December 9, 2010, 1:00 PM
By BILL CHUCK
A recent study by experts who fed 300 million facts into a new computer search engine has determined that April 11, 1954, has been identified as the most boring day of the 20th century, a day in which there were no key news events or births or deaths of famous people. The experts clearly did not check the sports pages.
On that date, two days before the start of the regular season, the Yankees acquired the soon-to-be 38-year-old outfielder Enos Slaughter from the St. Louis Cardinals for three prospects: Bill Virdon, Mel Wright and Emil Tellinger. In words that were similar in spirit to those stated by the Padres this week at the winter meetings referring to their trade of Adrian Gonzalez for three prospects, the Cardinals’ owner August A. Busch said: “We have just traded one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are trying to build a young ball club. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to participate in.”
Slaughter had been with the Cardinals for 16 years and cried when he learned that he had been traded. “This is the biggest shock of my life,” he said. “Something I never expected to happen. I’ve given my life to this organization, and they let you go when they think you’re getting old.”
The New York Times columnist Arthur Daley wrote that the Yankees’ front office made the deal because it feared that complacency was setting in on a team that had won five straight World Series. Well, it did cure the championship streak; the Yankees finished second that season to the Indians despite winning 103 games. Slaughter hit only .248 with just one homer in 125 at-bats and was traded to the Kansas City A’s in early 1955.
But Slaughter’s Yankee career wasn’t over. On Aug. 25, 1956, the Yankees claimed him off the waiver wire from the Athletics and released the future Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto. In the World Series that season, down two games to none, Slaughter’s three-run homer off the Dodgers’ Roger Craig led the Yankees to victory and a seven-game World Series win as Slaughter hit .350.
A few leftover pieces from that trade on from that boring day:
The Cardinals traded Slaughter to make room for the 24-year old outfielder Wally Moon, who in 1954 hit .304 and was named the National League rookie of the year, beating out Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron. After five seasons with the Cardinals, Moon was traded to the Dodgers and spent seven years with them and became famous for his “Moon Shots” clearing the 400-foot screen in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
In 1955, the key player the Yanks traded to the Cardinals for Slaughter, Bill Virdon, was also named the National League rookie of the year. Early in the 1956 season, Virdon was traded to the Pirates. In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, in the bottom of the eighth, with the Bucs trailing the Yankees by 7-4, Pirates center fielder Virdon hit a potential double-play ball that a hit a pebble and hit Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat and Pittsburgh went on to score five times. The Yanks rallied but the Pirates won the game and the Series on a walk-off homer from Bill Mazeroski. Virdon ended up as a manager for 13 seasons including two seasons in Pittsburgh and two seasons with the Yankees.
Slaughter ended his career in 1959, at 43, and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. He had a .300 lifetime batting average in 19 major league seasons and was a 10-time All-Star. He died in 2002 at the age of 86.
Just a story that began on a so-called boring day.