"When the announcement was made," Howsam said later. "I heard one reporter say, 'Now there is a trade!' I think that when we began talking our big trade it started everybody in baseball thinking, 'Heck, if they are willing to make one like that to try and help themselves, what are we waiting for?' "
Immediately after the announcement, general managers who had not already revealed their own trades or were still wondering whether to go through with them were seen busily talking to one another and scurrying between conversations and telephones. The body shuffle was twitching in earnest, and by the end of the week so many players had been moved that not a single soul seemed to know who was with whom, or whom was with who, or even where.
Some GMs were a delight to observe. Bing Devine of the Cardinals, sometimes tagged a near-compulsive trader, moved up and down the corridor of the Arizona Biltmore attempting to get something going and apparently failing. Paul Richards of the Braves slumped deeper and deeper in his chair as he realized, with undisguised frustration, that people were not exactly jumping to take his players. Bob Scheffing of the Mets and Harry Dalton of the Angels moved around trying, trying and still not succeeding. Soon they had used up all the old clich�s: "Sometimes the best trades are those you don't make"; "If their players are all that good why did they finish fifth last year?"
The deals involving the biggest names of all came, in the end, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got Relief Pitcher Pete Richert along with Robinson from Baltimore and sent Richie Allen to the Chicago White Sox for Pitcher Tommy John.
No sooner had the Dodgers acquired Robinson than four clubs went pounding on their door trying to spirit him away. The Dodgers were having none of that. Frank Robinson was theirs to keep, at least for a while. The mathematics of the trade explain why. Baltimore, which received some good young players from Los Angeles, has a lot of skilled young outfielders ready for the majors and Robinson's $130,000 salary was high for a franchise that has to struggle to reach a million in attendance even in winning years. The Dodgers, meanwhile, had made $50,000 when two of their minor league players were drafted, and they divested themselves of a $105,000 salary when they shunted Allen to Chicago. Also Tom Haller, sold to the Tigers for $50,000, would no longer be drawing his estimated $55,000 salary. The Dodgers, in other words, may show as high a profit as $150,000—and they still have Frank Robinson.
Almost every trade could be rationalized in similar terms, but mere dollars and cents is not the main point. Baseball is riding something almost as big as the eruption of Krakatoa, and it is laughing all the time.