On May 29, 1956, Cincinnati centerfielder Gus Bell goes 5-5 with three home runs and seven rbi in leading the Redlegs to a 10-4 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Bell homered twice off Sam Jones, both times with one runner on base, in the third and fifth innings, and then homered off reliever Jim Hughes with two runners on in the seventh inning. Bell also had two singles in the game, giving him 14 total bases on the day, raising his batting average to .326 and his OPS to 1.014 on the season (not that he knew that since it wasn’t used at the time). Catcher Ed Bailey also homered for the Redlegs, as he raised his average to .357 with a .973 OPS. Brooks Lawrence went the distance to get the pitching win, raising his record to an undefeated 6-0 on his way to a 19-10 record and his only all-star appearance. Bell and Bailey were also all-stars in 1956.
Bell had one of his best seasons in 1956, but didn’t maintain the pace he had set through May 29. He finished the season batting .292, with 29 homers and 84 rbi with an OPS of .848. Bell was named to four all-star teams playing for the Redlegs in the day of great centerfielders such as Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and Mickey Mantle (American League). With the Redlegs, Bell played for nine seasons, covering 1235 games, batting .288 with 160 home runs. Later in his career, after the Reds left him unprotected, he was selected by the New York Mets in the expansion draft.
Nine different Redlegs were named to the 1956 National League all-star squad. In addition to Bell, Bailey, and Lawrence, other Reds named were 2b Johnny Temple, LF Frank Robinson, SS Roy McMillan, 1b Ted Kluszewski, and LHP Joe Nuxhall. Bailey, Bell, Temple, McMillan, and Robinson were all named to the starting squad in a game won by the Nationals Leaguers, 7-3. The Redlegs players went a combined 6-15 in the game, with Temple, Kluszewski, and McMillan all picking up two hits. It was during the 1957 season that Redleg players led at all positions as late as one week before voting was to end causing the league commissioner to remove some Redleg players from the ballot and the all-star game. However, the seeds were sown in 1956 as the Redleg team was improving.
Redleg fans were caught up in pennant fever. Having not finished higher than fifth for ten years, the win over the Cubs moved the Redlegs into third place, two games out of first. The Redlegs kept moving up, eventually earning a tie for first on June 5, before assuming sole possession of first on June 7 after sweeping a four-game series from the Phillies. The Redlegs were in the pennant hunt the rest of the way despite relinquishing first for good on July 13. They finished the season in third place with a 91-63 record, two games out of first place.