T.R.’s Memoirs: Jim Sundberg, Texas Rangers great, reflects on stellar career (Part I)
(Photo courtesy of Jim Sundberg)
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.Com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter.
In the first of two parts, Sullivan sits down with Rangers legend Jim Sundberg to get the six-time Gold Glove catcher to reminisce about his distinguished 16-year career.
The best trade in Rangers history went down at the 1982 winter meetings in Honolulu.
The Rangers traded All-Star catcher Jim Sundberg to the Dodgers for pitchers Burt Hooten, Orel Hershiser and Dave Stewart, and minor-league outfielder Mark Bradley.
The Rangers had lost 98 games the year before and desperately needed a rebuild. Sundberg was 30 and still had four years left on a hefty six-year, $3.6 million contract. Young prospect Bobby Johnson was ready to take his place.
Hooten was an established starter, helping the Dodgers reach the World Series in 1977-78 and 1981, but Hershiser and Stewart were the real prizes. Hershiser later won the 1988 National League Cy Young Award and Stewart was a four-time Cy Young winner. Hershiser was the World Series MVP in 1988, and Stewart won the award for the Athletics in 1989.
This was a trade that could jump-start a badly needed rebuilding program by adding two outstanding young pitchers.
The problem was the contract, which was negotiated in 1980 and ran through the 1986 season. It was a complicated deal that began with the 1981 season and included deferred money to be paid in 1987-90, a no-trade clause and a $250,000 bonus if Sundberg was traded.
“Joe Klein was the GM and he told me that he was going to try and move me during the winter meetings,” Sundberg said. “This is what happened. I said, ‘You need to make sure they understand my contract. Whoever had my contract on the sixth year, paid [the deferred money]. So, half of the contract [depended] on the sixth year. I told Joe, ‘Make sure they understand the contract.’ So, they make the deal. The deal is done.”