After finishing the 1962 National League season in sixth placed, the management hierarchy of the St. Louis Cardinals believed the team needed another slugger to hit alongside Ken Boyer, Bill White, and an aging Stan Musial. In acquiring George Altman in a trade with the Chicago Cubs that fall, the Cardinals were confident he was the player that could provide the additional batting power the team wanted.
Born on March 20, 1933 in Greensboro, North Carolina; George Lee Altman played Negro League baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs after graduating from Tennessee A and I in 1955. After only one season with the Monarchs, his contract was purchased by the Chicago Cubs. Altman had 12 home runs and 47 RBI in 1959, his Major League rookie season. Then he had breakout years in 1961 and 1962 becoming a National League All Star. The 6’4”, 200 lb. first baseman and outfielder hit .303 in 1961(27 home runs and 96 RBI) and .318 in 1962 (22 home runs and 74 RBI).
Altman’s performance with the Cardinals fell short of the high expectation generated by the trade. No longer playing half of his games in the Cubs’ “hitter friendly” Wrigley Field, he saw his offensive production plunge in 1963 to only 9 homes runs and 47 RBI. Despite not getting what it had hoped from Altman, the team finished in second place six games behind the National League pennant winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
Declaring the acquiring of Altman a bust, the Cardinals traded him to the New York Mets the next season. In 1965, he returned to the Cubs in a trade. However, the talent level he displayed in 1961 and 1962 with the team was never reached again. After the Cubs released him in 1967, Altman went on have seven successful years playing in Japan.
What former HBCU graduate did the Chicago Cubs trade to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964?