Here’s one for all you lovers of trivia. In Major League Baseball’s long history, four players have the dubious distinction of having been traded for themselves. Can you name all four?
Chiti for Chiti
The first was Harry Chiti. An Illinois native, Chiti attended Northwestern High School in Detroit, and was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1950. He wasn’t much of a hitter, but was a capable backstop with an uncanny talent for catching a knuckleball. Chiti’s career was interrupted by two years in the Korean War. He also spent time with the Kansas City Athletics, before the Detroit Tigers purchased him in July of 1960. Chiti hit .155 in his short stay in the Motor City, and was eventually dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for Frank House in July of 1961.
Chiti began the 1962 season with the Cleveland Indians. Before he ever played a game for them, however, he was traded to the expansion New York Mets on April 26, for a player to be named later. Chiti fit in perfectly with the Mets, hitting .195 with no RBIs in 15 games for one of the worst teams ever. Finally, his manager Casey Stengel had seen enough. The Mets shipped Chiti back to Cleveland, essentially completing the deal by which he’d been acquired. Chiti thus became the first player in the history of the game to be traded for himself. The Indians sent Chiti to the minor leagues, where he finished out his career. Since then, nobody has let him forget the trade. “I sure do keep hearing about it,” he said later in life, when he was a sheriff’s deputy.
Catcher bounces back to the Yankees
It wasn’t until 1980 that we find the second player ever to be traded for himself. Once again, it was a catcher. Brad Gulden played for six teams in his seven years in the big leagues, finishing with an even .200 batting average. In November, the New York Yankees traded him, along with $100,000, to the Seattle Mariners for Larry Milbourne and a player to be named later. Gulden spent on uninspiring season in the Emerald City, and then was sent back to the Yankees in May of 1981 to complete the trade. After his retirement, Gulden came to appreciate his obscure claim to fame. “If somebody remembers you twenty years after you’ve been out of the game, that’s great.”
Noles helped Tigers down stretch in ’87, went back to Cubs after
Dickie Noles pitched eleven years in the big leagues, for six teams, winning 36 and losing 53. On September 22, 1987, the Chicago Cubs traded Noles to the Detroit Tigers, again for the ubiquitous “player to be named later.” The Tigers were in the middle of a division race with the Toronto Blue Jays, and looking for some bullpen help. Noles got into four games with Detroit, saving two, with a 4.50 ERA. But the Tigers were unimpressed, and the two teams were unable to agree on who the Cubs should receive in exchange. After the season, Noles was returned to sender. Early in his career, Noles struggled with alcohol, but he claims to have been sober since 1983. He is now a motivational speaker and substance-abuse counselor.
McDonald: Return to sender
The most recent player to be traded for himself was also a Tiger. John McDonald began his career in 1999 with Cleveland. In 2014, he was still suiting up for his eighth major league team. McDonald is a lifetime .273 hitter who’s never had more than 327 at-bats in a season. His longevity is mainly due to his being able to play just about any position he’s asked to. On July 22, 2005, the Tigers acquired him from Toronto for (you guessed it) a player to be named later. In 31 games for Detroit, McDonald played shortstop, second base, and third base, and hit .260. In November of 2005, the Tigers returned McDonald to the Jays “for cash considerations.” McDonald joked that it wasn’t much better than being traded for a bag of balls, but that, in hindsight, the Blue Jays definitely got a fair return.