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The story of the saddest Yankees’ trade of all time

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In 1906, the Yankees and Athletics swapped players dealing with major head injuries because sports are bad sometimes.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The 2012 Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero trade has not brought any real happiness to either team. Pineda had quality moments, but has been frustratingly inconsistent more often than not. Now he’s out with Tommy John surgery and might not pitch for the Yankees ever again. Montero was bad and hasn’t played in the majors since 2015. The minor pieces that were also exchanged haven’t amounted to much.

This trade is a more recent example of a Yankees’ trade not working out for either side. Back in 1906, the then New York Highlanders made a trade that didn’t quite work out for either team, and the reasons why are just sad.

Before the 1903 season, the Highlanders acquired outfielder Dave Fultz from the Philadelphia Athletics. Fultz, who was also a football coach while playing major league baseball, was involved in a controversy after going back on a deal that would have seen him sign with the Giants. He instead decided to remain in the American League, and AL president Ban Johnson eventually assigned Fultz to the Highlanders.

Fultz went on to have three up and down years in New York. He struggled in 1903, having what was probably the worst season of his career. He bounced back the following year, but his legs were starting to go.

Late in 1904, Fultz got his law degree. Between that and struggling again in 1905, he decided that the season would be his last. Even if he hadn’t made that choice, he might have been forced into it anyway. In a September game, Fultz collided with shortstop Kid Elberfeld in the field. Both were knocked unconscious on the play.

Elberfeld eventually was helped off the field, but Fultz attempted to get up himself and ended up collapsing. He was taken the hospital and didn’t regain consciousness for two hours as some feared for his life. Somewhat luckily, a broken jaw was the worst injury he suffered.

Despite the injury and his intentions to retire, that didn’t stop teams from trying to trade for him. In April of 1906, the Athletics wanted to reacquire their former outfielder. They did so, sending fellow outfielder Danny Hoffman to the Highlanders. Hoffman himself was dealing with major facial injuries.

In his second major league season in 1904, Hoffman was struck on the head by a Jesse Tannehill pitch. Hoffman was knocked unconscious and there were reports that the pitch had partially dislodged the eye from the socket. Hoffman somehow made it back before the end of the season, but the injury ruined what was probably his best year.

Hoffman was known for his speed and defense, and that didn’t leave him after the injury, but there was a drop off at the plate the next season. In 1905, Hoffman led the league in stolen bases, but also in strikeouts. By the time he was traded to the Highlanders, his vision had been seriously harmed by the injury.

If anyone won the Fultz-Hoffman trade, it was the Highlanders. Hoffman played two seasons in New York, he still had the defense, and was still a good baserunner. He was slightly below average at the plate in his time in New York, but not terrible considering he was probably partially blind. After the 1907 season, the Highlanders included Hoffman in a six-player trade to the St. Louis Browns. He had a couple solid years in St. Louis before retiring in 1911.

Fultz meanwhile stuck to his guns and did not come out of retirement to play for Philadelphia. He became a leader in the Fraternity of Baseball Players, an early player’s union. He also was later named the International League president. Fultz remained in baseball, but never played again. The Athletics traded a player who had a solid career for a retired guy.

The 1906 Dave Fultz for Danny Hoffman trade is just sad. The Highlanders and Athletics swapped guys both dealing with major head injuries. New York at least go some value out of it, but both careers were probably majorly hampered.