Between questionable free agent signings and some of the infamous George Steinbrenner trades of the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Yankees have some poor personnel decisions in their history. One of the earliest in team history is the trade for Fred Glade.
Glade grew up in Nebraska as the son of a wealthy mill owner. He played baseball in his spare time, and had enough talent to get noticed by professional clubs. He played for minor league teams in Texas, Iowa, and Missouri before eventually catching the eye of the Cubs in 1902.
Due in part to his wealthy upbringing, Glade seemingly wanted to play baseball on his schedule. After the Cubs signed him, he didn’t come to spring training until late March. When Glade did show up, he impressed. Shortly thereafter, however, he took off and returned home.
Glade eventually found his way back to Chicago, and he made his major league debut on May 27, 1902. He allowed 11 runs on 13 hits and three walks. The Cubs decided they were done with him after that.
After playing another season in the minors, the St. Louis Browns decided to bring in Glade. In 1904, he had a solid rookie season. He posted a 2.27 ERA in 35 games, all but one of which he started. He struck out 156 batters, including 15 in one game against the Senators. That season, he established himself as one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the game.
After a pair of average seasons in 1905 and 1906, Glade didn’t make a start until May in the 1907 season. He arrived late to spring training after having promised his new wife that he would give up baseball. Glade put up another average season in 1907, but decided he didn’t want to play for the Browns anymore.
The then New York Highlanders acquired Glade and two others as part of six-player trade with the Browns in November 1907. Clark Griffith had reportedly tried to acquire Glade for over a year. His electric fastball drew attention. He also possessed a great curve ball that allowed him to dominate when he was on. The one problem was that Glade flat-out refused to throw a changeup. The talent was there, the application wasn’t.
When Glade came to spring training in 1908, he boasted of his new pitch called a “leap ball”. Intrigued, Griffith named him the opening day starter. He later changed his mind, and Glade didn’t end up making his first start until late April. The reasons for his delayed debut include malaria and a possible stomach ailment after he drank bad milk.
Glade made five starts for the Highlanders. He posted a 4.22 ERA in 32 innings. Considering that 1908 is the literal lowest scoring year in baseball history, 4.22 is actually pretty bad. It equates to a 59 ERA+.
He made his final start on June 21. He was getting crushed against his old St. Louis team, and Griffith pulled him from the game. Glade was fined for not covering first base on a play, and decided to just go home instead of paying it. He would never play a major league game again.
Griffith himself left the Highlanders shortly after that. Glade told the Highlanders he would return to the team after Griffith left, but he never did. The Highlanders re-signed him for 1909, but he never showed up. The team reportedly spent every offseason for the next several years trying to get Glade to come back, but the pitcher never did. He just returned home and ended up in his family’s business.
Glade’s talent led New York to go all in on the pitcher. Everything else about him made Glade one of the Highlanders/Yankees first ever trade failures.