Joe Torre became a New York Met at the end of the 1974 season. He could have joined them as early as 1969, but Mets' general manager Johnny Murphy was too smart. Even Murphy didn't realize how smart he was going to be.
Richards and Torre were involved in a feud because Torre was a hold out and had been a leader of the players' pension boycott. The players had threatened a strike unless their pension benefits were increased substantially.
Richards was a shrewd baseball man. He saw the talent the ninth-place Mets possessed going into the 1969 season, although neither he nor Murphy dreamed that the Mets would become world champions.
After intense negotiations with Richards, Murphy finally broke off discussions during the middle of March because the Mets, according to Richards, refused to include established players in any trade for Torre.
"We're not going to give him up for a bunch of donkeys," Richards explained .
It was rumored that Ed Kranepool, Amos Otis and Bobby Heise were the "donkeys" the Braves turned down. New York Times identified Jerry Grote, Nolan Ryan and Amos Otis as the three players Richards wanted for Torre.
It would have been a bad trade for the Mets. They did trade Otis to the Kansas City Royals following the 1969 season for third baseman Joey Foy. Otis became a star.
The Mets will always regret trading Ryan.
But Grote was an integral part of two pennants and one world championship. In 1969, Ryan helped the Mets win the World Series, while Kranepool contributed in both 1969 and 1973.
Torre was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda.
The 1969 Mets won the first Eastern Division title in history as the Cardinals and Torre finished fourth, 13 games behind.
The Mets swept Cepeda and the Braves in the first ever NLCS and went on to beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
They did all that without Joe Torre.