On December 31, 1974, the New York Yankees announce the signing of free agent pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter. The former Oakland A’s ace signs a five-year contract worth an estimated $3.75 million. Hunter had been declared a free agent only 18 days earlier, after Oakland owner Charlie Finley had failed to make an insurance payment. n independent arbitrator ruled that Finley had violated the contract, making Hunter a free agent. In 1974, Hunter won 25 games, forged a league-leading 2.49 era and won the Cy Young Award in helping the A’s to their third consecutive World Series title. In 1975, Hunter will win 23 games for the Yankees and will help New York to a pair of World Championships in 1977 and ’78. He will win election to the Hall of Fame in 1987.
On January 10, 1918, the Philadelphia A’s trade first baseman Stuffy McInnis, the last remaining player from their famed $100,000 infield, to the Boston Red Sox for three players to be named later. The A’s will later receive third baseman Larry Gardner, outfielder Clarence Walker, and catcher Hick Cady in return for McInnis.
On January 2, 1918, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquire outfielder Casey Stengel and infielder George Cutshaw from the Brooklyn Robins for future Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes and two other players. Stengel will play only two seasons with the Pirates before moving on to Philadelphia, but will eventually enjoy a Hall of Fame career as a manager. Grimes will win 158 games during a nine-year stint with Brooklyn.
On January 10, 1913, the Cincinnati Reds purchase pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown from the Chicago Cubs. The future Hall of Famer, who pitched in only 15 games in 1912, will log a record of 11-12 with a 2.91 ERA for the Reds in 1913.
On December 23, 1958, the Philadelphia Phillies acquire infielder Sparky Anderson from the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Rip Repulski and two other players. Anderson won’t do much as a player, but will win three World Championships as a manager.
On December 23, 1981, the New York Yankees sign outfielder-first baseman Dave Collins to a free agent contract. Collins, who stole 79 bases for the Cincinnati Reds in 1979, will end up a bust in New York and will be traded after one season.
On December 23, 1995, the St. Louis Cardinals sign a pair of free agents: outfielder Ron Gant and pitcher Andy Benes. Gant hit 29 home runs and stole 23 bases for the Cincinnati Reds, and Benes won 11 games while splitting his season between San Diego and Seattle. Benes will join younger brother Alan in St. Louis’ rotation.
On December 24, 1969, star outfielder Curt Flood refuses to accept a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, less than two months after being dealt by the St. Louis Cardinals. The trade had sent Flood, catcher Tim McCarver, outfielder Byron Browne, and pitcheFlood writes a letter to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, explaining that he should be free to sign with any team he chooses. “I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes,” writes Flood. Flood will file suit against Major League Baseball, challenging the game’s reserve clause, which binds a player perpetually to his team. After losing the suit, Flood will attempt a comeback with the Washington Senators.
On December 26, 1919, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee makes a secret agreement to sell Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $400,000 in cash plus other considerations. The sale will be announced publicly one week later…
On March 7, 1902, Hall of Famer James “Pud” Galvin dies at the age of 45. Galvin won 361 games over a 14-year career, placing him in a tie for sixth on the all-time list for most wins. In 1883 and ’84, Galvin won a combined 92 games.