With the national media revisiting last year's Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster trade ad nauseam this past weekend — and with the club honoring Rick Monday with a flag-saving bobblehead tonight at Chavez Ravine — we thought we'd take a look back at the Monday-for-Bill-Buckner trade of 1977.
Engineered by then-Los Angeles general manager Al Campanis on January 11, 1977, it's in the record books officially as Buckner, shortstop Ivan de Jesus and minor leaguer pitcher Jeff Albert going to the Cubs for Monday and reliever Mike Garman.
Stuck behind Bill Russell at short in L.A., de Jesus did well for himself with some nice seasons in Chicago, playing 15 years in the majors with the Phillies, Cardinals, Yankees, Giants and Tigers. Albert made it as high as Double-A San Antonio and was out of baseball by 1979, while Garman pitched four shutout innings in the Dodgers' 1977 World Series loss to the New York Yankees.
Clearly, this trade was all about Buckner and Monday and it was a big deal for both clubs, and for both men. Buckner was part of the much-talked-about 1968 amateur draft, in which Bobby Valentine, Tom Paciorek, Joe Ferguson and Doyle Alexander also became Dodgers.
Buckner ended up being the most prominent player of the bunch by far, and while in much of the country — and in Boston in particular — is remembered for his error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, in L.A. he is recalled as “Billy Buck” and “Billy the Burglar,” a doubles-saving left fielder, who Ted Williams predicted would one day win a batting title.
Buckner batted .319 and .301 in 1972 and 1976 respectively, and had his finest year in Los Angeles during the Dodgers' National League pennant winning season of 1974, in which he hit .314, with 182 hits, 30 doubles, seven home runs and 58 RBIs, with a career-high 31 steals.
The through-the-legs-Mookie-Wilson-grounder wasn't Buckner's first World Series gaffe, unfortunately. In the deciding Game 5 of the 1974 Series and with L.A. trailing the Athletics 3-2, he led off the top of the eighth with a single. With Claudell Washington bobbling the ball in center for an error, and not content to be in scoring position with no outs, Buckner was gunned down trying for third. The Dodgers went out in order in the ninth and Oakland had its third straight championship.
Suffering from a serious ankle injury, 1975 was a down year for Buckner, and though he came back to play well in 1976, the thought in the organization was — and to some degree correctly — that he would never be the same player he once was.
Steve Garvey, chosen in the secondary phase of that same June, 1968 draft, was entrenched at Buckner's original first base position; Dusty Baker, acquired from Atlanta before the 1976 campaign, was primed to move to left field, and Campanis wanted power in center. So in comes Monday, who'd recorded career-bests with 32 homers and 77 RBIs for the Cubs in 1976, saving the American flag in Dodger Stadium that April to boot.
Monday would not match that type of production in Los Angeles. In fact, with a .230 average, 15 home runs and 48 RBIs, 1977 turned out to be Monday's worst year as a regular player, and he ended up splitting time with Glenn Burke and Reggie Smith in the Series loss to the Yankees in October.
Monday rebounded to hit .254, 19 and 57 in his final year as a starter in 1978, playing an additional 415 games as a Dodger reserve from 1979 through 1984. His numbers in L.A: 254/.355/.443 with 73 home runs and 226 RBIs in eight seasons.
In his 19-year big league career, Monday hit .264/.361/.443, with 1619 hits, 248 doubles, 64 triples, 241 homers and 775 RBIs.
Buckner played in Chicago for the same eight seasons, going .300/.332/.439, with 81 home runs and 516 RBIs. Over 22 seasons, he hit .289/.321/.408, with 2715 hits, 498 doubles, 49 triples, 174 homers and 1208 RBIs. And, as Williams had predicted years before, Buckner did get that batting crown, in 1980.
While he is perhaps best known nationally for two his Fall Classic blunders, in Los Angeles Bill Buckner is remembered and appreciated for much, much more, as well as being traded for Rick Monday.
And while some will forever associate Rick Monday with saving the flag in 1976 — as a member of the Chicago Cubs — many will remember him for an old glory of another sort; his pennant-clinching homer off Steve Rogers in the 1981 National League Championship Series — as a Los Angeles Dodger. The Shot Heard Round the World, Part Deux, if you will.
Free Rick Monday bobbleheads to the first 50,000 at tonight's game, which features Clayton Kershaw opposing Travis Wood at 7:10 p.m. As of this writing, 562 tickets remain at StubHub.com, with plenty more available through Craigslist.