30th anniversary: Dodgers trade Sutcliffe away

Thirty years ago today, the Dodgers and Indians completed a notable trade.

On Dec. 9, 1981, the Indians sent prospects Jack Fimple and Larry White alongside veteran Jorge Orta to the Dodgers for second baseman Jack Perconte and—last but not least—former Rookie of the Year Rick Sutcliffe.

Suffice it to say, the Indians got the better share of this deal. For the Dodgers, it is a classic example of selling low. In 1979, Sutcliffe played a full season and impressed many, posting a 17-10 record over 30 starts and nine relief appearances. Sure, his park-adjusted ERA was barely above average, but he still cruised to the Rookie of the Year Award.

Then things went off the rails for the tall redhead. In 1980, he worked his way out of the rotation by mid-May and ended the year with a 3-9 record and 5.56 ERA. In 1981, he threw just 47 innings.

Los Angeles had their fill of him and got rid of him. Unfortunately for them, it turns out this was just the beginning of Sutcliffe’s up-and-down career. He’d spent his entire time in the majors falling apart and then rallying back.

Sure enough, in 1982 Sutcliffe rallied to a 14-8 record with the Indians and a league-best ERA of 2.96. He then got off to a slow start in 1984, and was traded to the Cubs for whom he went 16-1 with a Cy Young Award that year. He’d suffer through injuries before rallying again in 1987. After another round of injuries, Sutcliffe won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1992.

LA might’ve feared he was through, but it just turns out Sutcliffe was ebbing before his next flow.

In return for Sutcliffe, LA got a whole bunch of nothing. Fimple and White both made the majors, but neither ever amounted to anything. Orta had been and would later be a good hitter, but he suffered through the worst year of his career in 1982. He batted .217 in 86 games for the Dodgers that year, his only with the team.

In fact, LA’s return was so meager that the other guy they gave up, Perconte, clearly outclassed the trio of players that came to the Dodgers. Perconte didn’t do too much for the Indians, but in 1984 earned the full-time starting job at second base for the Mariners, and proceeded to hit .294 (albeit with zero homers). He immediately declined after that, but one good season is still more than Fimple, White, and Orta had with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers could at least console themselves with the fact they already had four quality starting pitchers in Fernando Valenzuela, Jerry Reuss, Bob Welch, and Burt Hooten, all of whom remained with the team for the next few/couple years. What’s more, when Hooten fell off the Dodgers produced a young kid named Alejandro Peña, who led the league in ERA in 1984. So perhaps they didn’t miss Sutcliffe too much.

Perhaps they did. In 1982, with Orta doing nothing for them the Dodgers missed the NL West division title by just one game. It sure would’ve been nice to have AL ERA leader on their staff instead of the dross LA used to fill out their fifth slot in the rotation.

Well, you can’t win all trades, and that certainly was a memorable one between the Indians and Dodgers 30 years ago today.

Aside from that trade, many other items celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim the list.


2,000 days since Kenny Rogers won his 200th game. His career record at this point: 200-134.

5,000 days since Cal Ripken hit his eighth and final grand slam.

5,000 days since Toronto signed free agent Dave Stieb. It was a return to Toronto for him.

6,000 days since Ellis Burks collected his 1,000th career hit.

6,000 days since the Cubs released third baseman Steve Buechele.

9,000 days since Reggie Jackson, just one month shy of his 41st birthday, hit his last triple.

10,000 days since Angels pitcher Mike Witt fanned 16 batters in a 7-1 win over the Mariners.

40,000 days since Nap Lajoie played his first game with Cleveland, which would become known as the Cleveland Naps in his honor.


1868 The National Association of Baseball Players meets and approves of the use of professional players on teams. Previously, that had not been allowed.

1871 Joe Kelley, Hall of Fame outfielder, is born.

1886 A meeting is held to organize the National Colored Baseball League.

1902 The AL announces plans to bring a team to New York City.

1913 John K. Tener is elected to a four-year term as NL president.

1923 Former pitcher Wild Bill Donovan dies at age 47 in a train wreck.

1925 AL owners agree to extend Ban Johnson’s contract as league honcho through 1935.

1925 Detroit trades Fred Haney to the Red Sox.

1925 The Ohio-Pennsylvania League names Nap Lajoie as its commissioner.

1930 AL owners vote to give league president Ernest S. Bernard a five-year term as head honcho. Instead, he’ll die next March.

1930 Rube Foster, black baseball star pitcher, manager, team owner, and league founder, dies.

1931 Due to the Great Depression, baseball rosters are cut from 25 to 23 players per team.

1932 The Browns sign free agent Muddy Ruel.

1935 The Cardinals release veteran catcher Bob O’Farrell.

1936 The A’s trade Pinky Higgins to the Red Sox for Billy Werber. Higgins will spend much of his adult life with the Red Sox organization, most notably serving as manager.

1941 Bob Feller enlists in the navy.

1941 Darold Knowles, pitcher, is born.

1941 The A’s trade Wally Moses to the White Sox for Mike Kreevich and Jack Hallett.

1943 The Giants trade Dolph Camili to Pacific Coast League’s Oakland franchise for Bill Rigney.

1946 The Phillies purchase knuckleballer Dutch Leonard from Washington.

1953 The minimum wage in major league baseball is raised to $6,000.

1959 The White Sox trade Johnny Callison to the Phillies for Gene Freese. It’s part of the worst offseason in White Sox history, in which Callison is one of five future All-Stars Chicago trades away for declining veterans.

