Chiti Involved in Bizarre Indians Trade
Vince Guerrieri | On 18, Feb 2014
Although he never played an inning for the Indians, Harry Chiti was involved in one of the team’s strangest trades – and remains the answer to a trivia question.
Chiti, a journeyman catcher who’d bounced around the majors with stints with the Cubs, Athletics, Tigers and Orioles, was dealt to the Indians after the 1961 season with Art Kay and Ray Barker. In return, the O’s got Johnny Temple, whose claim to fame was being part of the decision that did away with fan voting for All-Star players. Temple and six other Cincinnati Reds were elected to start in 1957, thanks to a ballot-stuffing campaign by Reds fans. Commissioner Ford Frick left Temple on the team, but removed Wally Post and made Gus Bell a reserve, and replaced them as starters with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
But the Indians catcher in 1962 was Johnny Romano, backed up by future Tribe manager Doc Edwards. Chiti was expendable – and the major leagues were continuing to expand. In 1961, American League teams began play in Los Angeles and Washington, and in 1962, National League teams were added in New York and Houston.
Former Yankees manager Casey Stengel was hired to manage the New York team, called the Mets, and emphasized the importance of having a catcher, saying, “You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.”
Chiti was sold to the Mets, where he played in 15 games, going 8-for-41. He was competing for playing time with Hobie Landrith, with whom he shared backstop duties with the Cubs throughout the 1950s.
The Mets saved the receipt for Chiti, and ended up selling him back to the Indians about six weeks later – making him the proverbial rent-a-player.
“I realized what happened when the Mets sent me to Jacksonville (an Indians farm team),” Chiti said in a 1986 interview. “And I sure do keep hearing about it.”
Chiti never played in the majors again, but knocked around the minor leagues until 1965. He ended up in Tennessee, where he served as a deputy sheriff. Chiti died in 2002.
Harry’s son Dom was drafted by the Atlanta Braves, but arm problems prevented him from playing in the major leagues. When his playing career ended, he became a coach and spent 12 years in the Indians organization, from 1989 to 2001, including serving as bullpen coach in 1992-1993. He was named the bullpen coach for the Orioles for the upcoming season.