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Trio of huge deals made Nov. 29, 1971, historic

Blockbuster trades highlighted this day 46 years ago
MLB.com

The offseason can be an incredibly quiet time in baseball ... until all of a sudden, it's not.

Such was the case 46 years ago today, Nov. 29, 1971, when a sleepy first day of the Winter Meetings at the Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., turned into one that would shape baseball's powers for the rest of the decade.

The offseason can be an incredibly quiet time in baseball ... until all of a sudden, it's not.

Such was the case 46 years ago today, Nov. 29, 1971, when a sleepy first day of the Winter Meetings at the Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., turned into one that would shape baseball's powers for the rest of the decade.

In just one afternoon, the A's and Reds added some final pieces to their dynastic puzzles, while star players Ken Holtzman, Sam McDowell, Rick Monday, Joe Morgan and Gaylord Perry found themselves packing suitcases. Two future Hall of Famers, nine All-Stars and 13 players overall were included in three blockbuster deals that saw nearly 400 Wins Above Replacement change hands.

"It seems that almost everyone was doing it Monday at the wild and wooly opening of the Baseball Winter Meetings," Ken Rappoport of the Associated Press wrote the next day. "Trading, that is."

So while the offseason has seemed a bit slow thus far in 2017, that can all change in an instant. As we prepare for megadeals that could see home-run king Giancarlo Stanton change teams and Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani arrive in the coming weeks, here's a look at the three trades that rocked baseball on this date nearly half a century ago.

A's trade OF Rick Monday to Cubs for P Ken Holtzman
The left-handed Holtzman had developed into one of the best No. 2 starters in baseball slotted behind Fergie Jenkins in Chicago. Holtzman won 17 games in both 1969 and '70 with ERAs that were 13 percent and 32 percent better than league average, respectively. He also twirled no-hitters in '69 and '71.

Monday is best known for his time with the Dodgers later in his career, but he made history from the start as the No. 1 overall pick by the A's in the first MLB Amateur Draft in 1965. Monday quickly developed into an All-Star by '68, the team's first season in Oakland, and helped the A's capture their first American League West division title in '71.

Video: ATL@CHC: Monday makes leaping catch in center

The Orioles swept the A's in the AL Championship Series that October, however, and Oakland still needed another piece to add to its rotation. Luckily for the A's, Holtzman was looking for a fresh start after butting heads with Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher in Chicago.

"I wouldn't have cared if the Cubs had traded me for two dozen eggs," Holtzman said at the time.

Video: 1974 WS Gm4: Holtzman's solo home run gives A's lead

Holtzman got his wish, and the A's got a stud pitcher, filling out a rotation already stacked with Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Blue Moon Odom. The Cubs got a leadoff man in return in Monday.

Monday's best year with the Cubs came in 1976, when he placed 18th in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting and hit a career-high 32 home runs.

Video: CHC@NYM: Monday homers off Seaver

Holtzman earned his only two All-Star selections in 1972 and '73, while winning at least 18 games and posting sub-3.20 ERAs in each of his four seasons in Oakland. The southpaw helped the A's become the only franchise other than the Yankees to win three consecutive World Series (1972-74).

Giants trade P Gaylord Perry and SS Frank Duffy to Indians for P Sam McDowell
McDowell, nicknamed "Sudden Sam" on account of his elite fastball, had overcome early wildness to become an ace for Cleveland. The left-hander placed third in the AL Cy Young Award voting in 1970, a season in which he captured his fifth career strikeout crown and third in a row.

But the following year was a tumultuous one for McDowell, who held out to begin the 1971 season and was later suspended for playing with an illegal contract that offered performance incentives. As the offseason arrived for the last-place Indians, McDowell demanded a trade.

