If you’re a sports fan, you’ve no doubt seen some outrageous trades among various professional teams through the years. At times, fans are left scratching their heads over seemingly ridiculous transactions between owners or general managers.
One such “head scratcher” and perhaps the most notorious trade in sports history occurred in 1919 when the Boston Red Sox traded their star player, Babe “The Bambino” Ruth, to the Yankees in exchange for $100,000 cash and a $300,000 loan to help Red Sox owner Harry Frazee make payment on Fenway Park. For the finance folks out there, that $100,000 in 1919 would be the equivalent to $1,457,491 today. Still seems pretty modest in light of all Babe Ruth would go on to achieve.
To give you a little perspective, the Red Sox had won five of the first fifteen World Series titles. Babe Ruth was a key player in the 1916 and 1918 championship years. After the trade, the Yankees would go on to win four World Series titles and seven American League Pennants with the Babe.
And the Red Sox? They would win nothing for Beantown during that same stretch. In fact, the Red Sox would go 86 years before winning their next title in 2004. This long championship drought was referred to as “The Curse of the Bambino.”
Before the trade, the Yankees didn’t win a single championship. After the trade, they won an astounding 26 World Series titles in that same 86 year stretch. Talk about a change of direction!
Another “Notable” Trade
The year was 1980 and Star Wars was alive and well in the minds of kids everywhere. As a second grader in Ms. Tiltche’s class, I was constantly daydreaming about things like action figures and space ships. My buddy Chris and I would count down the seconds to the next recess where we could pull out Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in order to conquer the Myrtle Creek Elementary playground. But we weren’t the only kids in our class who owned these legendary action figures.
Michael was a classmate who was known to be a spoiled brat. If there was a toy every kid longed for, Michael most-likely owned it. Since I sat next to him, I was constantly in a state of envy as he described or showed off his latest gadget. One particular day, I noticed Michael open his desk and pull out a glorious sight…a Han Solo. But not just any Han Solo action figure. This was the coveted Han Solo in Hoth snow jacket!
At that moment, time stood still. Jealousy filled my seven year-old mind as I gazed at the beauty of this piece of rubberized plastic. I’m positive Smeagol from Lord of the Rings would have been proud as I practically uttered the words, “my precious.”
That evening, I hatched a plan to have Han Solo in my possession the next day (insert evil laugh here). It would come in the form of a trade. Remember those bulky envelopes families across America received in the mail from Publisher’s Clearing House? Those envelopes contained several sheets of stamps with magazine images on them. These worthless stamps would be the “currency” I would use in order to get the ‘object’ of my desire.
Here’s how the dirty deal went down that next day…
Me: “Hey Michael, wanna make a trade?”
Michael: “What kinda trade?”
Me: (Pulling out my stack of stamps) “I’m willing to give you ALL these cool stamps for your Han Solo.”
Michael: “Hmm…I guess that sounds like a pretty good trade.”
Me: “Sure it’s a good trade. You’ll get hundreds of these stamps.”
Michael: “Ok, it’s a trade!”
And that, my friends, is how I snookered “Mr. Spoiled Brat.”
Michael proceeded to lick every last one of those stamps and stick them all over his desk for decoration. By the time he finished, his desk was one big Publisher’s Clearing House stamp. All was well…until the next day.
One by one, each stamp began to slowly peel and eventually fall to the floor like a solitary snowflake. Poor Michael could only watch in horror. As each stamp fell, the realization hit him like a ton of bricks. Looking over at me, he yelled, “You cheated me!” Michael then proceeded to call Ms. Tiltche to the scene. “We traded fair & square”, I replied.
After analyzing all of the evidence and hearing from several witnesses, our beloved old-school teacher yielded a verdict…
“The trade must stand!”
I’m not sure I can describe the feelings I had in that moment. On one hand, I had just pulled off the trade of a lifetime. On the other hand, my second grade conscience knew full well how shady this deal was. Perhaps I reaped what I had sown when less than two weeks later I somehow lost my ‘precious.’
Trading Our Birthright
Tucked away in Genesis 25:27-34 is the story of one of the most outrageous trades in history. Jacob and Esau were brothers with Esau being the firstborn son of Isaac. As Esau returned from one of his routine hunting trips, he was absolutely famished with hunger. As he entered the house, he could smell the rich aroma of Jacob’s homemade red bean soup. “Give me some of that soup bro!”
At that moment, the wheels (and deals) began to turn in Jacob’s head. “Sure”, Jacob replied. “But I’m gonna need that birthright of yours…sound like a fair trade?”
The only way to explain what happened next is shear insanity. The fact that Esau agreed to Jacob’s trade should give us a glimpse of how loudly his stomach was crying out in that moment. If only poor Esau knew of the acronym HALT which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. We’re told it’s not wise to make big decisions while experiencing those symptoms. Jacob took full advantage of Esau’s vulnerability and thus completed one of the most lopsided trades in history.
But before we make fun of Esau, we need to look at all the moments we’ve been on the losing end of a lopsided trade. How many times have we been enticed by the sweet aroma of sin only to realize we’ve been snookered? We trade our Han Solo birthright for the cheap Publishers Clearing House stamps of the world. We want the instant gratification of that tasty bowl of stew over the endless delicacies that await us in the House of the Lord.
I’ve certainly made some poor trades through the years. How about you?
There’s yet another trade in history that actually deserves the title of “most lopsided.” It occurred nearly two thousand years ago when the Son of God traded his righteousness for our sin…
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21
We’d be fools to turn down that trade offer. Jesus signed the contract with his own blood in order to purchase rights to our lives.
Red Sox to the Yankees overnight. And the rest, they say, is history.