In 1973, the Cardinals and Red Sox made headlines in the last week of October. Unlike 2013, the news wasn’t that they were World Series competitors. Instead, they were trade partners in a blockbuster deal some believed made both clubs World Series contenders.
“We’re happy, the St. Louis bunch is happy and I hope we’ll both be happy next September,” Red Sox executive Haywood Sullivan told the Associated Press.
The trade was made during the 1973 World Series between the Mets and Athletics and was announced five days after Oakland won the championship.
Smith and Wise were the key players. The Cardinals, who had the fewest home runs (75) in the National League in 1973, needed a power bat and Boston needed a starting pitcher to compete with the deep staffs of American League powerhouses, the Athletics and Orioles.
Smith had been a Cardinals nemesis in the 1967 World Series, hitting two home runs (one each off Nelson Briles and Dick Hughes).
Trouble in Boston
Though Smith, 28, a switch-hitter, had hit 149 home runs and batted .281 in eight seasons with Boston, he had worn out his welcome and was seeking a trade.
In his lead to the story about the deal, Howard Smith of the Associated Press wrote, “They won’t have Reggie Smith to kick around at Boston’s Fenway Park anymore.”
The wire service reported Smith “became the target of boos in Boston last August when he missed a pair of routine fly balls in the outfield. The fans felt Smith was loafing, but the outfielder said he couldn’t reach the balls because of bad knees. Smith angrily labeled Boston a ‘racist city’ and sat out for two weeks.”
In The Sporting News, Peter Gammons wrote of Smith, “The fans got on him this past season and he bitterly asked to be traded, knocking everyone in the city.
“He always was burdened with the pressure of becoming Boston’s first black (baseball) star, a role he could not fill. In his final year, he had become embittered with fans who got on him about his occasional lackadaisical play, had entanglements with teammates (most of whom were unsympathetic) and missed a month with injuries.”
Still, in 115 games for the 1973 Red Sox, Smith hit .303 with 21 home runs.
“Nobody can be a big home run hitter in our park (Busch Stadium),” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told The Sporting News, “but Smith should help our offense a lot.”
Ted Simmons and Joe Torre tied for the Cardinals’ 1973 season high in home runs, each with 13.
Wrote The Sporting News, “The addition of Smith should enable the Cardinals to lift some of the pressure off Ted Simmons especially and Joe Torre … All too often last season, especially when Torre was hurt or slumping, the enemy was able to pitch around Simmons.”
Wise, 28, had a 32-28 record, 3.24 ERA, 34 complete games and seven shutouts in two seasons with St. Louis after the Cardinals had acquired him from the Phillies for Steve Carlton. Wise was 16-16 for St. Louis in 1972 and 16-12 in 1973, when he started and won the All-Star Game for the National League.
The Red Sox wanted Wise to join a rotation that included Luis Tiant and Bill Lee.
“He is just one hell of a good pitcher,” Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson said of Wise.
Smith hit .309 with 23 home runs and 100 RBI for the 1974 Cardinals. In three seasons with St. Louis, Smith had a .293 batting mark, 50 homers and 199 RBI, but the Cardinals never won a title with him.
An arm injury limited Wise to nine starts and a 3-4 record for the 1974 Red Sox. But Wise won 19 for the Red Sox in 1975 and helped them win the American League pennant. He was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series when Carlton Fisk hit his dramatic walkoff home run against the Reds. In four seasons with Boston, Wise was 47-32 with a 3.96 ERA.