It isn’t unusual for two teams in today’s MLB to have a common trading partner. The Astros and Phillies have made their fair share of trades over the course of the past decade. Ditto for the Cubs and Orioles. That pales in comparison, though, to the Yankees and the old Kansas City Athletics, who made a whopping sixteen trades between 1955-1960. Nearly sixty players were dealt between the two teams during that period.
Bud Daley was not one of them. After 1960, he wasn’t supposed to be. Arnold Johnson owned the A’s and had connections with Yankee co-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb. After Johnson died in 1960, the Athletics would soon be sold to Charlie Finley. After the season, Finley fired General Manager Parke Carroll and replaced him with Frank Lane, the former executive of the White Sox, Cardinals, and Indians.
Finley and Lane were depicted in a 1961 Associated Press photograph standing in front of a burning bus which said, “Shuttle Bus to Yankee Stadium.” This symbolized the end of the one-sided trades with Kansas City, the Yankees’ unofficial farm team, and Finley said they were done dealing with New York. Yet there was a problem: Lane was a notorious dealer, and earned the nickname of “Trader” Lane.
“I was not in the least bit surprised I got traded,” Daley said. “When I was in Cleveland, Frank Lane traded me from Cleveland [to Baltimore]… and I owned a home in Kansas City at the time, and when he named him [general] manager, I put my house up for sale. I just knew I was going to get traded, and that’s what happened.”
Even though he wasn’t surprised he got traded, the former southpaw hurler was shocked he got dealt to the Yankees. These days a player may find out via text message, or Twitter, or perhaps some more traditional method. The story of how Daley found out he’d be headed to New York was non-traditional, to say the least.
“We were in Minnesota, and [infielder] Lou Klimchock picked up the phone to make a phone call, and he picked up the phone and who’s on the phone but [Yankees GM] Roy Hamey and Charlie Finley?” Daley said. “Lou listened to the whole thing and and then as soon as they hung up, he called me and said, ‘Bud, you just got traded to the Yankees.'”
His Yankee debut was inauspicious. The team lost in a 12-10 match with the Tigers, a team that would win 101 games themselves and still finish eight back of the Yankees for the pennant. Daley only went 1.1 innings, allowing seven runs, six earned, on six hits. Four days later, however, he was right back in Kansas City, this time as a visiting player.
“That I was really kind of looking forward to because I was wondering the fans, how they would react,” Daley said. “They didn’t boo me, I don’t think.”
His first win in Pinstripes came that day at Municipal Stadium. One more batter and Daley would’ve had a complete game. In 8.2 innings, he struck out six and walked two. Luis Arroyo would get the save to preserve a 5-3 Yankee victory.
Of course, when discussing the 1961 Yankees, one cannot omit the M&M Boys of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. That year, Maris hit sixty-one home runs, breaking Babe Ruth’s old record of sixty from 1927. Mantle also chased the record himself, hitting fifty-four. It was the second consecutive year Maris and Mantle would finish one and two in the MVP voting, respectively. Mantle was a lifelong Yankee. Maris, like Daley, played for the Indians and Athletics before coming over to the Bronx. Contrary to the depiction of the reporters, there was no rivalry between Mantle and Maris.
“Mickey and Roger, they were really good friends,” said Daley. “I think the writers really wanted to make a big deal out of this where they weren’t friends, but they were, and also, the ball club themselves, I think, they wanted Mickey to break the record, but then when Mickey got hurt in September, boy everybody was rooting for Roger to break the record.”
Daley was not rooting for one or the other specifically, just that he wanted to see it broken. In fact, he said that if Mantle did not miss some time in September, they both might have surpassed the Bambino. Controversy ensued since this was the first year the American League played 162 games. Commissioner Ford Frick said any player who broke the record under the old 154 game pace would be recognized as the new holder, but if anyone eclipsed that total past game 154, a distinctive mark in the record book would show Ruth did it under the old schedule, though there was no record book back then run by the office of the commissioner.
“Everybody thinks that’s a bunch of crap,” Daley said. “I was a little upset. I think everybody was a little upset that knew baseball, other than sportswriters were happy…the New York sportswriters didn’t want Mantle or Maris to break the record. They wanted Ruth to keep it, but it was going to be broken, and I think everybody was really upset over the thing with what the commissioner did.”
Maris did reach sixty-one on the last day of the season at Yankee Stadium, connecting on a pitch thrown by Tracy Stallard of the Red Sox. New York would be headed back to the World Series. This time, they would face the Reds. The Yankees hoped to claim another crown after being upset the year before by the Pirates. Daley faced one batter in Game Three as a reliever before playing a gigantic role in Game Five, when he took over for starter Ralph Terry in the bottom of the third, with the Yankees up 6-3.
“That game I was really nervous,” he said. “I don’t know why. I wasn’t nervous the first time. The second time I really was.”
There was a small hiccup in the bottom of the fifth. Daley committed an error, enabling first baseman Gordy Coleman to reach. Then, with Coleman on, he served up a home run to Wally Post. That would turn out to be a blip on the radar, though, as he allowed nothing more after that.
“When he hit the home run, it didn’t bother me one bit because I had a big lead, and then we went on to score some more runs,” Daley said.
All that separated the Yankees from another title was Vada Pinson in the bottom of the ninth. There were two outs, and New York was up 13-5. Daley fired a pitch and the Cincinnati outfielder sent a half-swing pop fly to left fielder Hector Lopez, another former Athletic, to give the World Series to the Yanks. Daley was credited with the win, as his nerves disappeared after he faced the first batter, Coleman. He started off the season for a team which lost 100 games and tied for last place in the American League, only to help a dynasty climb the mountain again, with him on the hill when they won it all.
“I’m very, very pleased that I went where I did,” Daley said.
You can listen to the full interview here: