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Reactions
CNNSI.com asked if Cubs fans had any opinions on the subject. And guess what ... they did.

Click here to read a sampling of what CNNSI.com users had to say. 

 

Sports fans love to reminisce over the days that it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.

CNNSI.com's David Vecsey lived among Cubs fans in central Illinois for 10 years. Though he never fully grew to understand these strange creatures, he did learn a little about what drove them to the Old Style: "The Worst Trade Ever Made" -- Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio; the defection of Greg Maddux in 1992; the rebirth of Dennis Eckersley ... in Oakland; Rafael Palmeiro-for-Mitch Williams; the departure of Mr. Cub II, Mark Grace; the late-career move of Billy Williams; and the 1977 trade of defending batting champ Bill Madlock.

 
June 15,
1964 
Cubs trade OF Lou Brock, P Jack Spring
and P Paul Toth to St. Louis for P Ernie Broglio,
P Bobby Shantz and OF Doug Clemens
 

Let's put ourselves in GM John Holland's shoes in 1964. Any one of us would have made the same trade. A no-glove, no-hit outfielder for a 20-game winner? Any single one us, given the right circumstances, could have gone down as having made one of the worst trades in baseball history. It doesn't make us bad people.

  Lou Brock Lou Brock didn't hit for power, but he could turn singles into triples. 
Elsa Hasch/Allsport
Ernie Broglio, who had gone 21-9 in 1960, was in his sixth big-league season and still not quite 30. Lou Brock was 25 and hadn't done a heck of a lot in 2 1/2 seasons with the Cubs. He was hitting .251 at the time of the deal.

Former Cardinals GM Bing Devine said years later: "People ask me even now, 'Did you know in advance? Did you think you had made a great deal?' The answer is no. Very few of us are that smart. At the time, we didn't know we'd made a windfall."

In his first game with the Cards, Brock struck out on three pitches as a pinch-hitter. "I was sitting in the stands in the old Colt Stadium, and a group of fans were just behind me, riding Brock and the Cardinals," Devine recalled in a Chicago Tribune article. "One of them said, 'Broglio for Brock? Who could make such a deal?' And I remember saying to one of my associates, 'I guess I've got to agree. Who in the world would make such a deal?' "

Of course, for the rest of the '64 season, Brock hit .348 and stole 33 bases for the National League champion Cardinals. He would go on to hit .300 six times, lead the league in stolen bases eight times and leave the game as the all-time steals leader. In the Cubs' defense, he also led the league in errors seven times.

Broglio, however, went 4-7 with the Cubs in '64, developed bone chips in his elbow and retired after the '66 season with a 7-13 record for Chicago.

  SI Scorecard
Sports Illustrated -- January 30, 1995

To promote a joint appearance by Brock and Broglio at a Cub convention in Chicago last weekend, the organizers' pronouncements described that 30-year-old swap as "controversial." In fact, there was nothing controversial about it. Brock for Broglio was incontrovertibly bad for Chicago -- and maybe the worst trade in baseball history. 

  Jeff Wilson, Fairfield, Iowa
This is one that all of Chicago cries about. Brock took the Cardinals to the World Series with a red-hot second half. There might never have been a miracle for the Mets in 1969. All I remember about Broglio is the nasty five o'clock shadow on his baseball card. 
 
 
 
John, Eugene Oregon
My heartbreaking transaction actually happened 30 some years before I was born, but my dad passed on the pain he felt at the time. The Cubs traded Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, which, if it wasn't the most lopsided trade in baseball history, it must at least be some kind of all-time, seventh-ring-of-hell, top-five, what-the-hell-were-you-thinking trade. And it's not as if they traded Brock to the Indians or the Orioles or some other team they never played. The traded him to the Cardinals! The Cardinals! Is everyone else as offended by this as I am? They should be! Imagine the Yankees trading Derek Jeter to the Red Sox for Tim Wakefield, and you've got an idea of how horrible this trade was. I can't even talk about it anymore. It's too depressing. 

 
December 9,
1992 
P Greg Maddux signs with Atlanta
OF Andre Dawson signs with Boston
 

Greg Maddux The Cubs haven't had a 20-game winner since Maddux in '92.
Jonathan Daniel/Allsport
 
Indulge the sadistic side of yourself and invite your best Cubs fan friend over one afternoon to watch
Greg Maddux pitch for the Atlanta Braves. Enjoy the squirming, the muttering, the heavy sighs.

The emotional scars from this one run deep.

After winning the Cy Young Award with a 20-11 record and 2.18 ERA in 1992, Maddux told the world what Cubs fans had known for years: This franchise was going nowhere fast and wasn't ever going to spend the money necessary to build a team around its ace.

