As a long-suffering Cubs fan, the first thing that pops into my mind when the topic is infamous baseball trades is Brock for Broglio in '64. Actually, it was Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth for the Cardinals' Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz.
Lou Brock went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals. In three seasons with the Cubs, Ernie Broglio won seven games and lost 19.
I also think of Jim Bouton being traded from the Seattle Pilots to Houston for Dooley Womack in 1969.
It has been awhile since I have read "Ball Four," and whereas I remember Bouton's reaction being "You mean the Dooley Womack?" when he heard the news, what he actually said is, "Maybe it's me for $100,000 and Dooley Womack is just a throw-in. I hate to think at this stage of my career I was being traded even-up for Dooley Womack."
But did you know that former Eldorado High and UNLV star Eric Ludwick once was traded for the Mark McGwire?
It happened on July 31, 1997. Ludwick was with the Cardinals, who were playing in Philadelphia when the bullpen phone rang. Get Ludwick up. And so Ludwick got up, which he thought strange, because it was early and Matt Morris had allowed only one run.
What they really said was to get Ludwick on the phone. He had just been traded to Oakland along with another former UNLV pitcher, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein for Big Mac.
Imagine being traded for Mark McGwire. The first thing I would do is walk into a bar, and when some guy started blowing hard about what a great ballplayer he was, I'd ask if he ever was traded for Mark McGwire. And then I'd tell him to shut up, so I could hear the ballgame, and after it was over I'd leave with his girlfriend.
But here's the thing about Eric Ludwick: He doesn't like to talk about himself. He doesn't like to talk about pitching in the big leagues, about actually making it that far when so few do.
According to a website called Book of Odds, the odds of a boy born in the U.S. who plays baseball in high school and then in the minor leagues is 1 in 11,437. When you add in the shortstops from the Dominican Republic, it's probably twice that.
And yet, there is nothing - no scuffed baseball commemorating his first game, no jersey hanging on the wall, not so much as an empty pouch of Red Man - in his office in the finance department at Findlay Toyota that would suggest Eric Ludwick even set foot on the hallowed ground of Busch Stadium, or whatever they're calling the Oakland Coliseum these days - or even Pro Player Stadium in Miami and SkyDome in Toronto, when he was with the Marlins and the Blue Jays.
(Ludwick also spent two years in the Japanese Central League with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, who played in Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, which was sort of hallowed ground in that it stood across from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.)
Eric Ludwick, who recently turned 40 and now plays softball for fun, said he used to have some of his baseball stuff up. But he took it down, because then people mostly wanted to talk about the glory days, like in that Bruce Springsteen song, when he'd rather talk about a 36-month lease on a Camry or his kid brother, Ryan, who belted 26 homers for the Cincinnati Reds this season in 422 at-bats.
The only baseball photo on display in Eric Ludwick's cubicle is one of Ryan hitting a game-winning home run for the Cardinals in 2007, a year before he hit 37 homers, drove in 113 runs and made the National League All-Star team.
In fact, Eric spent about 35 minutes of our 45-minute conversation talking about Ryan. Getting him to talk about himself was like hitting against Nolan Ryan when his curveball was working. He said he was injured a lot - like when Wally Joyner hit a line drive right at him and it broke his arm. But his biggest misgiving about pitching in the bigs was not developing the confidence to consistently get guys like Wally Joyner - or like his kid brother, Ryan - out.
Eric Ludwick had a 97 mph fastball but always was looking over his shoulder, thinking somebody was going to take his place. When that happens, it isn't long before somebody does, what with 90 percent of baseball being half mental, or whatever Yogi Berra said. And then you're pitching every sixth day in Japan and fielding sacrifice bunts, even when the other team is up six runs.
So whereas Mark McGwire went on to hit 70 home runs and became a star with a giant asterisk, Eric Ludwick had a parenthetical major league career. He pitched in 31 games, two of which he won, 10 of which he lost.
But he was traded with two others for the Mark McGwire, and how many guys can say that? He was the 1 in the 1 in 11,437. The one who dreamed the dream, and then saw it come true.
Eric Ludwick could throw that speedball by you and make you look like a fool, even if he'd rather not talk about it.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.