Saturday, April 2, 2011

Curt Flood (#360)

Curt Flood. He was one of the best defensive outfielders of the 1960s, won 7 straight gold gloves from 1963-69, compiled a career .293 batting average, and played in 3 World Series during his 12-year stint as the Cardinals' starting center fielder. But he is probably best remembered now for his career-shortening legal challenge to baseball's reserve system.

Flood was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, and spent 2 full seasons in the low minors, along with a token call-up at the end of each season.

In December 1957, he was traded to the Cardinals for 3 guys I've never heard of (Marty Kutyna, Willard Schmidt and Ted Wieand). He played 15 games with triple-A Omaha, but on May 3rd, he made his first start in center field for the Cardinals, and held onto that job for the next 12 seasons. Curt was also the Cardinals' leadoff batter from late 1961 until midway through the 1965 season. (Lou Brock, who came to the Cardinals prior the 1964 season, took over as their leadoff batter midway through 1965.)

Following the 1969 season, Flood was traded to the Phillies (along with catcher Tim McCarver, southpaw relief ace Joe Hoerner, and reserve outfielder Byron Browne) for 1st baseman Dick Allen, 2nd baseman Cookie Rojas, and pitcher Jerry Johnson.

OF COURSE he didn't report! In the late 1960s/early 1970s, Phillies' fans knew better than to expect such good fortune to occur! (Oh yeah, there was something about challenging baseball's reserve system too.) After sitting out the 1970 season, the Phillies traded his rights to the Washington Senators, where he played 13 games in 1971 before retiring.

Also check out Flood's 1969 card.

Everyone knows the Curt Flood story by now, but something occurred to me recently. For all the hoopla and notoriety bestowed on Curt Flood for his refusal to report, another player did the same thing a year earlier, but not much was made of that:

Donn Clendenon had been the Pirates' regular 1st baseman for several years, but was left exposed in the expansion draft. He was selected by the Montreal Expos, and subsequently traded to "Houston" (known outside the walls of Topps Inc. as the "Houston Astros") in a package that included Rusty Staub going to Montreal. Clendenon refused to report to the Astros, and the deal was modified, with the Expos keeping Staub. Advantage Clendenon! Later that season, he was traded to the Mets and was their starting 1st baseman in the 1969 World Series.

The backs of these cards have slightly different text, along with the last letter in Clendenon's name. The Expos version has part of the last N missing. This seems to have been drawn in on the Astros version (although it looks like the letter is backwards).


Anonymous said...

I imagine Flood was also angry at having to spend the 1969 season in "St. Lous" rather than St. Louis....

Jim from Downingtown said...

Apparently, Topps had not yet mastered their cut-and-paste skills.

Jim Q said...

Could have been a Communist plot...that N looks more like a Cyrillic character.