Today in Tribe History: March 21, 1959

Cleveland and Detroit swap outfielders, as Indians general manager Frank Lane sends future Hall of Famer Larry Doby to the Tigers for Tito Francona.

Doby was at the end of his career and was the last representative of the Indians’ 1948 World Series team left on the roster, although he had just returned to the club a year prior after a two-year stay in Chicago with the White Sox. Doby was limited to 89 games in 1958 while hitting .283. He would play just 39 games in 1959 in his final Major League season, including 18 with Detroit before he was purchased back by the White Sox.

“A player at his age [34] can’t be discounted too much on what he fails to do during spring training,” Lane said at the time of the trade in a quote in the March 22, 1959, edition of The Plain Dealer. “He was trying hard and doing a good job. But we’re trying to build a younger, faster club and Francona fits in better than Doby.”

Francona joined his fourth Big League club in four years and did so just over a month before the birth of his son and future MLB player and manager, Terry. The elder Francona previously played a pair of seasons in Baltimore with the Orioles while finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1956 before splitting the 1958 season between the White Sox and Tigers organizations.

Francona made an impact immediately with the Tribe, hitting .363 in 122 games while finishing fifth in the MVP voting in his first season with the club. He spent six years representing the Indians, including an All-Star appearance in 1961, before he was purchased from the team by the St. Louis Cardinals. He also spent time with the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics, and Milwaukee Brewers.

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