This Date in History: The Cleveland Indians, Sucking in the 70s

Steven GoldmanMLB Lead BloggerApril 3, 2012

Carlos Santana was still a long way away in 1974. Would you settle for Dave Duncan?
Carlos Santana was still a long way away in 1974. Would you settle for Dave Duncan?Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

April 3, 1974

The Indians did very little right in the 1970s. Over the course of that decade, they nearly buried for all time what had been a long run of excellence from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. Between their rotting “Mistake by the Lake” ballpark and playing in a rusting industrial town in which even the river was on fire, the Tribe had become little more than a joke.

Countless bad moves helped keep them in that condition. One was little noticed at the time, but it eventually turned into one of the most lopsided giveaways in Cleveland history. On this date, the Dodgers sent rookie left-hander Bruce Ellingsen to Cleveland. In return, the Dodgers received an 18-year-old Dominican outfielder who had just hit .255 with two home runs in 44 games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He would hit .290 in 1974, .345 the years after, and would reach the major leagues by 1978. Pedro Guerrero never did have a position in the major leagues, the Dodgers trying him almost everywhere except pitcher and catcher, but my, could he hit.

Guerrero's career was hampered by too many injuries, but his career rates of .300/.370/.480 with 215 home runs in 1536 games are terrific given that he spent his entire career in two of the parks most favorable to pitchers at the time, Dodger Stadium and Busch Stadium. Being traded away in mid-August of 1988 (for John Tudor) prevented “Pete” from participating in that historic championship, but he got his ring in 1981 when he dominated the Yankees, hitting .333/.417/.762 with two home runs in six World Series games.

As for Ellingsen, he pitched in 16 major league games, then disappeared back to the minor leagues.