The Indians sought out the highest bidder for their strikeout artist, and found one in the Giants. Perry was an antithesis to McDowell on the mound, relying on guile and an oft-discussed greaseball instead of a big fastball, but the 32-year-old had already logged 134 wins, 1,606 strikeouts and six consecutive seasons of 250-plus innings by the winter of 1971. But the Giants were an aging club, and they felt the time was right to deal Perry and a well-regarded young shortstop in Duffy.

Video: 1974 ASG: Gaylord Perry's four strikeouts

San Francisco thought it was upgrading to a young pitcher in his prime. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported 70 percent of fans surveyed were displeased with trading McDowell away.

But Perry had more left in the tank than anticipated. The righty became the Indians' first Cy Young Award winner immediately in 1972, going 24-16 with an AL-high 29 complete games and a sterling 1.92 ERA, and went on to win another 180 games in his Hall of Fame career.

McDowell considered retirement by the Spring Training of 1973 because of persistent pain in his back and neck, and he was out of baseball by the end of '75. The fireballer went just 19-25 with a 4.16 ERA in stints with the Giants, Yankees and Pirates.

Astros trade 2B Joe Morgan, OF Ed Armbrister, P Jack Billingham, CF Cesar Geronimo and INF Denis Menke to Reds for 2B Tommy Helms, 1B Lee May and OF Jimmy Stewart
Morgan had been in the Houston organization since its expansion days as the Colt .45s, and he was the runner-up in the 1965 NL Rookie of the Year Award voting before earning All-Star nods in '66 and '70. He was recognized as one of the better young second basemen in baseball by the fall of '71, but also as a somewhat difficult player after he'd clashed with Astros manager Harry Walker.

On the morning of Nov. 29, Reds general manager Bob Howsam gathered his brain trust and told them to take care of any pressing needs, then they holed up in their hotel room the rest of the day. That afternoon, Cincinnati announced the biggest and most surprising deal of the day, sending three popular players in Helms, May and Stewart away for Morgan and four players largely unrecognized outside of Houston.

Video: 1972 ASG: May gets a hit, turns unassisted DP

"For Lee May, you'd expect Willie Mays, not just another guy named Joe," wrote Bob Hertzel of The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Fans wrote into the Enquirer speculating that Howsam had either been tricked or hypnotized by the Astros.

The Queen City was stunned, but Howsam and his Hall of Fame manager, Sparky Anderson, knew better. May had just clubbed 39 homers in 1971, while Helms had earned the Gold Glove at second base. But Morgan had averaged 44 steals a season while posting above-average OPS totals, and Anderson was ready to set him loose. Never short on confidence, Anderson declared Howsam had "just won the pennant" for Cincinnati.

Video: NL@AL: Morgan leads off the game with a homer

"We gave up power, but I think this deal now gives us a chance to play the kind of baseball l like -- the running game," Anderson said of the trade. "I look for Morgan to steal 50 bases for us next season."

Morgan did just that, swiping at least 49 bases in each of the next six seasons. He also brought more than perhaps even Howsam anticipated. Morgan didn't finish lower than eighth in NL MVP voting from 1972-76, winning the award twice in 1975 and '76, while lifting the Big Red Machine to back-to-back World Series titles. The ancillary pieces paid off for Howsam, too: Billingham allowed just one earned run in 25 1/3 innings over three World Series appearances, while Geronimo became a Gold Glove center fielder.

Video: WS1976 Gm1: Morgan's solo home run in 1st

Meanwhile, May earned one more All-Star selection with the Astros, but never again reached 30 home runs. Helms was a slightly above-average player for four years in Houston, and Stewart was out of baseball by the winter of '73.

Cincinnati's end of the deal might be best summed up in Game 3 of the 1975 World Series. Geronimo led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, Armbrister advanced him with a pinch-hit bunt and Morgan later singled Geronimo home for the winning run. Howsam's trade, as Anderson guaranteed, did indeed win the Reds a pennant in 1972. But better yet, it made Cincinnati a dynasty in the years to come.

Video: WS1975 Gm3: Reds walk off on Morgan's single in 10th

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.