The 1953 New York Giants finished in fifth place, a distant 35 games behind the pennant winning Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants won only 70 of their 154 games.

Offense was not the Giants’ problem; they finished second to the Dodgers, averaging 4.95 runs a game.  

Pitching was another story.

The Giants’ 4.25 team ERA was only fifth best, while their WHIP of 4.74 was the sixth best in the eight team league.

Twenty-five year old Ruben Gomez was the Giants’ top pitcher, going 13-11 with a 3.40 ERA, a 128 ERA+, and a 1.309 WHIP.  Gomez allowed only 166 hits in 204 innings, but he allowed 101 walks with only 113 strikeouts.

No other New York starter finished with a win-loss record above .500.  

Something had to be done.

On Feb. 1, 1954, Giants’ owner Horace Stoneham and Milwaukee Braves’ general manager, John Quinn, announced a blockbuster trade.

The Giants’ sent Bobby Thomson, the player who hit the most dramatic home run in baseball history, along with second-string catcher Sam Calderone, to the Braves in exchange for the services of bonus baby left-hander Johnny Antonelli, 28-year-old left-hander Don Liddle, veteran catcher Ebba St. Claire and utility infielder Billy Klaus.

It took guts to trade the popular Thomson, who was stunned, but Bobby quickly regained his composure.

“How do I like it? Why great. What ball player wouldn’t like being traded to a club that everybody considers a red-hot pennant contender?  Naturally, I do feel sorry having to leave New York. However, it’s part of baseball to be traded, and this switch I think will do me a lot of good. It was tough keeping up one’s spirit with things breaking so badly for the Giants last year.”

Thomson was coming off a fine 1953 season, batting .288 with 26 home runs, 106 RBIs, a .338 on base average, and a .472 slugging average.

A fascinating sidelight is that veteran baseball writer John Drebinger wrote that Thomson batted “only” .288.

Giants’ manager Leo Durocher and Thomson hadn’t seen eye-to-eye on many occasions during the season, and when Stoneham signed Durocher to manager for the next two seasons, it was felt that Thomson might be traded.

It turned out that the 23-year-old Antonelli was the key to the deal. In 1953, he went 12-12, with a 3.18 ERA, a 124 ERA+, and a 1.357 WHIP, but he had great potential.

In 1948, the Boston Braves had given Antonelli $75,000 to sign. After two nondescript seasons, Johnny served in the military for two years. He rejoined the Braves, who were now in Milwaukee, for the 1953 season.

The trade with the Braves promised the chance for an improved 1954 season, but an even greater reason it was believed that the Giants might contend, was that a young center fielder was returned from the Army.

Everyone in the Giants’ community was looking forward to seeing Willie Mays roam the huge expanses of center field in the Polo Grounds.



By JOHN DREBINGER. (1954, February 2). Giants Trade Thomson to Braves; ’51 Pennant Hero in 6-Player Deal: Giants Trade Thomson, Hero of Pennant Victory in 1951, to Milwaukee NEW YORKERS GET ANTONELLI, LIDDLE Players in Deal Between Polo Grounders and Braves. New York Times(1923-Current file),p. 1. Retrieved November 4, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007). (Document ID: 84098664).

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