20th anniversary: Canseco trade

Twenty years ago today, baseball had one of its real blockbuster trades. A player in his prime,widely regarded as the best player in baseball, a key cog on a team that had won the pennant in three of the last four years, was traded for three players, two of whom had already been All-Stars.

It was Aug. 31, 1992 when the A’s dealt Jose Canseco to the Rangers for hitter Ruben Sierra, reliever Jeff Russell and starting pitcher Bobby Witt. At the time, it seemed like a huge deal. Looking back, it was a grand disappointment all around.

Let’s start with the biggest name involved—Canseco. Nowadays, he’s more a joke than anything. He’s starred on a series of reality TV shows and is as closely associated with steroids as any player in any sport.

But 20 years ago was a different time. Canseco was the Rookie of the Year in 1986, a year with a lot of strong rookie performances. Two years later, at age 23, he won the MVP Award, becoming baseball’s first 40 homers–40 steals man. The A’s won the first of three consecutive pennants in 1988, with Canseco their biggest name. In 1991, he led the AL in homers for a second time, with 44.

Barely 28 years old at the time of the trade, he was one of the biggest names in the baseball universe.

There was some baggage. He’d been injured a few times, topping 135 games only once after 1988. And he had a reputation as a jerk. But he could hit.

It was a shocker that the A’s dealt him, but the three guys they got in return all had their own reputations. Sierra was only 26 years old, but he was already a three-time All-Star in his seventh season in the starting lineup. Though he wasn’t the best at any part of the game, he’d shown the ability to hit for average, some power, and some speed.

Witt, at 28, was more of a wild card. He surely had a tremendous fastball, but he just as surely lacked good command of the strike zone. Ever since a 17-10 season in 1990, he’d scuffled, going 12-20 with a 5.04 ERA for Texas in 1991-92. If A’s pitching coach Dave Duncan could work his magic, maybe Witt’s fastball would live up to its promise.

Russell, 30, was another scuffling pitcher the Rangers had converted into a reliever—and had seen his career take off as a result. So far in 1992, he had a 1.91 ERA in 51 games. Oh, and Texas also spent money.

This had the potential to be an all-time great trade. Instead, everyone fizzled. Witt remained an enigma. He never lived up to people’s hopes. He started 63 games for Oakland and then the A’s jettisoned him. Russell was good there, but they let him walk in the offseason. He had one more good season, and then fell apart.

Sierra spent the longest time in Oakland, lasting until mid-1995, but he turned into a huge disappointment; the sort of guy who strangely peaks in his early 20s. He was at best an average offensive force in Oakland. In 1,560 plate appearances he hit 60 homers with a .253 average, and .303 on-base percentage. He hung around the majors until age 40, but was never much of a force.

So the A’s didn’t get what they hoped for out of the trade. Neither did Texas.

Canseco hit .233 with four homers in the last month of 1992 for his new team. That was just a small sample size, but with injuries his sample sizes never got big. He played in just 60 games in 1991, hitting 10 homers with a .255 average. He did have a nice 1994, with 30 homers in the strike-shortened season, but the memories of Canseco as a Ranger are ones of futility and failure. He’s remembered for the time in the outfield a ball hit his head and bounced over the wall for a homer. Or people will recall the time he took the mound as an emergency pitcher—and promptly injured his arm.

Canseco would have a few more really nice slugging seasons, but he went from being a first-rate star to a what-might-have-been. And those good seasons would come after he left Texas.

The giant trade from 20 years ago today turned out to be a giant disappointment.

Aside from that, many other events today from the world of baseball celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d rather just skim through it.


3,000 days since Jim Thome hits his 400th home run.

5,000 days since Anaheim signs free agent pitcher Tim Belcher.

5,000 days since Toronto signs free agent catcher Mike Matheny.

6,000 days since Kirby Puckett awakens with affected vision and has to go to the hospital. He has a black dot in front of his left eye and his vision is 20/200. He’ll need surgery and will never play baseball again.

7,000 days since a game ends at 4:40 a.m. when Mitch Williams singles home the winning run in the bottom of the 10th for a 6-4 Phillies victory over the Padres. The game started at 1:26 a.m. after three rain delays in the first game of the day’s doubleheader.

7,000 days since Royals Stadium is renamed Kaufmann Stadium.

7,000 days since Sammy Sosa gets six hits in one game.

8,000 days since Roger Clemens loses his mind and gets ejected from Game Four of ALCS.

10,000 days since the birth of White Sox pitcher John Danks.

15,000 days since Bill Mazeroski plays an entire game at third base for the only time in his career.

25,000 days since Manny Sanguillen is born.


