January 7, 1971: Bobby Tolan undergoes surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Tolan suffered the injury while playing basketball in Frankfort, KY with the Reds off-season roundball team. Tolan appeared to be on the road to revovery before he re-injured the tendon running in the Dodger stadium outfield on May 7, and missed the entire ’71 season due to the injury. It also spelled the end of the basketball team, as the front office ordered that it be disbanded.

All “Reds trivia” posts come from Greg Rhodes and John Snyder’s fabulous book, “Redleg Journal” (see link for purchasing) and are used with Greg’s permission.

Thanks again to Greg Rhodes for permission to use his material.

Comment: The Reds suffered through their worst (by far) year of the decade in ’71. One has to wonder if Bob Howsam realized by losing Tolan how important speed and defense was to the Reds (especially in their new ballpark), which precipitated the big trade with Houston following the ’71 season. I wonder if Tolan had not gotten hurt if the trade would have been made?

14 Responses

  1. Mark in CC

    Everyone points to the Tolan injury as the reason the trade with Houston was made but seem to forget Vern Gishert and Frank Duffy to San Fran. for George Foster who was one of the players, along with the less famous Buddy Bradford from the White Sox, acquired to play center while Tolan was hurt.

    That injury did more to help the Big Red Machine than people remember.

  2. Steve Price

    I don’t think the Reds would have made the trade for Foster if Tolan had not been injured (Foster was a centerfielder at the time). Sparky Anderson has said that one of his failures as a manager was not being able to relate to Bobby Tolan. Tolan was outstanding in 1970 and may have been the Reds most underrated player on that team at age 24. He had another very good season in 1972 after coming back from the injury before hitting a very fast decline (average season for Padres in 1974).

  3. Mary Lynn in Cincy

    Bobby Tolan is the most Forgotten Red in their history. I agree that because he had gotten hurt, the most famous trades in Reds history were made. Morgan and Foster became Hall of Famers , Cooperstown and Reds respectively. All Tolan has to honor him are photos in Great American Ballpark.

  4. Bill

    Let’s remember that Tolan’s attitude is what drove him out of Cincinnati.

    He became sullen and refused to go along with the team’s personal appearance rules, which brought him into conflict with the front office.

  5. Mary Lynn in Cincy

    Can we please forgive Tolan for something which happened 35 years ago and celebrate his good years with the Reds, such as driving in the game winning hit which clinched the 1970 NL Championship?! When Broadcaster Andy Furman had a talk show last year on WFTK, I did hear Tolan apologize on the air for “breaking the rules” during that year. It is because of him and not Greg Vaughn that the Reds players and the team’s main mascot now wear facial hair today! How ironic that the clean shaven Mr. Red has now been officially retired just this year, in favor of the old mascot Mr. Redlegs, now once again the new mascot because “facial hair” is now okay. That was Tolan’s crime. Growing the beard, and getting kicked off the team, but after the season filing the grievance against the Reds because there was no major league rule banning the facial hair. Tolan won the grievance, but was apparently banned from the Club for life (he doesn’t understand that though) yet the facial hair ban remained till 1999 when Greg Vaughn threatened to file his own grievance to keep his goattee. He didn’t need to because the Reds re-looked at Tolan’s case, knew they would lose, and the facial hair ban was finally lifted. Tolan’s forgotten again. Greg Vaughn gets all the credit, when it was really he who initiated it.
    This is my argument. Are Tolan’s sins from that 1973 season still so unforgiveable that that’s the reason he has no shot at the Reds Hall of Fame for his fine Reds career? Look at his Reds statistics, other than that final year. 1970 MLB Stolen Base Champ. 1972 NL Comeback Player of the Year as well as The Hutch Award Recipient. I would hope that his photos in the ballpark are there to honor him and not chastise him!

  6. Dan

    I never saw Tolan play but here are his stats, for what it’s worth…


    Just by the numbers, I see:

    2 excellent seasons — 1969 (age 23) and 1970 (age 24)

    2 basically average seasons — 1972 (age 26) and 1974 (age 28)

    5 below average seasons

    Looks like his speed and defense must’ve been very good.

    Mary Lynn, I take it you’re a big fan? What did you like about him?

  7. Mary Lynn in Cincy

    Mostly his courage in coming back to play in 1972 when others told him his baseball career was over after he suffered the achilles tendon injury in 1971. That angered me when other fans chose to “forget” that he was the Hutch Award recipient just the previous year when all of his troubles were going on. Sparky, in his book, The Main Spark, took full blame for what happened to him. For letting the situation get out of hand, and in his words “failing” Tolan. So if the Manager is willing to take responsibility than why does the player still have to be chastised 35 years later?

