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The anniversary of two Hall of Fame trades

December 10th is the anniversary of two New York Mets trades involving future Hall of Famers.

Nolan Ryan's 1968 Topps rookie card (shared with Jerry Koosman)

Forty years ago today, the Mets sent a 24-year-old pitcher named Nolan Ryan and three other prospects to the California Angels for a past-his-prime All-Star shortstop named Jim Fregosi.

At the time, the deal made a certain amount of sense. The Mets had a perennial problem at third base and hoped that Fregosi could provide the answer. He had been an All-Star as recently as 1970, and Baseball Reference calculates that he was worth 44.1 wins above replacement during his 11 seasons with the Angels.

Meanwhile, Ryan was coming off a 10-14 season with a 3.97 ERA for a team that had an incredibly strong pitching rotation. During five years with the Mets, in which he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, Baseball Reference calculates that Ryan was worth 3.7 wins above replacement.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know the Mets should not have made this trade. Fregosi was a bust in New York, hitting .233 with five home runs and 43 RBI in 146 games before moving on to Texas and Pittsburgh to finish out his career as a bench player.

Ryan went to his first All-Star Game in 1972, finishing the year with a 19-16 record for a 75-80 fifth place Angels team. He led the American League with nine shutouts and 329 strikeouts, and had a sparkling 2.28 ERA. That year alone, Ryan was worth 6.3 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

We all know where Ryan’s career went from there. What we don’t know is what might have happened if he stayed with the Mets… would Ryan have put up the same numbers and helped the Mets win a few more World Series trophies? Would he have pitched his record six no-hitters in the orange and blue? Or would he have continued to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen… or maybe worse – would he have been another part of the 1977 midnight massacre trades?

Twenty-seven years ago today, the Mets made a better deal. They acquired All-Star catcher Gary Carter from the Montreal Expos for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans.

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Best wishes for Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions baseball card from my collection

Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan is in a Houston hospital to undergo tests after experiencing “chest discomfort” Sunday, according to T.R. Sullivan of Ryan is said to be “resting comfortably” and is expected to be released within a few days.

Let’s all hope that Ryan gets good news with his test results.

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Card Show Pickups

I stopped by the Woodbridge Center Mall to check out the card show this weekend, but I think my best find was a 2011 Shea Stadium calendar that I bought for $1 at Borders.

I did get a few cards, the best being this Topps Heritage Nolan Ryan card that was distributed as part of a five card set at the National last year.

2010 Topps National Convention VIP 1960 Retro Card Set #557

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Lost & Found: 1 Nolan Ryan rookie card

I spent most of Saturday going through a part of my baseball card collection that hadn’t been touched since I was in high school. There was a ton of junk – for example, multiple copies of the Rated Rookies sets from 1988 and 1989 Donruss.

But there were also some cool things, like a double-sided insert set produced by Pinnacle in 1993 that commemorated the Florida Marlins’ and Colorado Rockies’ first starting lineups. (It’s even semi-relevant to this blog since the Rockies played their first game at Shea Stadium- I’ll have to scan and share those cards at some point.)

And then there was this:

The condition leaves a lot to be desired, but its a Nolan Ryan / Jerry Koosman rookie card!

I knew I had it in my collection at one point. I had gotten it and a handful of other 1960s cards from a neighbor who was moving away – he decided he didn’t want them any more. I just hadn’t seen it in about 15 years.