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Yankees history: Frank LaPorte’s round trip

The Yankees could not live without Frank LaPorte

American League Division Series Game Three: Cleveland Indians v. New York Yankees

Frank LaPorte made his major league debut in September 1905. He had been playing semi-pro and minor league baseball since 1896, but he started to catch on in pro ball by 1903. LaPorte played nearly three whole seasons with the Buffalo Bisons in the Easter League when the Highlanders acquired him late in 1905.

He played 11 games that year and put up solid numbers in that small sample. LaPorte became a regular for the Highlanders the following year. His hitting numbers were mostly average in that time, but he was a useful player due to his ability to play multiple positions in the field.

Despite playing over 120 games in both 1906-07, the Highlanders traded LaPorte in October 1907. He was sent to Boston as part of a three-team trade that got the Highlanders Jake Stahl.

The Red Sox were extremely high on LaPorte when they got him, but he did not live up to expectations. In 62 games with Boston that season, he hit .237/.296/.282. Even in the deadball era, that was particularly bad. He again played all over the field in a utility role, but Boston was not impressed in their acquisition.

In a separate trade in the offseason prior to 1908, the Highlanders had acquired Harry Niles in a six-player trade. Niles was putting up decent hitting numbers, but the Highlanders were disappointed in him nonetheless.

Much like they would 105 years later in the Kelly Johnson-Stephen Drew blockbuster, the Highlanders and Red Sox decided to swap their disappointments and exchanged LaPorte and Niles. Just 10 months afters trading LaPorte, the Highlanders reacquired him in exchange for a guy they had traded for just nine months earlier.

LaPorte regained some of his hitting prowess and put up some of his best hitting numbers over the course of the next two seasons. The Highlanders later traded him again, this time to the St. Louis Browns for Roy Hartzell, who gave the Yankees six decent seasons.

New York did win that particular trade. Niles had 18 decent games for the Red Sox after the trade, but fell off after that and was out of the majors by 1910.

Meanwhile, Stahl, who was acquired in the initial LaPorte trade, didn’t even last the season with the Highlanders. After 75 games in New York, Stahl was purchased by another team. Naturally, that other team was the Red Sox. Stahl gave Boston five decent seasons and led the league in home runs in 1910 with 10.

To recap: Highlanders trade player A to Boston for player B. They get player C in a different trade. Decided they don’t like player C, so get player A back from him. Then they give player B to Boston anyway. It’s quite the impressive transaction cycle.

LaPorte isn’t the only person to have done the Yankees-Red Sox-Yankees or vice versa path, but he was the first. He likely won’t be the last either. However, it will be hard to top the time span in which he was passed around.