It was 30 years ago today when longtime Yankee third baseman and two-time World Series Champion Graig Nettles was traded to the San Diego Padres for Dennis Rasmussen and a player to be named later (prospect Darin Cloinger).
There was a lot of drama leading up to the trade.
In the fall of 1982, George Steinbrenner said something that angered Nettles. The quote, “[Nettles] is in the twilight of his career, and if he never plays another game for me, he has earned more than what I have paid him.” Steinbrenner did have a point in the first part of that quote. Nettles was 38 years old and that is usually when a player’s career winds down but Nettles ended up playing until he was 44. Was it at a high level? Of course not but his numbers did improve a bit in 1983 after Steinbrenner had made that comment. Unfortunately, instead of just letting what Steinbrenner said roll off his back, Nettles never forgot it and by the time the 1984 season was set to begin, things had really deteriorated. Nettles was also unhappy because the Yankees had acquired Toby Harrah during the offseason and manager Yogi Berra had made it known that they planned on platooning Nettles with Harrah at third. Nettles also ruffled some feathers by showing up to Spring Training at the last possible minute and by writing a book called Balls that was not very complimentary toward Steinbrenner. The book didn’t come out until May 1984 but Steinbrenner got wind of it in March and then the trade happened.
I remember being pretty bummed about the trade because Graig Nettles was my first favorite player when I was a young girl and at the time, I had no idea about the off the field stuff that was happening. And looking back now, I’m both slightly amused and a little horrified by the fact that I am the same exact age Nettles was when that trade happened 30 years ago. He was 39, turning 40 in August and that’s where I am right now – our birthdays are only six days apart.
Despite what happened when he left the Yankees in 1984, Nettles remains a beloved member of the Yankee family. He appeared on Old Timer’s Day for many years and in 2004, helped Alex Rodriguez with his move from shortstop to third base when the latter joined the Yankees.
Nettles in his 11 year Yankee career put up a .253/.329/.433/.762 line with 250 home runs and 834 RBI. He also played tremendous defense. My dad loves to talk about Nettles’ performance in Game Three of the 1978 World Series. I think every Yankee fan who was around back then and still can remember what happened loves to talk about that game. I’m sure some of them even lie about being there.