Joel Youngblood: Let’s Play Two

Joel Youngblood: Let’s Play Two

August 4, 1982

Stuck in a platoon with Ellis Valentine in right field, Mets utilityman Joel Youngblood had clamored throughout the 1982 season that if he didn’t have a regular job, he wanted to be traded. But Youngblood’s contract was due to expire after the season, and despite his long tenure with the club the Mets looked to get some value in return before he left as a free agent.

Youngblood got his wish in August, when he was dealt to Montreal for pitcher Tom Gorman during an afternoon game in Chicago — just in time for him to join his new team in Philadelphia that evening. In doing so, he became the only major league baseball player to get a hit for two different teams in two cities in the same day.

Youngblood’s day began at Wrigley Field, where he started in center field for the Mets. (Mookie Wilson was out of the lineup with a tight leg muscle.) In the third, Youngblood broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run, bases-loaded single off Cubs’ starter Ferguson Jenkins. But in the fourth, Youngblood was told that he had been traded to the Montreal Expos for a player to be named later. He packed his bags in the clubhouse and left the stadium.

As Youngblood headed to Philadelphia, the Mets cruised to a 7-4 win behind the pitching of starter Craig Swan, who allowed three runs in six innings and hit the first home run of his ten-year career. The Mets also tied a team record by stealing six bases in the game, including two by third baseman Hubie Brooks.

Youngblood arrived at Veterans Stadium during the third inning of the Expos-Phillies game. Later he described the surreal nature of attending two games in one day: “I heard in the third inning that I was traded. I made plane reservations [with] minutes to spare. I had dinner in the plane and caught a cab here. It’s funny, I left there in the third and got here in the third.”

Montreal skipper Jim Fanning didn’t hesitate to use Youngblood, who made his Expos debut in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement for right fielder Jerry White. In his only at-bat, he singled off of Phillies’ left-hander Steve Carlton. Youngblood’s effort would go to waste as the Expos lost 5-4. Carlton became the majors’ first fifteen-game winner with his tenth consecutive complete game.

The trade spared Youngblood from a post-game tirade from Mets manager George Bamberger, who lambasted his team in a closed-door meeting in the Wrigley Field clubhouse. “This has nothing to do with Youngblood,” Bamberger said. “I told him that he had been super for us, and I hope he hits .350.”

Later, Mets GM Frank Cashen explained the strange timing of the trade. “We hoped to make the deal by game time,” Cashen told the New York Times. “But there was a phone circuit problem, and we couldn’t complete it. Bamberger asked me what to do with Youngblood, and I told him to go ahead and start him, we’d take a chance on his getting hurt.”

Youngblood was excited about the deal, despite the strange circumstances. “I knew something would happen sooner or later,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to play every day. Obviously, they [the Expos] want me to help them win the pennant.”

Indeed, Youngblood made an immediate impact in the Expos’ effort to catch the division-leading Phillies. The day after the trade, he drove in three runs as Montreal beat Philadelphia 9-2. But both teams faded down the stretch as the Cardinals emerged victorious in a tight race for the NL East title.

Youngblood’s final line? Two teams, two cities, two positions — and two hits.