Give Maddux credit. When most free agents say they just want to go to a winner, they usually end up wherever the biggest check gets cut. Maddux said he wanted to go to a winner, and meant it. He turned down a bigger offer from the Cubs, turned down a bigger offer from the big-city Yankees and headed to Atlanta.

Since then, he has been in the postseason every year, pocketed four more Cy Young Awards, four pennants and a World Series title. Granted, the Yankees have proven a worthy foil to a Maddux-led dynasty, but given Maddux's personality and lifestyle, it's not likely he regrets his decision. And it's not unlikely that he will finish his career in Atlanta.

That would gives Cubs fans a chance to see all of his games on the SuperStation.

  Maddux and Dawson Sign Off
Chicago Tribune -- December 10, 1992
By Joey Reaves

Surely, the Chicago Fire was worse.

But that was a long time ago.

Right now, for Cubs fans, the loss of Greg Maddux and Andre Dawson seems about the biggest disaster to hit Chicago in a century.

Maddux and Dawson, Cub heroes both, packed their bags and left town within hours of one another Wednesday night.

Both said they hated to do it. And both blamed the Cubs.  

 
 
 
Penny-Pinching Cubs Passing Up Best Talent

Chicago Sun-Times -- December 2, 1992
By Jay Mariotti

Good riddance, Greg Maddux. Stop calling, Kirby Puckett. No thanks, Barry Bonds. The big, mighty, filthy-rich baseball monolith won't be shopping uptown this offseason. Seems the Cubs are trying the outlet malls instead, scouring basements to unearth a blue-light special named Jose Guzman.

"I have a budget," explains Larry Himes, the general manager, saying it proudly so his bosses won't get mad.

Welcome to austerity, Tribune Company-style. Say goodbye to a 26-year-old Cy Young Award winner who never had an arm problem and mastered Wrigley Field better than anyone since Fergie Jenkins. Say hi to a fairly good journeyman, 30 in April, who overcame career-threatening rotator-cuff surgery to become a regular starter for the Texas Rangers. Be reminded this is not Juan Guzman, beefy No. 66 in Toronto, so impressive in October. This is the other Guzman. "The Wrong Juan," as a local wag put it. 

 
 
 
Baseball Madness: It Drives You Batty

Chicago Tribune -- April 5, 1993
By Bob Verdi

Reasoning that there are better uses for $37.3 million than finishing fourth, [Cubs GM Larry Himes] takes a path other than Atlanta's and chooses quantity over quality. With the money promised Maddux by the Braves and Andre Dawson by Boston, Himes lands free agents Candy Maldonado, Willie Wilson, Steve Lake, Jose Guzman, Randy Myers and Dan Plesac and trades for Greg Hibbard. If Himes can't get Maddux's 20 wins and Dawson's 22 home runs from that busload of transplants, life isn't fair.

With $37.3 million, of course, Himes could have signed 342.2 players at the major-league minimum of $109,000 instead of just seven. Maybe next season, if there is one.  

  Brian Mitchell, New Orleans, La.
I was in Germany for a year at the time, and swore I wouldn't come back if Maddux left the Cubs. Of course, he did, and I eventually came back anyway, but even long-suffering Cubs fans had difficulty swallowing this one. Pitching has always been the No. 1 problem for the Cubs, and this was a glaring example of a lack of desire to fix it. Maddux was clearly a once-in-a-century player even as a Cub, and it will hurt to see him go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot wearing a Braves uniform.  
 
 
 
Eric Martell, Grand Rapids, Mich.
No question, it was when the Cubs failed to re-sign Greg Maddux after the 1992 season. He was 26, had won 15-plus games in his last five seasons, and had won the Cy Young in '92. He and the Cubs were $500,000 apart on a five-year deal, and the Cubs wouldn't budge. Finally, he narrowed it down to the Cubs and the Braves, and despite the better offer from Atlanta, decided to stay in Chicago.

When he called to accept the offer, he was told that the Cubs had already signed Jose Guzman, and that the offer was off the table. Guzman proceeded to go 14-12 in 1-plus years and then was out of baseball. Maddux is warming up his Braves hat for his bust in Cooperstown. Just imagine what knowledge a player like Kerry Wood could pick up with Maddux sitting next to him on the bench, tutoring him. You never ever get rid of a player like Maddux at that point in his career, not over money, not when you're the Tribune Company. The cardinal rule of free agency is that you overpay for the best. You pay even more when you lose the best. 


