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Big League Stew

The first trade in baseball history took place 126 years ago today

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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Hugh Nicol and Jack Boyle

According to Baseball Reference's events calendar, today is the 126th anniversary of the first trade in baseball history.

The swap: The Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association sent rookie catcher Jack Boyle and the tidy sum of $400 to the St. Louis Browns for veteran outfielder Hugh Nicol.

The deal was first reported via telegraph by Tim Brown's great-great grandpappy and was instantly declared an abomination by town criers and pamphleteers in both cities. The rest of the baseball world, enamored by the birth of the hot stove season, turned its attention elsewhere five seconds later while wishing for a medium like Twitter that would break and then completely dispel trade rumors within the span of three minutes.

OK, so maybe I made that last part up. But details of baseball's first trade are so scarce that even the date of the transaction remains up for debate (some sites say it all went down on Nov. 12 instead of Nov. 15 and that the cash involved was $350, not $400).

It would appear, however, that the Red Stockings won the trade as Nicol would steal 321 bases over the next three seasons — including 138 in 1887! — while Boyle wouldn't really get his career going until a five-homer, 79-RBI season in 1891 that earned him a $5,500 contract with the New York Giants the following year. It was reported to be the highest salary in baseball history at the time and the New York tabloids responded by hounding him in print every day like they currently do A-Rod. (OK, I don't know that for sure, either.)

Whatever the case, you have Hugh Nicol and "Honest Jack" to thank for starting the trade market that will keep you warm this winter.

Are you ready for hot stove season?
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