September 17, 1900: Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran becomes one of baseball’s best detectives. From “Day by Day in Cincinnati Reds History” by Floyd Conner and John Snyder:

Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran uncovers an elaborate sign-stealing apparatus during a game against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Corcoran was coaching at third base when his spikes caught a wire in the coaches’ box. Corcoran dug the wire out of the dirt, gave it a yank, and several yards of wire came out of the ground. Corcoran kept tugging, and traced the wire across right field to the Phillies’ locker room where Morgan Murphy, a reserve catcher for Philadelphia, was sitting with a telegraph instrument beside an open window. It was then learned that Murphy spied on opposing catchers and relayed their signals, via the wire, to the Philadelphia third base coach. A buzzer had been placed under the dirt, and by keeping his foot on it, the third base coach received signals which indicated whether the next pitcher would be a fastball, curve, or change of pace. This information was relayed to the batter.

“Total Baseball’s Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia” adds a little more to the story. Phillies catcher Murphy was using binoculars to see the catcher’s signs. Corcoran found the wire led to a small box buried under the third base coach’s box. The coach, usually Phillies utility man Pearce Chiles, would give a verbal cue to the batter as to the nature of the pitch. When Corcoran discovered the apparatus, the Phillies groundskeeper ran onto the field to try to keep Corcoran from discovering their secret.

Corcoran played 18 major league seasons, 10 with the Reds. At one point, he had played the most career games at shortstop. He and Reds second baseman Bid McPhee were considered to be possibly the best keystone combination of the 1890’s. Corcoran was definitely known more for his glove than his bat. His career batting average was .256 and he had 1135 rbi, but his career OPS+ was 74. He batted .249 in his ten years with the Reds.

The sign stealing episode was one of the more interesting events of the 1900 Reds. The team finished the season 62-77 in seventh place, 21 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Superbas.

September 17, 1973: Pete Rose goes 2-5 and collects hits number 219 and 220 to break the Reds’ single season hit record of 219 set by Cy Seymour back in 1905. Rose doubled in the first inning off Houston Astros pitcher Dave Roberts to tie the record and and then delivered a run-scoring single in the fourth off Roberts to break the record. Rose goes to collect ten more hits before the season was over to total 230 hits for the season. The Reds lost this game to the Houston Astros, 5-2.

Rose is chosen Most Valuable Player for his 1973 season as he bats .338 with five homers and 64 rbi. His OBP is .401, his OPS is .838 (OPS+ 132). Rose finished in the top five in MVP voting five different times: he was second in 1968 when he batted .335 in the “Year of the Pitcher” to St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson (22-9, 1.12 ERA). He also finished fourth in 1969 (batted .348) and in 1976 (batted .323), and he finished fifth in 1975 (batted .317). He finished in the top ten five other seasons (1965, 1966, 1967, 1970, and 1981).

September 17, 1983: On Johnny Bench Night at Riverfront Stadium, Bench connects for a two-run homer and a single, but the Reds lose to the Houston Astros, 4-3. It was Bench’s last home run of his career, number 389 of his career. Bench’s last homer came in the bottom of the third inning with Paul Householder aboard and was hit off Astros pitcher Mike Madden.

For Bench’s last season, he batted .255 with 12 homers and 54 rbi, and OPS of .741 (OPS+ of 101). For his career, Bench bats .267 with 389 home runs, 1376 rbi, and 2048 hits. He was selected to 14 all-star teams and won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves for his defensive play at catcher.

3 Responses

  1. pinson343

    As a young Reds fan I remember seeing many times how the Reds all-time record for hits was 219, by Cy Seymour.
    He still holds the all time Reds record for batting average, .377, for that same season.

    Those two numbers are etched in my mind like only numbers from childhood can be.

  2. pinson343

    Rose’s 230 hits is also etched in my brain, one of those magic numbers.

    1973 was his best season, in my book, not necessarily stat wise but it was deservedly his MVP year. He led the Reds in a classic pennant race, catching a good Dodgers team from way behind (12 and 1/2 games ?). Hal King’s HR and all that.

    I was in NY for the 1973 playoffs, what a depressing experience. The Reds had a far superior team but in a short series they had to deal with Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, and tough (“You Gotta Believe”) closer Tug McGraw.

    With the current NLCS format, the Reds would probably have won. But then it was 3 out of 5, where the first 2 games were played in one park and the remaining 3 at the other team’s.
    The Reds won the first game in Cincy over Tom Seaver by 2-1 on HRs by Rose and Bench. Then they were shut out by Matlack and had a challenge, going into NY for 3 games.

    Game 3 was the famous game where Pete Rose body slammed Bud Harrleson, with ensuing mayhem from Mets fans, throwing everything they could get their hands on at Rose in LF.

    I attended Game 4, where Rose put on a dominant one man show. A Tony Perez HR tied things up late at 1-1. Rose finally won it in the 12th with a HR, I believe it was his 5th hit of the game. I’ll never forget his running around the bases pumping his right arm. He’d silenced the crowd.

    Game 5 was a bummer, I watched parts of it on tvs displayed in Manhattan store windows. I had some hope when Tony Perez tied things up at 2-2 with an RBI single. From there things went the wrong way, the Mets had a big inning helped along by rookie Dan Driessen at 3rd base not tagging a runner because he thought a force out was in effect. That was the end of his playing 3rd base.

  3. hoosierdad

    I was there for Johnny Bench night. My wife and I, being young newlyweds and living over 100 miles away, had gone to a couple of games that year. She surprised me by getting us tickets to that night for my birthday. I remember the stadium exploding when JB hit the dinger. The only downer was just barely being able to hear Terry Cashman sing his Johnny Bench song. Still have the Cincy Enquirer from that day along with the JB night certificates. An awesome experience.