 
April 3,
1987 
Cubs trade P Dennis Eckersley and IF Dan Rohn
to Oakland for OF David Wilder, IF Brian Guinn
and P Mark Leonette
 

The years and the mileage all seemed to catch up with Dennis Eckersley at once. After getting battered around Wrigley for a 6-11 record and 4.57 ERA in 1986, The Eck was all but finished at 32. With his trade value at approximately zero, that's exactly what the Cubs got for him.

  Dennis Eckersley It's almost as if Eckersley had two distinct careers. 
Otto Greule/Allsport
None of the three players Chicago received from Oakland ever played in a major league game. Oh, and Chicago paid most of Eck's '87 salary.

For his part, Eckersley had dried up over the offseason and showed up in Oakland rejuvenated. After mixed results in the first half of the season, the A's moved him to the pen ... despite the fact that he had exactly one relief appearance over the previous 10 seasons.

What followed was nothing short of miraculous. While the Cubs struggled to find a closer they could live with, Eck proceeded to save 256 games over the next six seasons as the A's won three pennants and one World Series. He picked up a Cy Young and MVP award in 1992. And by the time he finished with Boston in 1998, he had pitched in more games (1,071) than anybody in history

  Eckersley Goes Straight to Top
Chicago Tribune -- October 11, 1998
By Bob Verdi

On this Monday of rest for the American League champion Athletics, we resort to trivial pursuits, as in the whereabouts of Dave Wilder, Brian Guinn and Mark Leonette.

You ask, Who? You are not alone.

"Who?" asks Dennis Eckersley.

"Those are the three players," he is told, "whom Oakland traded to the Cubs for you."

Eckersley, a wonderful fellow, ponders for a moment.

"Oh, that's baseball," he says. "I wouldn't make a big thing out of that. First of all, Dallas Green, I got along with him fine, and he made the deal because he wanted to dump my salary. Plus, it was time for me to get out of Chicago. We were going bad, and people were starting to point fingers. It was never the same after 1984, when we came in first, and even then it was the Rick Sutcliffe and Ryne Sandberg and Jody Davis show. Nobody else got much credit. Look at Smitty. Great relief pitcher, not much publicity."

Smitty is Lee Smith, whose Boston Red Sox succumbed meekly in the playoffs, losing in four straight falls. But Smith did record 29 saves and four conquests during the regular season; Eckersley, who saved every Oakland triumph in the ALCS, has 49 and counting, plus four wins on his own. That's 86 victories in which Smith and Eckersley participated, or nine more than the 1988 Cubs managed. Is something wrong here?

"Ah, that happens all the time in baseball," Eckersley persists in his nonviolent vein. "The only thing I will say is that I told Dallas in spring training two years ago that I was going to have a big year. But he traded me in early April, just before the regular season in 1987. He didn't get to see the new me in person."  


 
December 5,
1992 
Cubs trade OF/1B Rafael Palmeiro, P Jamie Moyer and P Drew Hall to Texas for P Mitch Williams,
P Paul Kilgus, P Steve Wilson, IF Curtis Wilkerson and two minor-leaguers (IF Luis Benitez and
OF Pablo Delgado)
 
  Rafael Palmeiro Palmeiro always had a sweet swing, but his power improved in Texas.
Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport
The Cubs wanted a left fielder who would hit for power rather than average. And somehow that wasn't
Rafael Palmeiro?

On June 1, 1988, Rafael Palmeiro was leading the NL in hitting. But the pressure got to him and he started trying to slap everything to the opposite field. He hit only .288 from July on and had just 25 RBIs in his final 274 at-bats. Next thing he knew, the Cubs were shipping him down to Texas.

Over the next 12 seasons with the Rangers, Orioles and Rangers again, Palmeiro blossomed into one of the premier power and average hitters in the game. He just might be a Hall of Famer, averaging 40 homers and 129 RBIs over the past six seasons. Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams hasn't thrown a major league pitch in those six seasons, having been out of the game since allowing Joe Carter's (an ex-Cub, by the way) World Series-winning homer in 1993. Williams' instability on the mound glares harshly in comparison to Palmeiro's steady production over the years.

For that matter, the Cubs also could have used reliable Jamie Moyer -- a throw-in in the deal -- all of these years.

  Jasen Corns, Tulsa, Okla.
I knew my Cubs had someone special in the sweet swinging' Rafael Palmeiro. So of course they had to trade the future Hall of Famer, who would have been a legendary fan favorite in Wrigley. Yeah, it may have helped produce the '89 division title, but it was regrettable in the long run. And, yeah, it broke my heart. 

