Bad Trades Cost Cubs 1970 Pennant

Last Updated On: July 17, 2021
The Cubs followed up their disastrous trade of Oscar Gamble by an even worse one, trading relief pitcher Ted Abernathy (above).

After coming oh-so-close to winning the National League championship in 1969, the Chicago Cubs were poised to finally win it all in 1970. But two terrible and unnecessary player trades made them come up short once again. The details are in my book The Forgotten 1970 Chicago Cubs: Go and Glow, recently published by The History Press.

A Bad Gamble Trading Gamble

Finding a regular center-fielder had been a problem for the Cubs in 1969, but in September they solved the problem by bringing up Oscar Gamble. They already were set in right field with Jim Hickman. But then they made a ridiculous deal, trading Gamble, along with starting pitcher Dick Selma, to the Philadelphia Phillies for fading right fielder John Callison.

Suddenly, they no longer had a center-fielder, had a hole in their starting pitching rotation, and two right fielders. The result was disarray, slow-footed outfielders who let plenty of potential outs drop in as hits, and the lack of a fourth starting pitcher that cost them plenty of games.

Gamble became one of the top sluggers of the 1970s and 1980s—the best player on the South Side Hit Men Chicago White Sox of 1977--while Selma became one of the top relief pitchers in baseball in 1970. Callison ended up being a part-time player for the Cubs and was gone from the team within two years.

Dear Abby, Why Were You Traded?

In addition, during the season the Cubs traded relief pitcher Ted Abernathy, who became one of the top bullpen stars in the American League that year and the next, while the Cub bullpen struggled.

Without those two trades, the Cubs would have made the World Series in 1970. They literally should have done nothing in the trading mart, and they would have been fine.

The story of bad trades is only one of the interesting topics I cover in The Forgotten 1970 Chicago Cubs: Go and Glow. The book also details the story of Ernie Banks’s 500th home run, the addition of the basket around the outfield walls, good trades for fan favorite players Joe Pepitone and Milt Pappas, how Manager Leo Durocher’s radio show caused clubhouse chaos, death threats against third baseman Ron Santo, outfielders Billy Williams’s and Jim Hickman’s best season, the great Cub pitching rotation, the Cubs’ tightest pennant race of the last 80 years, and statistical and computer analyses of how the Eastern Division Cubs would have done playing in the Western Division, and in the playoffs and World Series.

Get The Book

The Forgotten 1970 Chicago Cubs: Go and Glow, published by The History Press of Charleston, SC, is available at

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