Due in part to the introduction of interleague play, the Yankees have a growing history with National League teams, a lot of which didn’t exist prior to the mid-1990s other than scant deals here and there. However, dating back to the years prior, there are few they’ve had more of a history with than the Atlanta Braves.
Off the field, let’s take a look at some of the other history that they have with the Braves. We continue with our trade partner history series by looking at the Yankees’ dealings with the club that has moved from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta since starting up in the late 19th century.
June 7, 1973: The Atlanta Braves trade Pat Dobson to the Yankees for players to be named later, Wayne Nordhagen, and Frank Tepedino. The Yankees sent Dave Cheadle (August 15, 1973) and Al Closter (September 5, 1973) to the Braves to complete the trade.
Honestly, the Yankees haven’t made a lot of obviously good trades with the Braves, so I’m going to pick this one in part due to Dobson, and partly based on what came after his acquisition.
In June 1973, the Yankees acquired the former Orioles standout Dobson from Atlanta for a collection of players, some of whom had decently long MLB careers, but none of which were obvious misses. After a below-average 1973, Dobson put in a very nice year for the Yankees in 1974, helming the rotation, helping the franchise to their best finish in a decade, and even earning down-ballot MVP votes.
After Dobson regressed in 1974, the Yankees managed to use him in a November 1975 trade with Cleveland for Oscar Gamble. While Gamble had put up good numbers in Cleveland, he was only used as a platoon player and clashed with new manger Frank Robinson, leading to him getting shipped to New York.
Gamble had a good season with the Yankees in 1976, helping them to their first AL pennant since 1964, and becoming the subject of a famous baseball card. However, the Yankees signed Reggie Jackson the following offseason, making Gamble expendable.
August 29, 1951: The Yankees trade Lew Burdette and $50,000 to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain
The Yankees certainly got the more famous half of a 1951 pitcher swap when they acquired Johnny Sain. Along with Warren Spahn, Sain was part of the famous “Spahn and Sain; then pray for rain” saying about the late-1940s Boston Braves. Those two formed a formidable one-two punch at the top of Boston’s rotation, and in 1948, they combined to start 20 of the team’s last 34 games, as the team eked out the NL pennant. However, they lost to Cleveland in that year’s World Series and quickly fell to the middle of the pack in the NL.
After throwing over 300 innings in 1948, Sain struggled in each of the next two seasons, as he dealt with a nagging injury in his shoulder. As he again struggled to a 5-13 record to start the 1951 season, the Braves eventually traded him, as the Yankees opted to take a chance on the former star, sending Boston money and young pitcher Lew Burdette, who had thrown 1.1 innings for the Yankees in 1950.
Sain wasn’t a total disaster in New York. He was part of three championship-winning teams and had a very nice 1953 season in a swingman-type role. After his playing career, he went on to help the Yankees to another couple titles as the team’s pitching coach from 1961-63. The issue was more who they gave up in the deal.
As the Braves’ franchise shifted locales from Boston to Milwaukee, Burdette began to emerge as a good-to-great pitcher for the team. While it wasn’t his best season, his most notable moment with the team came in 1957.
That year, he helped the Braves to the NL pennant, which saw them matched up against his former Yankees’ team in the World Series. Burdette would throw complete-game victories in Games 2, 5, and 7, the latter two both being shutouts. With a 0.67 ERA in 27 innings, Burdette was named series MVP, as he bested his former team on the biggest stage.
It’s not as if the late-’50s/early-’60s Yankees were devoid of pitching talent and postseason success, but keeping Burdette arguably may have added at least one more championship to the tally.
Most Overlooked Trade
January 1, 2015: The Braves trade David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve to the New York Yankees for Manny Bañuelos
Once a highly-rated prospect and a member of the “Killer Bs,” the Yankees sold a bit low on Manny Bañuelos, after he ran into some struggles in the minors. Nine years ago Monday, they traded him for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve — the former of whom had major league experience, the latter of whom didn’t.
Carpenter’s stint in New York went fairly poorly, but Shreve stuck around for a few years, having some good stretches and bad. The Yankees also ended up including him in a trade to the Cardinals alongside Giovanny Gallegos. That brought Luke Voit to New York, who had some nice years in the Bronx.
December 22, 2009: The Yankees trade Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, Arodys Vizcaíno, and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Boone Logan and Javier Vázquez
Please no one yell at me for this statement: Javier Vázquez was a pretty good major league pitcher. Over the course of his career, he put up a 105 ERA+, which means he gave up fewer earned runs than was average over the course of his career. However, there were some years in there that were below league average. Outside his first two big league seasons, the two worst of his career both came in New York in two different stints.
Vázquez was an offseason acquisition ahead by the Yankees ahead of the 2004 season, and while he arguably wasn’t the worst member of that rotation, he wasn’t great. He also allegedly gave up a grand slam in a Game 7 loss in that year’s ALCS, but I don’t think any proof of that game exists.
The Yankees understandably moved on from Vázquez after that, and sent him to Arizona as part of the Randy Johnson trade. He then rebuilt his career, making him a bit of an attractive option for the Yankees to reacquire ahead of 2010.
After a trade that saw Melky Cabrera and top 100-ish prospect Arodys Vizcaíno go to Atlanta, Vázquez’s round two in New York went, stats-wise, even worse than his first. While he was far from the first player to get tagged with the label, Javy’s struggles in New York despite a pretty decent career elsewhere made him one of the poster children for the “Can’t Handle New York” narrative.
The lefty Logan at least somewhat mitigated the ugliness of this trade by being a solid bullpen option for the Yankees for some time, but re-acquiring a pitcher who had struggled for another go-round was certainly a weird choice.
Other Trades of Note
August 10, 1938: The Boston Bees trade players to be named later, Gil English, Johnny Riddle and cash to the Yankees for Eddie Miller. The Boston Bees sent Tommy Reis (October 27, 1938), Johnny Babich (October 27, 1938), and Vince DiMaggio (February 4, 1939) to the Yankees to complete the trade.
This is more of a fun fact than anything else, but Joe DiMaggio’s older brother did briefly play for the Yankees’ organization. Alas, there wasn’t much of a need for Vince, who was stuck in Triple-A Kansas City for most of 1939 before being purchased by the Reds.
December 9, 1941: The Yankees trade Tommy Holmes to the Boston Braves for players to be named later. The Boston Braves sent Buddy Hassett (December 16, 1941) and Gene Moore (February 5, 1942) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade
The Yankees weren’t hurting for quality outfielders in the 1940s, but they didn’t get much in return for Holmes, who broke out to become a two-time All-Star in Boston. He’s also the author of one of the longest hitting streaks in MLB history at 37 in a row in 1945.
SABR: Johnny Sain
SABR: Oscar Gamble