1868 Red Ehret, decent pitcher from the 1890s, is born.

1875 Hall of Fame hurler Gettysburg Eddie Plank is born.

1878 Hall of Fame pitcher Al Spalding last appears in a game.

1894 Sliding Billy Hamilton steals seven bases in one game—a game that only lasts eight innings.

1900 In the second inning, Dodger pitcher Brickyard Kennedy walks six Phillies in a row.

1901 In a 14-inning Reds-Cubs game, pitchers fan 26 batters, which is an insane total for those days. Cincinnati’s young stud pitcher Noodles Hahn fans 11, while Chicago’s Long Tom Hughes blows away 15.

1902 The Cubs purchase young infielder Johnny Evers. This turns out to be a nice pickup.

1903 For the third time this month, Giants starting pitcher Iron Man Joe McGinnity wins two complete games in a doubleheader. New York tops Philadelphia 4-1, and 9-2.

1904 New York Giants catcher Frank Bowerman slugs a fan in the sixth inning, and has to be escorted from the field by police. The fan drops charges the next day.

1906 The injury-depleted and desperate Tigers call up 46-year-old former slugging star Sam Thompson, who last played in 1898.

1909 The A. J. Reach Company is granted a patent for a cork-centered ball.

1911 Will White, 200-game winner from the 1880s, dies.

1913 Fred Clarke records his 1,000th loss as a manger. He’s 1,382-1,000 for his career.

1914 Walter Johnson surrenders two inside the park homer runs to Jack Fournier as the Senators lose to the White Sox in 10 innings, 4-3. Fournier’s blasts come in the eighth and 10th frames.

1915 The Dodgers claim Rube Marquard off waivers from the Giants.

1915 Jimmy Lavender of the Cubs no-hits the Giants, winning 2-0.

1919 Umpire Bill Klem tosses everyone on the Brooklyn bench except for the batboy and manager Wilbert Robinson. In that same game, Brooklyn pitcher Burleigh Grimes is spiked at first and will miss the rest of the season.

1920 Cub president William Veeck Sr. receives a letter informing him that there is heavy betting on today’s Cub-Phillies game, and rumor has it the fix is in. The Cubs switch starting pitchers, but lose 3-0 anyway.

1922 Hall of Famer Harry Hooper gets his 2,000th hit in his 1,880th game played.

1923 Giants owner Charles Stoneham is indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury stemming from a mail fraud investigation.

1930 Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey wins his 164th game as a Red, passing Tony Mullane as all-time franchise win leader. He still is their win leader.

1930 Mel Ott clubs three homers in one game in a 14-10 Braves victory over Ott’s Giants.

1931 Two days after belting his ninth career grand slam, Lou Gehrig nails the 10th of his record 23 career grand slams.

1931 Indians pitcher Wes Ferrell bashes two homers while beating the White Sox, 13-5.

1932 Kiki Cuyler joins the 100-home run club in style. It’s a walk-off, three-run shot with two out in the bottom of the ninth and his club trailing by two, capping a five-hit performance and delivering the Cubs their 12th consecutive win as they are in the midst of a massive late-season surge that will earn them the pennant. Yeah, that’s about as cool a 100th career home run as you’ll ever see.

1933 Knuckleballer Dutch Leonard makes his major league debut.

1935 Yankee Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez records his 100th win, giving him a career record of 100-49. He’ll be 89-53 the rest of the way.

1935 Frank Robinson, one of the most underrated players and toughest men ever, is born.

1935 Vern Kennedy tosses a no-hitter and bashes a triple all in one game. It’s the first no-hitter ever at Comiskey Park, as the Sox top the Indians, 5-0.

1936 Chicago White Sox Luke Appling’s best hitting streak peaks at 27 games. He’s just 35-for-100. Most 27-game hit streaks feature more than 35 hits. In that same game, rival manager Joe McCarthy consents to let Chicago use Dixie Walker as a temporary substitute. After Mike Kreevich gets spiked, Walker subs for him while Kreevich gets patched up, and then Kreevich comes back in the game.

1937 Mel Harder, in his 10th big league season, allows his first grand slam. It’s to Lou Gehrig. This is his 22nd and next-to-last grand slam.

1937 Rudy York hits his 17th and 18th home runs of the month, besting Babe Ruth’s record for homers in a month (17 in September 1927).

1939 The Braves sell Al Simmons to the Reds.

1941 Despite fanning only two batters, Lon Warneke tosses a no-hitter.

1943 Washington purchases Bobo Newsom from the Browns.

1947 The Yankees release veteran infielder Frankie Crosetti.

1950 A young Billy Pierce surrenders a walk-off walk, as the Red Sox beat him, 4-3.

1950 Gil Hodges connects for four homers in one game, which his Dodgers win 19-3 over the Braves.

1952 Duke Snider has two sacrifice hits in one game for the only time. In that same contest, teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Roy Campanella is intentionally walked three times, his personal most.