1960 Juan Samuel is born.

1965 Branch Rickey dies at age 84.

1965 It’s one of the most famous—or infamous—trades of all time. The Reds trade Frank Robinson to the Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson. Cincinnati thinks it’s better to trade a player one year to soon than one year too late—but ends up trading Robinson a decade too soon. He wins the Triple Crown in 1966 helping the Orioles win their first franchise world title.

1975 A group led by Bill Veeck purchases the White Sox from John Allyn.

1975 Jeff Heath, former ballplayer, dies.

1976 Atlanta send five players and a quarter million dollars to the Rangers for Jeff Burroughs.

1976 Wes Ferrell, former ace pitcher, dies.

1977 The Reds trades Shane Rawley to the Mariners for Dave Collins.

1977 Detroit trades Ben Oglivie to the Brewers for Jim Slaton and Rich Folkers. Milwaukee gets the better end of this deal.

1980 The Cubs trade Bruce Sutter to the Cardinals for Leon Durham and Ken Reitz. This comes just one day after St. Louis received Rollie Fingers in a trade with San Diego. This gives St. Louis GM Whitey Herzog the ability to trade an ace closer to the highest bidder, and he’ll eventually send Fingers and keep Sutter.

1980 The Giants fire manager Dave Bristol.

1980 The Pirates trade Bert Blyleven and Manny Sanguillen to the Indians for four players.

1981 The Cubs trade future manager Jim Tracy to the Astros for Gary Woods.

1982 The Yankees make a horrible trade. They send Fred McGriff, Mike Morgan, and Dave Collins to the Blue Jays for a has-been and a never-was.

1982 The Phillies trade Julio Franco, Manny Trillo, and three others to the Indians for Von Hayes.

1987 Boston trades San Francisco to the Giants.

1987 Seattle trades Phil Bradley to the Phillies.

1988 The Yankees sign a 12-year TV contract with the Madison Square Garden Network.

1991 The Royals sign free agent Wally Joyner.

1992 The Atlanta Braves make arguably the greatest free agent signing in history, landing Greg Maddux.

1992 The Red Sox sign free agent and future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.

1992 The Cubs sign ace closer Randy Myers.

1992 Florida Marlins president Carl Barger dies of a heart attack at age 62, before the team even takes the field.

1992 Florida signs free agent first baseman Fred McGriff.

1992 In a four-player deal, Kansas City sends Jeff Shaw to the Expos and receives Mark Gardner.

1992 Los Angeles signs free agent reliever Todd Worrell.

1992 Reds owner Marge Schott apologizes for her inflammatory comments on minorities and Nazis.

1994 Texas trades star slugger Jose Canseco to the Red Sox for Otis Nixon and another player.

1996 Boston signs free agent former ace pitcher Bret Saberhagen.

1996 Florida signs free agent starting pitcher Alex Fernandez as part of their spending spree that will net them the 1997 world championship.

1997 Dennis Eckersley signs with the Boston Red Sox, where he will play for his final season.

1997 The Cubs sign free agent infielder Jeff Blauser.

1997 The Tigers sign left fielder Luis Gonzalez. Later on Gonzalez will credit the coaching he received in Detroit as the turning point that improved his batting.

1997 Oakland signs free agent pitcher Tom Candiotti, who will lead the league in losses for them.

1997 San Francisco signs free agent starting pitcher Orel Hershiser.

1997 Tampa Bay signs free agent Wade Boggs, a native of Florida.

1998 The Cubs sign free agent catcher Benito Santiago.

1999 Baltimore signs free agent and local kid Harold Baines to be their DH.

1999 Whitey Kurowski, former ballplayer, dies.

2004 The White Sox sign a pair of free agents: outfielder Jermaine Dye, and reliever Dustin Hermanson.

2004 San Diego signs two veteran free agents: Staring pitcher Woody Williams, and second baseman Eric Young.

2008 Baltimore trades catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash to the Reds for three players, most notably Ryan Freel.

2008 The Mets sign free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez.

2009 Milwaukee signs free agent LaTroy Hawkins.

2009 Texas trades Kevin Millwood to the Orioles.

2010 Minnesota trades J.J. Hardy to the Orioles.

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12 years ago

“1987 Boston trades San Francisco to the Giants.”

I don’t remember that trade @ all. What did the Sox get back? I hope it was a Silicon Valley burg.

Jim G.
12 years ago

@discojoe – That trade put the Giants “on the map.”

Chris J.
12 years ago

Yeah – I bothced that one up.

1987 Boston trades Dave Henderson to the Giants.

That’s what it should say.

Geoff Young
12 years ago

Of course, the events that led to Sutcliffe’s departure were epic. Screaming at one’s manager, calling him a liar, and toppling his desk are a good way to get oneself shipped out of town.

12 years ago

“Of course, the events that led to Sutcliffe’s departure were epic. Screaming at one’s manager, calling him a liar, and toppling his desk are a good way to get oneself shipped out of town.”

When you consider who Sutcliffe’s manager was, a Mr. Tom Lasorda, and that manager is and always will be a certified blow hard. It is very understandable how the trashing of an office can happen.  I think what Sutcliffe did to Mr. Slim Fast’s office might be his greatest career achievement.