Originally posted April 2, 2008
April 4, 1960
I wrote a bit about this deal last week when covering the 1960 season:
Calvin Griffith’s original request from Chicago in the Roy Sievers trade was Battey and SS Sammy Esposito. White Sox manager Al Lopez refused to okay the offer, saying that he wouldn’t part with Esposito. Griffith’s counter proposal still included Battey, this time with Don Mincher, a first-baseman with power potential but no major league experience. Esposito remained with the White Sox until 1964. As a utility infielder those seasons, he had OPS+ of 52, 39, 70, and 43. Though Griffith was almost universally panned for the deal at the time, Mincher and Battey both became cornerstones of the Washington/Minnesota franchise. This was Battey’s first season as a regular in the majors. Not only was Battey impressive at the plate, but he gave the Nats a force behind the plate shutting down the opponent’s running game.
The Senators had not been happy with their catchers for years. Those who could hit were liabilities behind the plate and vice-versa, so Calvin Griffith set out to fix that by focusing his trading effort on Earl Battey of the Chicago White Sox.
Roy Sievers had been the first real power threat in franchise history. At the time of the trade, he still held the franchise career home run mark. He had been rumored to be on the trading block before the 1959 season, but Griffith didn’t pull the trigger on any deals, so Sievers played with the Nats for 1959. Injuries contributed to a disappointing year, and quite possibly made him less attractive on the trade market.
Sievers’ performance wasn’t the only factor that changed his status after the 1959 season. Washington fans saw the emergence of other, younger power threats in Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, and Jim Lemon. Sievers’ role as the only source of power on the team was history, so it made sense for Griffith to trade him for young talent.
In a trade that worked out for both teams, Washington sent Roy Sievers to Chicago in exchange for Earl Battey, Don Mincher, and $150,000 on April 4, 1960.
Battey, as mentioned, worked out immediately for the Nats and became the long term solution to the team’s catching problem. Mincher blossomed into a solid power hitter, and both pieces of the trade were instrumental in the team’s 1965 pennant run (presumably the cash was as well..). On the Chicago side, Sievers had two of the best season in his career before he was traded to Philadelphia.
A few days after the trade, someone in the press box at Griffith Stadium played a gag on Calvin by sending him a telegram that was supposedly from Bill Veeck reading “The deal wasn’t really consummated, so it’s off. Please return Battey and Mincher, plus my money, immediately.” The telegram was delivered during an exhibition game in which Mincher had hit a pair of home runs. The other running joke among the press in Washington: when the question was asked on a Sunday whether Calvin was going to make another trade before the season started, a Washington reporter replied “I don’t think so. The banks are closed on Sunday.”