If you’re a long-time Red Sox fan with a great memory, you remember that before the “Spaceman” Bill Lee joined Boston’s starting rotation, he had been the best reliever in the Red Sox bullpen for a couple of years. His conversion to full-time starter took place in 1973 and was a key to helping those great Boston teams of the mid-seventies contend for division crowns every year.
Lee’s emergence however, was not a good thing for Lynn McGlothen, who had been Boston’s third round selection in the 1968 amateur draft. At the time, this native of Monroe, Louisiana was a 23-year-old right-hander coming off a pretty impressive half-year rookie season during which he had put together an 8-7 record and a 3.41 ERA as a member of Boston’s rotation in 1972. After his first three starts the following year however, McGlothen’s ERA was a sky-high 9.69 and his days as a Red Sox starting pitcher were over.
At first, Boston manager Eddie Kasko demoted him to the bullpen but his three appearances as a reliever were not good ones. Since Lee was thriving in his new role as a starter, Boston’s front office figured it could afford to send McGlothen back to Pawtucket, where he remained out of sight and out of mind for the rest of that ’73 season. Then just before Christmas of that same year, Boston pulled off a big trade with St. Louis that sent McGlothen and fellow pitchers John Curtis and Mike Garman to the Cardinals in exchange for starting pitcher Reggie Cleveland, reliever Diego Segui and third baseman Terry Hughes.
I’m sure St. Louis made that trade thinking Curtis would be the guy who would improve their starting rotation but that guy turned out to be McGlothen instead. In fact, though Cleveland would become an effective starter for the Red Sox for a number of seasons, keeping McGlothen probably would have been the wiser Boston move. He won 44 games during his three seasons in St. Louis, threw 9 shutouts and made an NL All Star team. A shoulder problem hampered him after that and he ended up leaving the big leagues by 1982. He died just two years later at the age of 34. At the time he was visiting the trailer home of his girl friend back in his native Louisiana, when an early-morning fire broke out. McGlothen was killed in the blaze.