Worst Sports Decisions since Babe Ruth was Sold to the Yankees

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A Brief History

On December 26, 1919, the owner of the Boston Red Sox gave the owner of the New York Yankees probably the greatest Christmas gift in history when he sold Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player of all time to him.  Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was said to have needed money to finance a play and so sold Ruth for only $100,000 in cash and a $350,000 loan.

Digging Deeper

The Red Sox had won the 1918 World Series and would not win another until 2004, often said to be because of “The Curse of the Bambino.”  With both his terrific pitching as well as his unprecedented power hitting, Ruth had helped the Sox win 3 World Series while he played for them.  Needless to say, the name Harry Frazee is not known in Boston as being synonymous with, say, Albert Einstein.

Other teams have also made sports blunders, as have individual athletes.  Some that come to mind include when the Cleveland Browns immediately traded for Ernie Davis, the first player picked in the draft of 1962 and the #1 draft pick of the Washington Redskins, only to have him never play in a game due to leukemia.   Running the ball for the Browns, Davis, the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, would have made an incredible compliment to Jim Brown.  The Browns are not known for making good first round draft picks, with notable blunders being Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Steve Holden, Tommy Vardell, Mike Junkin, Braylon Edwards, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, among others.  Update: Some other poorly considered draft choices by the Browns include Johnny “Johnny Football” Manziel taken in the first round of the 2014 Draft.  Compounding the blunder was taking Justin Gilbert in the same first round of the 2014 draft, an even higher pick than Manziel.  Both players were gone from the Browns after 2 futile years of trying to get these 2 guys to behave and be productive players, a colossal waste of 2 high draft picks.  



The Browns proved they were not done blundering when they traded Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield (perhaps the best blocking wide receiver of his day) to the Miami Dolphins in order to get the rights to Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps who had been drafted third overall by the Dolphins.  Phipps was a dud, and the Browns have not won a championship since.  Compounding the blunder, the Browns traded away both a stellar running back and a lineman in order to get receiver Homer Jones from the New York Giants to take Warfield’s place.  Jones did not play well for the Browns and retired after only one year.

It truly seems that the Cleveland Browns have had their share of “oops” moments when making sports decisions.  In 1980, the coach decided against Don Cockroft kicking an easy field goal to get the Browns closer to the Super Bowl and instead had Brian Sipe throw a pass that got intercepted, ending their hopes.  This play, known as “Red Right 88,” is burned into Browns fans memories.

This blundering has also extended to other sports in Cleveland.  In basketball, the Cavaliers’ signing of Walt Frazier after the 1977 season paid small dividends for only the first year when “Clyde” Frazier scored an average of 16.2 ppg, but then he missed most of the next year, and in his last season with the Cavs, he made only a total of 4 baskets in 3 games.  He moped around and claimed injury, which the coach did not believe.  What a waste.  The Cavs have not won a title, and Frazier is in the Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget the Cleveland Indians baseball team, especially when they traded super popular Rocky Colavito, the 1959 American League (AL) home run champ, for Harvey Kuenn, the 1959 AL batting champ.  Unfortunately, Harvey did not shine for the tribe.  Years later, the Indians also made pitcher and free agent Wayne Garland the highest paid player ever (at that point) when they signed him after he had won 20 games for the Orioles in 1976.  After he posted a record of only 28 wins against 48 losses,  the Indians let him go only 5 years into his 10-year contract.

But Cleveland is not alone.  How about the Boston Celtics drafting of Lenny Bias as the second overall pick of the 1986 draft, only to have him die two days later of a cocaine-induced heart attack?  We will not even begin to discuss the hiring of Dennis Miller to call Monday Night Football games as the horrendousness of that decision is self evident.

The final really, really bad decision highlighted in this article is the insistence of the owners of the Washington National Football League (NFL) franchise to persist in calling the team the Redskins.  The measure of whether or not an epithet is a racial slur is whether or not the parties to whom that name refers are offended.  Native Americans are offended, so there it is guys, change the racist name!

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.