1954 Claudell Washington is born.

1955 It’s a pair of impressive pitching performances and one really lousy one. Cleveland starter Herb Score fans 13 Orioles, and Baltimore’s Hal Brown nearly matches him, fanning 10 in eight innings in relief. But Baltimore’s starting pitcher allows five runs in one inning, so Cleveland wins.

1956 Hall of Famer George Kell, who has only 78 homers in his career, has the third and final multi-home run game of his career. A little over seven weeks ago, he had his second one.

1956 With President Eisenhower watching, Washington Senator Jim Lemon belts three home runs in one game.

1957 In the minor leagues, a pitcher fans 24, but loses 9-8 due to 18 walks, four hit batsmen, and six wild pitches. The pitcher? Steve Dalkowski, of course.

1957 Tom Candiotti is born.

1958 Sal Maglie plays in his final major league game.

1958 Von Hayes is born.

1959 Sandy Koufax fans 18 batters in one game for the first of two times in his career. His line: 9 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 18 K. This sets a new NL record for strikeouts in one game, as the Dodgers top the Giants, 5-2.

1962 Jim Bunning allows a personal worst 14 hits in one game. But only two score, as the Tigers top Chicago, 5-2.

1963 Houston leads Chicago 5-1 entering the ninth, only to have a Chicago rally capped by a two-out grand slam by Ellis Burton for a 6-5 Cubs win.

1963 Stan Musial plays in his 3,000th game. He’s just the second person to do this, the first being Ty Cobb.

1964 It’s the groundbreaking for the Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

1965 Bob Gibson does what he does best—belt a home run while tossing a complete game shutout. This is the third of a (record?) six times he does that, as the Cards top the Cubs 3-0 behind Gibson’s two-hitter.

1966 Bobby Richardson announces his retirement.

1966 Jim Hicks has a walk-off sacrifice hit, as the White Sox beat the Tigers, 7-6.

1968 The Tigers purchase Roy Face from the Pirates, ending his run in Pittsburgh.

1968 Hideo Nomo is born.

1969 Morganna the Kissing Bandit jumps on the field in Atlanta to kiss Clete Boyer, who immediately breaks out of a 1-for-17 slump by going on a 8-for-15 tear.

1971 Luis Tiant picks up his first win in 388 days.

1972 Willie Davis legs out his 100th triple.

1972 The Tigers purchase Frank Howard from the Rangers.

1972 Nolan Ryan tosses his third consecutive complete game shutout, the first of two times he does this. His line in this period: 30 IP, 13 H, 0 R, 13 BB, and 31 K.

1973 Sal Bando connects for his only career inside the park home run.

1974 Fergie Jenkins allows back-to-back singles in the second inning, but otherwise pitches a perfect game for Texas, earning his 20th win of the year.

1974 Johnny Bench comes to the plate twice in one game with the bases loaded, and hits a three-run double to center and a grand slam home run. I wonder how deep to center that double was.

1974 Portland Mavericks manager Frank Peters lives up to his team’s nickname with an odd strategy—for one game all his players will rotate position every inning, allowing all nine men to play all nine positions. They win 8-7.

1975 The A’s purchase Cesar Tovar from the Rangers.

1976 Nolan Ryan picks up a win, pushing his career record over .500 (116-115). It will always be over .500 from here on out.

1977 There’s a new home run king of all-time and his name is Sadaharu Oh. The Japanese legend belts his 756th home run.

1977 Sparky Lyle records his third win in three days, all on late-inning homers by the Yankees.

1979 The Phillies fire Danny Ozark. Dallas Green takes over as manager.

1980 The Expos trade Tony Phillips to the Padres for Willie Montanez. Thirty-one years later, Tony Phillips still plays minor league ball.

1981 St. Louis Cardinals Garry Templeton is hospitalized for psychiatric observation, just days after giving the fans the finger at Busch Stadium.

1981 The Houston Astros trade Johnny Ray to the Pirates for Phil Garner in a four-player deal.

1981 The Royals fire manager Jim Frey and hire Dick Howser as his replacement.

1982 The Yankees trade Tommy John to the Angels for Dennis Rasmussen.

1984 Buddy Bell belts a walk-off grand slam, giving Texas a 7-6 win over Milwaukee.

1985 The Pirates trade Bill Madlock to the Dodgers.

1987 The Orioles trade Mike Flanagan to the Blue Jays, who will send Jose Mesa as a player to be named later.

1987 Andre Thornton plays his final game.

1987 Toronto releases Phil Niekro.

1987 It’s the potato play! Williamsport Bills catcher Dave Bresnahan pulls off an all-time great stunt. He stashes a potato by his mitt, and with a runner on third, intentionally tosses the potato into left in what looks like a pick-off attempt. The runner trots home with what he thinks is a run, only to be tagged with the ball. However the ump isn’t amused and overrules the play, saying the player is safe.

