July 31, 1997:
The Oakland Athletics trade Mark McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for T.J Mathews, Eric Ludwick, and Blake Stein.
May 15, 1998:
The Florida Marlins trade Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich, and Manuel Barrios to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile.
Feb. 18, 1999:
The Toronto Blue Jays trade Roger Clemens to the Yankees for David Wells, Graeme Lloyd, and Homer Bush.
Nov. 2, 1999:
The Texas Rangers trade Juan Gonzalez, Danny Patterson, and Gregg Zaun to the Detroit Tigers for Justin Thompson, Alan Webb, Francisco Cordero, Gabe Kapler, Bill Haselman and Frank Catalanotto.
Feb. 10, 2000:
The Seattle Mariners trade Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds for Brett Tomko, Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer.
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