Trades are often some of the most rumored and speculated occurrences in all of professional sports. People’s minds are often littered with images of what the discussed player would look like in a different team’s uniform.
But, some trades in sports history are something of an oddity. Whether a player is traded for himself, an inanimate object, a seemingly oversized bounty, or in the presence of sheer spite, all of the completed trades on this list stand out in athletic history as thoroughly bizarre.
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The 10 Most Bizarre Trades In Sports History
1. Cy Young: traded for a suit
There is a historical precedent for eventual Hall of Fame players entering their respective league with little fanfare. However, the following tale is something of an extreme example.
Cy Young—the pitcher of award worthy fame—is among the best to ever step on a mound.
But, Young’s entrance into the majors was anything but grandiose. In fact, Young’s first major league team—the Cleveland Spiders—bought the legendary pitcher for a sum of $300 and a suit.
Forget your egos, players who entered the world of professional sports without being drafted—one of baseball’s most legendary players entered the Big Leagues in exchange for a suit of clothing.
2. Tom Martin: traded for a bus
No, Tom Martin is not a football player and he was not traded for Jerome Bettis.
Martin is a retired hockey player who played for a few teams that are no longer in existence-- the Hartford Whalers and the Minnesota North Stars, to be specific .
However, Martin’s claim to fame is the fact that a minor league team from Seattle traded him. The price was the other team’s bus.
Not much else needs to be said about this.
3. Dave Winfield: traded for food
This is a trade that was officially recorded in the MLB books as a sale. But, when assessing the details, the transaction was carried out as such: David Winfield was traded to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later.
Unfortunately for baseball spectators, 1994—the year this trade was carried out—was the year that the MLB was caught in a harsh player strike. This strike resulted in the 12-time MLB All Star and Cooperstown inductee never taking the field for the Indians during the 1994 Major League Season.
This resulted in a player never being named by the Indians as compensation for their acquisition of Winfield from the Twins.
However, all was called even when the executives from the two respective teams had dinner together—the Indians treated the Twins.
And Anquan Boldin thought it was insulting to be traded to the 49ers for a low-round pick.
4. John MacDonald: traded for himself
Now with the Philadelphia Phillies, John MacDonald made history in the mid-2000’s by being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays and to the Detroit Tigers. The conditions were simple; the Blue Jays would trade MacDonald to the Tigers for a player to be named later.
In a twist of fate that is worthy of any “Strange Trades” list, the player to be named later would eventually be John MacDonald.
MacDonald can now brag about being a player in Major League Baseball who was traded for himself, which is a distinction of Happy Gilmore—or “skate-stabbing”—proportions.
5. Keith Comstock: traded for a bag of baseballs
There’s an old figurative saying that goes something like, “He got traded for a bag of baseballs!”
The figure of speech obviously means that a player was given away for a bunch of players who don’t equate to the talent that was originally relinquished.
However, there are a few cases in baseball history where a player was literally traded for a bag of baseballs.
Playing for a minor league team affiliated with the Oakland Athletics, Comstock was traded to the Detroit Tigers for a nominal fee and a bag of baseballs. If nothing else, the trade must have been damaging to Comstock’s ego.
6. Cliff Dapper: traded for broadcaster Ernie Harwell
At this point, Ernie Harwell is a household name among those who are knowledgeable about America’s Pastime. However, someone who has since faded into baseball obscurity is the catcher known as Cliff Dapper, who only played in the Major Leagues for a brief amount of time.
It was 1948, and radio was still the primary means of sports broadcasting. Likewise, bad news struck when current Dodgers announcer Red Barber was showing signs of unhappiness.
Dodgers’ executive Branch Rickey— the man famous for signing Jackie Robinson—wanted Harwell to be Barber’s replacement. But, Barber was still under contract with a minor league team located in Atlanta.
As a way to terminate Harwell's contract with the Atlanta Crackers, Rickey offered Dapper as compensation.
Hence, Dapper’s time in the Big Leagues concluded, the start of a legendary broadcasting career began, and one of the most peculiar trades in baseball history was completed.
7. New Orleans Saints: traded entire draft for Ricky Williams
Donavan McNabb got booed and the state of Ohio got a pair of eventual busts for quarterbacks. But, the most talked about happening during the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft was New Orleans Saints selection of Ricky Williams.
Williams was the reigning Heisman Trophy receptor and one of the most highly regarded runners to enter the NFL. He boasted a formidable frame and a bushel of signature dreadlocks upon his entrance to the league.
Heisman Trophy winners being selected within the first 10 picks of the NFL Draft is not a strange happening. However, what is odd is the fact that one team traded the entirety of their draft to select Williams.
The New Orleans Saints were a team that was still entrenched in the woeful “in between” era of “Post- Team Formation” and “Pre- Drew Brees”. Still trapped in the horrible trend of sucking, the Saints were desperate for a playmaker—a need that caused Saints Head Coach Mike Ditka to trade all of the team’s subsequent selections to the Washington Redskins for the 5th overall pick. This pick, obviously, would turn into Williams.
What’s even more sad is that—other than the selection of Champ Bailey—every player the Redskins got as a result of the bizarre transaction turned out to be a complete dud. It doesn’t help anything that Bailey was traded to the Broncos after playing a mere four seasons with the Redskins.
8. Max Flack and Cliff Heathcote: traded in between a doubleheader
It was May 30, 1922, and the Cardinals and the Cubs were playing a doubleheader matchup in Chicago.
Max Flack and Cliff Heathcote were participants in these games. However, they both ended the second game playing for the team that they were originally opposing. To put this simply, Flack was traded from the Cubs to the Cardinals in between games. Meanwhile, Heathcote was traded from the Cardinals to the Cubs.
Clearly, both teams were frustrated by the play of their respective baseballers. There is seldom a trade that occurs in the middle of a matchup. Perhaps this trade is the closest the sports world will ever see to a middle-of-the game swap.
9. Eli Manning: follows Elway’s example
In the early 2000’s, there was no quarterback that was hyped more than the younger brother of the NFL superstar Peyton Manning. From Ole Miss, Manning the Lesser—also known as Eli Manning—was ranked at the top of a quarterback class that is now considered to be among draft history’s finest.
Manning encountered a similar problem that Elway did 21 years prior—the San Diego Chargers, who were the team selecting first overall, were atrocious.
Regardless of publicly announcing his lack of approval of playing for the Chargers, the aforementioned team drafted Manning.
A short time later, the New York Giants traded their selection, Philip Rivers for Manning. Neither quarterback played a down for the team that selected them.
10. John Elway: traded to Broncos after shunning Colts
The year is 1983, and the incoming NFL Draft class of quarterbacks is of a caliber that would be unseen for another twenty-nine years— 2012, the year that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson entered the professional football promised land.
Notable classmates of Elway were Dan Marino and Jim Kelly—the trio would all eventually reach the NFL Hall of Fame.
In digression, the Baltimore Colts—a team that was horrendous at the time—had the first overall selection of the draft. And, in a move that arguably sealed the team’s move to Indianapolis the following year, Elway stated publicly that he wanted little to do with the irrelevant team.
He even threatened to play baseball for the New York Yankees if he was not traded. As a result, Elway never played a down in the Colts’ signature blue uniform. Instead, he became a legend in the mountainous west with the Denver Broncos.