The 1968 Expansion Draft


On October 14, 1968, representatives for the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres met at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal for what could later be thought of as the ultimate rotisserie baseball draft. The next day, the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots met at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston for the same purpose. Each team would draft 60 players from teams in their respective leagues to field their teams for the 1969 baseball season. The established clubs protected fifteen players on its 40-man roster prior to the first round. The two drafts lasted six rounds, each round consisting of five picks for each expansion club, with each established club losing one player. After each round, the established teams could protect three other players. The Padres and Expos exchanged picks one after the other while the American League format allowed the team picking second in a round to pick two players. In the American League, each expansion team paid $175,000 for each player selected. The price for the National League expansion teams was $200,000 a player.

Giants outfielder Ollie Brown was the first player selected in the expansion drafts of 1968.
Giants outfielder Ollie Brown was the first player selected in the expansion drafts of 1968.

The first player selected was outfielder Ollie Brown by the San Diego Padres from the San Francisco Giants. Brown, nicknamed “Downtown”, had played parts of four seasons in San Francisco. As he later recalled, “I was wondering what I was doing there (in San Francisco). You’ve got Willie Mays playing the outfield and Jesus Alou and Bobby Bonds there as well. It didn’t seem like a good team to be with if you were an outfielder. I figured that once the Giants might put me on the expansion list, thought I might have a good chance of getting picked. But I had no idea I would be the first one picked. It came at a good time in my career because I got the chance to play on an everyday basis.” The Expos selected Manny Mota from the Dodgers with their first pick as each team went in different directions. The Padres focused on youth and the Expos selected big name veterans. The average age of the 30 players selected by San Diego was 24 years old. The Padres made some waves with their next choice: pitcher Dave Guisti from the St. Louis Cardinals. Guisti had just been traded to St. Louis from Houston just three days earlier in exchange for catcher Johnny Edwards. In December, the Padres returned Guisti to the Cardinals in a trade that brought Ed Spezio, Ron Davis and two others to San Diego.

The Expos selected Pirates outfielder Manny Mota with their first pick. Montreal later tabbed two veterans who had hinted at retirement: Philadelphia pitcher Larry Jackson and Pittsburgh infielder Maury Wills. Immediately after the draft, Jackson, 37, announced his retirement. Though the Expos stated before the draft it would select a young team with perhaps one or two veterans “to tie the kids together,” Montreal actually picked a much older club. A veteran starting lineup that would average 29 years old. “It just worked out that way,” said General Manager Jim Fanning. “We tried many trial drafts, one going for the best young pitchers, another for the best club, another for the most power. As it worked out, if we had gone for the best young pitchers as San Diego did, some good talent would have got away.” The Expos apparently changed course during the draft because of some surprising Interestingly, the Expos changed course by mid-season by trading most of their drafted established players and committing to youth. Fanning stated the Expos got the man they wanted with each of their first seven picks, then happily discovered players such as Wills, Jackson and Larry Jaster left unprotected after that. “You never can tell with prospects,” Fanning said. “A youngster deemed sure to make it won’t several times more than he will.”

The following day in Boston, the Kansas City Royals selected pitcher Roger Nelson from the Baltimore Orioles as the first player in the American League expansion draft. Like the Expos, the Seattle Pilots drafted experienced players, and took first baseman Don Mincher from the California Angels and Tommy Harper from the Cleveland Indians with the next two picks. In fact, Seattle had stocked up on backup players like Mike Hegan, Jose Vidal, Marv Staehle, and Jim Bouton the previous summer. Though Kansas City went with youth, the club did select the only future Hall of Famer taken in an expansion draft: then 46-year-old knuckle ball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm from the Chicago White Sox. However within two months, the Royals traded Wilhelm to the Angels for long-time Royal Ed Kirkpatrick and Dennis Paepke. Boosted by an all-time American League record of 7,022 season tickets, the Royals kept spending after the draft. Kansas City purchased the contracts of outfielder Dave Nicholson and first baseman Chuck Harrison from Richmond of the International League., and outfielder George Spriggs from Pittsburgh.

