NEW YORK TIMES 1971
NEW YORK-The Mets finally gave up on Nolan Ryan’s wandering fastball today. They traded the 24-year-old pitcher and three prospects to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi, six times the American League’s all-star shortstop. Manager Gil Hodges immediately said he would move Fregosi to third base, where 45 men have come and gone during the Mets’ 10 seasons in business.
“You always hate to give up on an arm like Ryan’s,” Hodges said today. “He could put things together overnight, but he hasn’t done it for us and the Angels wanted him. I would not hesitate making a trade for somebody who might help us right now, and Fregosi is such a guy.”
In order to get the 29-year-old infielder, the Mets sent California the outfielder Leroy Stanton, pitcher Don Rose and catcher Francisco Estrada in addition to Ryan. Harry Dalton, who left the Baltimore Orioles in October to become general manager of the California team, praised Fregosi for his 11 seasons with the Angels but said: “We picked up one of baseball’s best arms in Ryan. We know of his control problems, but he had the best arm in the National League and, at 24, he is just coming into his own. Stanton figures to give us some of the right-handed power we need, and Rose and Estrada both have a chance to make our club.”
“Only one of the four would have been with the Mets next season, and that was Ryan,” said Bob Scheffing, the general manager of the Mets. “I don’t think Stanton could have beaten out our other outfielders, and we have run out of options on him. As for Ryan, I really can’t say I quit on him. But we’ve had him three full years and, although he’s a hell of a prospect, he hasn’t done it for us. How long can you wait? I can’t rate him in the same category with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Gary Gentry.”
Ryan has been striking out one batter every inning since he signed with the Mets out of Alvin, Tex., in 1965. In three more or less full seasons with the varsity, he struck out 493 batters in 510 innings. Last season, he fanned 137 in 152, including 16 San Diego Padres on May 29, the most all year for any National League pitcher. Going into July, in fact, he had eight victories and four defeats and appeared to have found himself as well as home plate. But then he became as wild as a March hare, lost 10 of the next 12, walked nine St. Louis Cardinals in one game and 116 batters in all 30 games-both club records for wildness.
Fregosi, the last of the original Angels of 1961, was having his own problems meanwhile. He suffered from the flu, a sore arm, a strained muscle in his side and a tumor on his foot. He hit only .233 with five home runs, a marked comedown from 1970, when he hit .278 with 22 home runs.
The Mets’ trade of Nolan Ryan for the California Angels’ Jim Fregosi was unquestionably the worst in baseball history. Ryan went on to throw seven no-hitters (see May 1) and become the greatest strikeout pitcher of all time. Fregosi, on the downside of his career, batted .232.