  8. Bill

    I wasn’t “chastising” anyone. I was merely pointing out the facts…he got on the wrong side of management because of his actions.

    FWIW, I don’t think you should be in the Reds HOF for 2 great seasons and only 4 in a Reds uniform. (I’m not in favor of Tom Seaver for the Reds HOF either.)

  9. Mary Lynn in Cincy

    Well Tom Seaver, like it or not, is in the Reds HOF. With your qualifications Reds Hall of Famer Wayne Granger shouldn’t be in there either. He only played for the Reds 3 seasons, all of them great. I still consider 1972 a great season for Bobby Tolan. The Reds have said that because he came back to play that year he made a direct contribution to the Reds making it to the 1972 World Series. Also his statistics were good enough that he was named the 1972 National League Comeback Player of the Year. So I personally count 1972 as one of his great seasons. Add on getting the game winning hit in the 1970 NL Championship series, as well as single-handedly winning the second game of that series, scoring all 3 runs, including a home run, and being the 1970 Major League Stolen Base Champ, qualifies him as a great Red to me! I only implied that he doesn’t get enough recognition for his contributions to the Reds. He does with the photos in Great American Ballpark, and his name included on “Reds By The Number” 28 on the scoreboard. I’m thrilled with that. But you’re the one who had to bring up the reason why he left the team. So that’s why I got on the defensive. Bobby Tolan truly believed that mess would be his legacy as a Cincinnati Red. But it’s that he was the 1970 NL Stolen Base Champ and the 1972 Comeback Player of the Year. In respect to his decorations in the ballpark, I’m tired of hearing and reading about 1973. Yes it happened. But it shouldn’t define Tolan’s entire major league or Reds career. I’m also delighted with Mike Shannon’s new book,
    “The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly…Heart-Pounding, Jaw Dropping, and Gut Wrenching Moments from Cincinnati Reds History”. The only time Bobby Tolan’s name is mentioned in that book is once, as the 1972 recipient of the Hutch Award! Mike Shannon must be a fan of him too!

  10. Bill

    Is he? I’ll be darn, I honestly didn’t know that.

    You’re right, I wouldn’t include Granger either (2 great years, 1 average year (ERA+ of 98)). There’s a long list of guys in the Reds HOF that I don’t think should be there. Just of the guys that I’ve seen play…Helms, Grainger, Seaver, maybe Billingham..

    If you’re going to point out his “game winning hit” in the ’70 Championship Series, are you going to also point out him letting the fly ball get hit over his head in Game 7 of the ’72 World Series that allowed 2 runs to score?

    Just wondering…

  11. Mary Lynn in Cincy

    One error should not exclude his greatness as a Cincinnati Red! Well really that game there were two. Remember his hamstring failed him later in the game at the most inopportune time! But if he hadn’t made those miscues, if the Reds had won that World Series, he very well could have been named the team World Series MVP. Before that game he was the team’s most productive hitter with 7 hits, 6 RBI’s and 5 stolen bases. The reason one of his photos are in GABP are for two of those RBI’s during the Reds 8-1 thrashing of the A’s in game six. Come On! The Red Sox this year have finally forgiven Bill Buckner for his famous error! Why can’t you forgive Bobby Tolan for his?!

  12. Bill

    We can agree to disagree on Tolan. You think he’s a Red All Time Great, I think he’s a guy that had two great years, then became an attitude problem for management.

    I don’t think I’ll ever get over the ’72 WS…I still hold a grudge against Gene Tenace to this day. I was 14 and can still remember lying awake that Sunday night after losing Game 7. Ugh.

    And, IMO, Perez would have been MVP if they had won the series.

  13. Bill

    Oh, and my memory was incorrect, he made an error in the 1st inning that was the first run that scored…then the ball to CF in the 6th, allowed the winning run to score.

  14. Mary Lynn in Cincy

    Well there never would have been a game 7 for the misplays to occur, if in game 4, Sparky Anderson had shifted Davey Concepcion like he was asked to do by a scout. Because he didn’t the A’s won the game 3-2. Also in the “Main Spark” Sparky says that decision cost the Reds the World Series. I was 12 years old at the time of the 72 World Series. But was over-joyed when they beat the Red Sox in 1975. And then the Yankees in 1976. So the Reds didn’t win the 1972 World Series! I witnessed 3 other ones since then. And really the 1990 World Championship should be the vindication for what the A’s did to the Reds in 1972. One man (Tolan) should not have to be the sole bearer of that World Series loss. It’s a team effort!