One of the biggest urban myths to come out of this expansion draft was that the Yankees left Mickey Mantle unprotected! Though he had not yet retired and the Yankees publicly stated it was unthinkable for Mickey as anything other than a Yankee, New York gambled and did not protect Mantle on its first list of 15 players. According to Brian Cronin’s article linked above, the Yankees got AL President Joe Cronin to pressure the Royals and Pilots not to select Mantle. The clubs agreed because there were two Yankee prospects also not on the protected list: infielders Bobby Murcer and Jerry Kenney. However prior to the draft, the rules changed and players currently in military service were also protected. According to Cronin, that impromptu rule change angered Royals owner Ewing Kauffman to take Mantle with the first pick. (Think of the irony of that! Mantle to Kansas City after Kansas City served like a farm team to the Yankees during Mantle’s career) But the concern of wasting a pick for a player who could retire (as Larry Jackson did) won out at the end of the day.

Replay, Interrupted

Just as the 1968 baseball season was nearly derailed by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and then by the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and nearly again by the turmoil of the Democratic National Convention, my replay has plodded along. Just like that season, that year, that seemed as if it would never end. As the reader may suspect, my own reality has interrupted this alternate “second time through the order” of the Year of the Pitcher. But also my involvement in other baseball projects. First, The Hall of Fame Baseball League, a Diamond Mind Baseball league established in 1995 that allows owners to draft nearly any player in baseball history. Since November, I have taken over an franchise and participated in a player and an annual draft. My team is built around 1980 George Brett and 1982 Robin Yount. The camaraderie of the 48 owners is great and the league is a semi-daily routine. Spring training games start soon. The second project will be my participation in Jeff Polman’s latest creation : Mysteryball ’58 as I attempted to guide the 1958 Cincinnati Redlegs’ season to a more successful conclusion than in reality. Jeff weaves a tale like no other and I’ve been a fan since picking up his 1924 replay late in that season. That story was so enjoyable and well researched. It has been made into a book now available on Amazon!

Meanwhile, the replays of the 1968 baseball and football seasons continue. It has been ironic as my posts lessened, the traffic has increased. The same of late with Twitter: fewer tweets, more followers? I really enjoy the comments and emails from those who discover my project and inform me that a team did not win that game or that a score is incorrect. If you do stumble upon the site while researching using Google, it could be confusing. I merge actual events with my replay results, but the disclaimers are there. This site is based on my replays of baseball and football seasons: a second time through the order. So with less than six weeks remaining in the 1968 replay, the Tigers and Cardinals prepare for a replay World Series rematch, and the NFL and AFL reports will follow. Thank you to all who follow my replay projects and your patience during this off-season. And now for the most comforting words of all: Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Stay tuned and enjoy!

Remember the College All Star – NFL Preseason Game?

Syracuse's Larry Csonka is tackled by the Packer defense in the 1968 Chicago Charities College All-Star Game.
Syracuse’s Larry Csonka is tackled by the Packer defense in the 1968 Chicago Charities College All-Star Game.

In 1934, one year after creating baseball’s All Star Game, Arch Ward, sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, looked for a football equivalent of the All Star Game. The NFL was is its fledgling years and in need of some publicity. The result was a pre-season game that matched the defending NFL champion against a team of college all-stars. The game enjoyed initial success as it was the college game that held the public’s interest at the time. Red Grange and Sammy Baugh reached celebrity status during the playing days in college, not in the NFL. In 1947, the game drew an astounding 105,840 fans in attendance at Chicago’s Solider Field.

In the 1960’s, the game lessened in importance as salaries around the NFL increased. The College All Stars defeated the NFL champions (the AFL champion Jets and Chiefs did play this game in 1969 and 1970 respectively) nine times in the forty-one year history of the game (the game was not played in 1974 due to NFL player strike). The last victory was in 1963 as Wisconsin’s Ron VanderKelen led the collegians to a stunning 20-17 victory over Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. Interestingly, VanderKalen was undrafted before the game, but received a contract offer from the Vikings after the game.

Continue reading “Remember the College All Star – NFL Preseason Game?”

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