 
December 8,
2000 
1B Mark Grace signs with Arizona
 
  Mark Grace Grace always seemed to enjoy himself in Chicago. 
Jonathan Daniel/Allsport
Some Chicago fans never warmed up to
Mark Grace, finding him too soft at an impact position. Other Chicago fans made him the modern day icon of what being a Cub is all about.

Losing, mostly.

But also of smiling through the losing, toiling in the afternoon sun at Wrigley, the intimate interaction with fans that few other professional franchises can boast. And an unconditional love of the game.

"Mark Grace is old school," his new manager, Bob Brenly, said this offseason. "He's a guy who likes to show up at the ballpark, strap it on, drink a cup of coffee and go get 'em. He's all about dirt and grass and bats and balls. I doubt he's ever seen a computer printout in his life."

Grace was the Chicago Cubs for several years, even sliding into the moniker of "Mr. Cub II." Still, that was not enough for the Tribune Company, which was decidedly cold in its limited efforts to keep him in Chicago.

   
Grace Gives Yearly Cub Farewell

Chicago Sun-Times -- September 29, 2000
By Mike Kiley

After 13 seasons with the Cubs, Mark Grace knows losing. He has been stripped of everything in those trying times except his sense of humor and his role as witty spokesman to douse the familiar flames of disaster and dissent. "Maybe someday I will coach or wear that (front-office) tie and run guys like me out of the game," Grace said.

Grace held his yearly farewell news conference before the season's last home game Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field. But this time he didn't know if he was saying goodbye forever to the old digs or just battling those wolves that come to the door once an athlete turns 36 and has no home runs and 16 RBI in his last 45 games.

The Grace fans among the 22,916 in attendance didn't care. They gave him a standing ovation when he came to bat and seemed to applaud with even more vigor than usual with each at-bat, sensing it could be his last hurrah.

Grace was 0-for-4 in a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia and joked that the only reason he wanted to cry was over being lousy. But he acknowledged that he saw the signs, including one in the lower box seats that proclaimed: "Magic Number -- 17. Re-sign Grace."

"I noticed it," Grace said. "It's so typical of Cubs fans. I have had opposing players come up and say, 'Gracie, it's not going to be the Cubs without you.' I think in a lot of ways they're right."  

 
 
 
All About Saving Grace;
Former Cub Learning Life
Can Be Fun With Contender

Chicago Sun-Times -- February 21, 2001
By Jay Mariotti

It hasn't fully occurred to him yet in his new purplish uniform, the one he says matches his underwear. But this is what Mark Grace deserves after too many years of misery. He deserves paradise: a pitching staff with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling instead of kids and burnouts, a lineup of productive stalwarts instead of bargain bums, a team that wants to contend instead of exploiting ivy, beer and girls.

"A situation," said his new boss, Jerry Colangelo, "that can give Mark what he so richly has earned at this point in his career."

That would be a "W." Wouldn't 100 wins be nice this season for the Charlie Brown of baseball?

He was so busy being Mr. Cub the last 13 years -- playing the superstation pinup boy, hanging out at Murphy's Bleachers, smiling for every snapshot from every Iowa tour-bus group -- that Grace didn't realize he was establishing new lows for futility. Just as he led the '90s in hits, he led the '90s in games lost. No one in the majors had as many knocks, nor did anyone suffer as many. He was the ultimate heartbreak Cubbie, so enamored of the Wrigley Field mystique that he became a fixture of failure. 


  Michael S. Ohda, Martinez, Calif.
Being a Cubs fan for 24 years, I've grown accustomed to two things: losing and amazing Mark Grace putting on a how-to clinic over at first. In my eyes, Gracie is the Man. For a guy who is a singles and doubles hitter, he was forced for many years to hit cleanup and protect Sammy. He loves the city and the fans of Chicago. As a Cubs fan, you see managers, third basemen, can't-miss prospects flop like Jerome Walton, some terrible trades and the loss of what's-his-name to the Braves.

The Tribune Company and baseball in general have never showed this classy guy any respect. He led the majors in hits and doubles during the '90s. That is huge! Now Gracie is playing first for the Diamondbacks and when he gets that 3,000th hit he will not be wearing Cubbie blue. Thanks, Andy and The Trib! Good luck, Gracie! 


 
October 23,
1974 
Cubs trade OF Billy Williams to Oakland
for P Darold Knowles, P Bob Locker
and IF Manny Trillo
 
Billy Williams Williams returned to the Cubs as a coach in the '80s.  Jeff Carlick /Allsport 
Billy Williams was a member of the greatest dynasty never to win a championship. Starting with Ernie Banks' (18 years) Cubs debut in 1953, through Williams (16 years), Ron Santo (13 years), Don Kessinger (12 years), Ryne Sandberg (15 years) and Mark Grace (13 years) and you have a 47-year timeline of Cubs loyalists who never saw the light of a World Series.

