Joe DiMaggio And Ted Williams Were Nearly Traded After A Drunk Conversation In 1947

The scotch flowed freely that night. Perhaps too freely. It was April, just before the start of the 1947 baseball season, and Tom Yawkey and Dan Topping were at Toots Shor's restaurant in midtown Manhattan, the place to be at the time where you were as likely to see Joe DiMaggio as Jackie Gleason or Frank Sinatra. While the food wasn't great, the drinks were strong. The two men agreed to what the fans of the Major League Baseball teams they owned — the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, respectively — wouldn't have been able to fathom.

They were talking about a trade of the two greatest batters of their era, or any era, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. These two iconic ball players seemed inseparable from the teams they played for. But the owners of those two teams didn't seem to care, at least while the scotch flowed. The two businessmen struck a verbal agreement.

Regrets the next morning

At the time, Joe DiMaggio was 32 and had played for the Yankees for a decade, the only MLB team he would ever play with. Ted Williams, 28, had been with the Red Sox for seven years and, like DiMaggio, would stick with his team. The next morning, Dan Topping called up Tom Yawkey, but Yawkey, with a clearer head than the night before, balked. "I can't make it even up," he told the Yankee's owner (via The New York Times). "The people in Boston think Williams is better. If you want to make the deal, you've got to throw in your little left fielder."

That left fielder was Larry "Yogi" Berra, who was just starting his MLB career. "And that was the end of that discussion," sportswriter Joel Alderman told WBUR. "It turned out that Yogi was the dealbreaker." At least that's one version of this story. There are more. Many more. In some versions, the year was 1948 or 1949, and the meeting between Topping and Yawkey took place at spring training rather than over drinks at Toots Shor's.

What might have been

MLB official historian John Thorn believes the meeting took place before the 1949 season. "Evidently it was discussed, in only an off-hand way," he told in a 2021 interview. What would the Yankees and Red Sox have gained from this wild trade? "DiMaggio gets to aim at the left field wall," baseball historian Glenn Stout told WBUR. "Maybe he hits a little better in Fenway than he did in Yankee Stadium, and he gets to play with his brother." Dom DiMaggio was the Red Sox centerfielder at the time.

On the other side, Ted Williams, as a left-hander, could have perhaps sent many a ball over the short porch of right field at Yankee Stadium. Considering Red Sox fans are still mad about their team trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees back in 1920, Tom Yawkey, if the story is true, was smart to pass on it. It's just one more thing for baseball fans to argue over, along with which of these two sluggers is the greatest hitter of all time.