On June 15, 1964, with his team enjoying an off day, Cubs second baseman Joey Amalfitano heard a knock on the door of his apartment.
Old pal Ernie Broglio was there with a suitcase and a smile, which baffled Amalfitano because his former minor league roommate pitched for the Cardinals and the Phillies were next on the Cubs’ schedule.
“I said, ‘What in the world are you doing here?’ Ernie said, ‘I just got traded to the Cubs for Lou Brock,” Amalfitano recalled. “It was a huge surprise. I couldn’t believe it.”
Fifty years later, the shock has worn off in Chicago but some people still struggle believing the Cubs traded a future Hall of Famer for a veteran pitcher who only won seven games in three injury-plagued seasons on the North Side. Considered one of the worst baseball deals ever, Brock-for-Broglio shares a chapter in Cubs lore with tortured tales of the Billy Goat and Bartman. The standard by which all bad trades are measured remains a touchy topic for die-hards – but not for the man whose name still can make a Cubs fan cringe.
“It’s always nice to talk about that trade,” Broglio, 78, said with a chuckle from his home in San Jose, Calif. “I don’t mind. At least they remember who I am.”
Broglio never will forget the day he got the news that the Cardinals traded him, reliever Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens to the Cubs for Brock, reliever Jack Spring and minor leaguer Paul Toth. In Houston to play the Colt .45s, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane informed the 28-year-old who won 21 games in 1960 he was changing teams. Coming off an 18-8 season in 1963, Broglio never envisioned leaving St. Louis – especially to join the Cubs. He hated day games.
“I was a little bit upset because I wanted to finish my career with the Cardinals,” Broglio said.
Broglio’s frustration paled in comparison to the reaction of Cardinals fans, who didn’t immediately view Brock as the catalyst to a run that culminated with the 1964 World Series title.
“They wanted to run our GM Bing Devine out of town at first,” said Mike Shannon, a Cardinals star from 1962-70 and the team’s longtime broadcaster. “But as players, we knew the possibility of Lou.”
Brock, a promising 25-year-old speedster who would finish his career with 3,023 hits and as the all-time leader in stolen bases, had fallen out of favor with Cubs head coach Bob Kennedy. Years later critics speculated the Cubs traded Brock to adhere to an unwritten rule in the early 1960s limiting the number of African-Americans on baseball rosters to four. But the Tribune reported the day after the deal that Kennedy had become “irritated by … Brock’s erratic outfield play and unsound base running.”
In the June 16, 1964, edition, Tribune reporter Richard Dozer looked prescient playing it straight. Dozer wrote: “But possessed of tremendous speed, Brock could prove to be a sound investment for the Cardinals.”
In contrast – in retrospect – the Chicago Daily News got it so wrong they should have considered printing a retraction.
“Thank you, thank you, oh, you lovely St. Louis Cardinals,” the Daily News gushed. “Nice doing business with you. Please call again any time.”
After receiving damaged goods, nobody would have blamed the Cubs for never calling the Cardinals again to make a deal. Only recently has Broglio publicly acknowledged how injured he was when traded. Did the Cubs know?
“No,” Broglio insisted. “Teams didn’t relinquish that kind of information in those days.”
Nobody ever will know whether the Cardinals knew the extent of damage to Broglio’s elbow; none of the executives involved are alive. But Broglio suspects the injury occurred late in the 1963 season and he required cortisone shots between starts in ‘64, though he kept the pain private. His 3-5 record in early June suggested something was wrong.
“Even with our own doctors, Ernie wouldn’t say anything because you played through it,” Shannon said. “That’s just how it was back then. Ernie was a real good pitcher.”
The Cubs never saw that pitcher. The team shut down Broglio in August after the elbow issues had become intolerable. Three months later, Broglio had his ulnar nerve reset in a procedure similar to what today is known as Tommy John surgery.
“I spent three weeks in the hospital and was throwing at spring training in February because that’s the way it was those days,” Broglio said. “I’m sure that cut my career short.”
The right-hander with the great curveball who went 70-55 with the Cardinals posted a lousy 7-19 record with the Cubs until the injury forced his retirement in 1966.
“A different pitcher altogether,” Broglio said. “After the trade my elbow was bothering me and I was laid-back. I didn’t challenge hitters anymore.”
If Broglio doesn’t embrace the infamy, he accepts it good-naturedly. For years as a pitching instructor in the Bay Area, when they introduced Broglio at clinics “they never mentioned I won 21 games, only the trade.” He enjoyed going to St. Louis last winter for a gathering of former Cardinals celebrating the ‘64 championship that he contributed to directly (winning three games) and indirectly (being traded for Brock). Laughing, Broglio recalled a 1987 Old-Timers game at Wrigley Field when he and Brock were teammates and the crowd booed his introduction. The men whose names are intertwined by a transaction became friends, with Brock inviting Broglio to his 70th birthday party in 2009.
“They asked me to say a few words,” Broglio said. “So I got up and said that when the Cardinals made the trade, they obviously went for youth.”
For a guy who wouldn’t trade his unique place in baseball history, retracing some infamous steps to Chicago surprisingly never gets old.