Yesterday I quoted that Bill White interview by the RetroSimba blog. It continues today, and White said two pretty neat things.
First, when asked if the Cardinals infield of White, Ken Boyer, Dick Groat and Julian Javier was the best infield he’d ever seen, he said no, cited Javier’s shortcomings as a defender and opined that, while good, it wasn’t the best. How often do you hear an old retired ballplayer pass up the opportunity to say otherwise? Especially when all it would require is agreeing with the questioner? Hell, half of the members of the Hall of Fame are there because old ballplayers convinced themselves that their teammates were the greatest. It’s nice to see White not fall into that trap.
Second, White is asked about the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade. That trade has come to be synonymous with lopsided trades, but White is very clear-eyed about it when asked if, at the time, the Cardinals thought they’d come out so well on it:
None of us did. We all thought it was nuts. Lou was a raw talent. At that point, he didn’t really understand baseball. He might try to steal while 10 runs up or 10 runs down. When he got to St. Louis, Johnny Keane told him what he expected of him, and he turned him loose. I think Lou relaxed in St. Louis. Now he’s in the Hall of Fame. Without Brock, we would not have won.
As the commenters over at this Baseball Think Factory thread discussing the interview noted, however, at the time most savvy observers felt that the Cubs had actually won the trade and won it handily. Brock was already 25 years-old, still raw, and played extremely poor defense. No one at the time felt that at his age he’d blossom into a Hall of Famer. Meanwhile, Broglio was thought of as a solid pitcher who, though today we’d likely worry about due to his workload, wasn’t thought of as a risk then. Finally, the lesser players heading to Chicago with Broglio in the trade were far better than those accompanying Brock down to St. Louis. The Cards got Paul Toth and Jack Spring. Chicago got Doug Clemens, and Bobby Shantz.
Which, of course, underlines the notion we all know: that trades have to be judged twice: both on what is known or suspected at the time they are made and judged again later, from a “so, how did they do?” perspective. The Brock trade was pro-Chicago by the former measure and obviously pro-St. Louis on the latter. Only no one seems to remember or care about the former.
But Bill White remembers. And that, combined with his comments about his infield, make him the rare old timer who views his time in the game objectively and doesn’t seem to tell tall tales as time goes on.