Williams hit at least 20 homers in 13 straight seasons and drove in at least 90 runs 10 times from 1962 and 1972. He also set a then-NL record by playing 1,117 consecutive games between 1962 and 1970.

Though it seemed like heresy, he was dealt to Oakland in 1974. But he never stopped being a Cub.

"I followed the Cubs all the time. I used to go to a bar named Ricky's near my home and watch the club on cable. And people in the stands, even when I was with the A's, never let me forget my Cubs past," Williams said in an interview several years after his retirement. "Particularly, the 1969 club with Ernie Banks, myself and Ron Santo. I went places and saw the Cub logo. It did make me homesick."

  John Hoffman, Evansville, Ind.
It was a sad and tragic day when one of my favorite Cub players of all time was traded to the Oakland Athletics. Billy obviously had a great career with the Cubs, starting with his rookie season when he was named the National League's Rookie of the Year. How could the Cubs not keep Billy in Chicago to end his career? (My father purchased cable television in 1971 for the sole purpose of getting WGN so we could watch sweet swingin' Billy Williams.) Plus, he was going to the A's to become a designated hitter, a newly created position that all baseball purists despised, particularly in its early inception in the 1970s. My hero no longer a Cub? It still bugs me to this day.  

 
February 11,
1977 
Cubs trade 3B Bill Madlock and IF Rob Sperring to San Francisco for OF Bobby Murcer, 3B Steve Ontiveros and P Andy Muhlstock
 
Third base has historically been a tar pit for the Cubs, and it's easy to see why when the two-time defending batting champion can't earn the respect of ownership.

Madlock had hit .354 and .339 over the previous two seasons, but new Cubs GM Salty Saltwell wanted more power. Murcer had that all right, but after smashing 27 home runs in his first season with the Cubs, he hit just nine in 1978 and was traded to the Yankees.

  Bill Madlock Madlock finished with a .305 career average. Allsport
Ontiveros, a journeyman, manned third base for the next four years, never hitting above .300, and then was out of baseball. The Cubs have had 13 different opening day third basemen in the 18 years since.

And since the Madlock trade, only one reigning batting champ -- Gary Sheffield in the Padres' fire sale of '93 -- has been traded before the next season.

The Giants weren't much smarter than the Cubs, however, dealing a very unhappy Madlock two years later for Ed Whitson, Fred Breining and Al Holland. He would go on to win two more batting titles and a World Series with the Pirates.

   
Baseball Still Makes Madlock Mad

Chicago Tribune -- February 2, 1989
By Jerome Holtzman

Madlock played in Japan last year after 15 years in the big-league circus, including three with the Cubs. But he never made it with Philip Wrigley, the late Cub caretaker. After Madlock won his second successive batting title, in 1976, he asked for a $200,000 raise, to $400,000, then the going rate for a player of his ability.

Wrigley insisted Madlock wasn't a "team player" and told Bob Kennedy, then his general manager, to unload him. What the Cubs needed, Wrigley said, were more players like Ernie Banks, who never argued about salary or anything else.

And so Madlock was traded to the San Francisco Giants, who were delighted to give him the 400 grand. For Madlock, the Cubs acquired outfielder Bobby Murcer - a lesser player - and a third baseman, Steve Ontiveros. There was one final footnote: Wrigley did for Murcer what he refused to do for Madlock. Murcer was given a 100 percent boost to $400,000.

Madlock, in the main, held his tongue. He never openly accused Wrigley of racism but today, wiser in the ways of the world, he is convinced that virtually all of the baseball moguls, for business reasons or whatever, have been and continue to be prejudiced against the black player.

"We can play for them but we can't manage for them," Madlock declared. "We can hit home runs and chase the ball, run it down. But when the black player is getting ready to retire, all they say is, 'See you later.' " 


  John Driscoll, Chicago
It may seem insignificant now, but I was 13 in 1976 and Bill Madlock had just won his second consecutive batting title for the Cubs when he was shipped to the Giants for Bobby Murcer, Steve Ontiveras and Andy Muhlstock. Madlock won two more batting championships and a World Series, Murcer was mediocre, Ontiveras less than adequate, and the curse of Ron Santo's ghost still plays third base for the sorry losers. Muhlstock ending up selling Bibles door to door. By the way, Madlock went 4-for-4 on the last day of the season to edge out Griffey Sr. for the batting title, his first hit a bunt single. I love baseball and I still suffer from the curse of loving the Cubs. 


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