1988 Arbitrator George Nicolau finds that the owners are once again guilty of collusion. This ruling deals with the 1986 free agent class. A previous ruling found the owners guilty with regard to the 1985 free agent class.

1988 Baltimore trades Fred Lynn to the Tigers. However, Lynn is unable to join his new team by midnight, and under the rules will not be eligible to play in the postseason should Detroit get there.

1989 Arbitrator Thomas Roberts orders MLB to pay $10.5 million in damages due to collusion after the 1985 season.

1990 Seattle’s Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. become the first ever father-son combination to play in the same lineup.

1993 Mark Grace gets his 1,000th career hit.

1993 Frank Thomas belts his 100th home run.

1993 The Dodgers trade Eric Davis to the Tigers.

1993 The Cardinals trade Lee Smith to the Yankees.

1993 Wade Boggs fans three times in three plate appearances. He fans three times in a game other times, but this the only time it occurs in merely three PA.

1994 Cleveland purchases Dave Winfield from the Twins.

1994 The Pirates sign amateur free agent Aramis Ramirez.

1995 Mike Moore pitches in his final game.

1995 Paul O’Neill belts three homers in one game for the Yankees.

1996 Cleveland trades Jeromy Burnitz to the Brewers for Kevin Seitzer.

1996 Manny Ramirez is caught stealing twice in one game, but Cleveland manages to survive, eking out a 22-8 win over the Marlins. Florida scores five runs in the first, and it was all downhill from there.

1996 A pair of shortstops make their big league debuts: Neifi Perez and Nomar Garciaparra.

1997 Andruw Jones belts his first grand slam. He won’t have another for seven years.

1997 The Cubs send Shawon Dunston to the Pirates, ending his days in Chicago.

1997 The Yankees retire No. 23 for Don Mattingly.

1998 Rickey Henderson scores his 2,000th run.

1998 Juan Gonzalez hits a triple, homer and two doubles, but misses the cycle by a single.

1998 Blake Stein allows eight runs while getting zero batters out. Since 1920, that’s happened only five times, and no one has “topped” the eight runs/no outs combo. It’s one of only two times all eight runs are earned.

1999 Randy Johnson pitches his 14th straight Quality Start, his best such stretch. Incredibly, he’s only 5-6 in that stretch despite a line of: 113 IP, 80 H, 22 R, 19 ER, 28 BB, 158 K, and a 1.51 ERA. The Diamondbacks were shut out four straights times he started earlier this summer.

2001 Atlanta purchases Julio Franco from the Mexican League.

2002 Milwaukee trades Mark Loretta to the Astros.

2003 Baltimore trades Jeff Conine to the Marlins.

2003 The Blue Jays lose in horrible fashion to the Indians, 5-4. Toronto was up 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth, before a hellish series of plays. After a leadoff single, an error by catcher Kevin Cash (who just entered the game as a defensive replacement) on a sacrifice hit attempt puts runners on second and third. Then first baseman Orlando Hudson, who also just entered the game as a defensive replacement, bungles a fielder’s choice, allowing two runs to score.

2003 The Yankees trade Jesse Orosco to the Twins.

2004 Omar Vizquel notches six hits in one game.

2005 Andy Pettitte throws his 10th straight Quality Start, his best such streak. His line in that time: 7-2 W-L, 73 IP, 52 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 18 BB, 62 K, and a 1.60 ERA.

2005 Florida rookie Jeremy Hermida belts a grand slam in his first big league at bat.

2006 Toronto outfielder Alexis Rios accidentally swats a Alex Cora fly ball over the fence for a home run. Oops.

2006 Boston trades David Wells to the Padres.

2007 Ken Griffey hits his first triple since June 24, 2003. He went 1,989 straight PA without one.

2009 Andy Pettitte retires the first 20 Baltimore batters of the game, before an error and hit break up his perfecto. He still wins, 5-1.

2009 Arizona trades Jon Garland to the Dodgers.

2009 The White Sox trade Jim Thome to the Dodgers, where he’ll be a pinch hitter.

2009 Toronto takes an easy 11-0 lead over the Rangers, only to see Texas roar back, making it 11-10. Then Toronto scores seven in the ninth for a 18-10 win.

2011 Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook hits a grand slam against the Brewers in a 8-3 win.

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Atreyu Jones
Atreyu Jones

How did Canseco and Sierra pass through waivers in order to be traded at this time of year?