Hoyt Wilhelm is best remembered for being the first pitcher who was primarily a reliever to be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. What is often overlooked is that he was a part of the first trade in Kansas City Royals history.
Despite being 29 years old when he made his Major League debut, Hoyt Wilhem put together an excellent career. By the end of the 1968 season, at age 46, he had made four All Star Games, led the league in ERA twice, and even threw a no hitter. Even at his advanced age, he was still one of the better relievers in the game, capable of shutting down the opposition with the game on the line.
Nonetheless, the Chicago White Sox left Wilhelm unprotected in the 1969 Expansion Draft. The move made sense; after all, how many expansion teams would be looking to bringing in reliever in his late 40s onto their roster? Well, as it turned out, the Kansas City Royals did just that, drafting Wilhelm with the 49th pick of the draft.
However, Wilhelm was not destined to wear the powder blue. On this day in 1968, the Royals traded the veteran closer, sending him to the Angels. In exchange, they received catcher Ed Kirkpatrick and backup catcher/outfielder Dennis Paepke.
While Wilhelm posted an excellent 2.47 ERA and a 0.923 WHiP for the Angels, he did not last in California for long. The Angels traded Wilhelm in September, sending him to the Braves for Clint Compton and Mickey Rivers. This would mark the beginning of Wilhelm’s time as a baseball vagabond, bouncing around until he ended his career with the Dodgers.
Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, was the answer for the Royals at catcher. He was the starting catcher for Kansas City during their first five seasons, producing a .248/.334/.390 batting line, and hitting 56 home runs. While that line may not impress, it was during an era of low batting numbers, and was worth an OPS+ of 105.
It certainly made sense for the Royals to part with Wilhelm, although he still had plenty left in his arm. In getting a young catcher that could be a part of the future, and a building block, Kansas City found a way to turn Wilhelm into a long term asset.
Hoyt Wilhelm still had a couple of solid years left, and even made an All Star Team in 1970. However, that would not happen with the Kansas City Royals, who sent him to the Angels in the first trade in franchise history.