November 21, 1870: The Cincinnati Red Stockings were no more. On this date, the Cincinnati Base Ball Club announced it would only use amateur players for the 1871 season. From “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder:
Unable to sign the Wrights (George and Harry) to contracts for the 1871 season, and uncertain of being able to field a competitive first-class nine that would live up to the standards of the Red Stockings, the Cincinnati Base Ball Club simply bowed out of the professional arena.
The decision meant that Cincinnati–which pioneered the professional game–would not be represented in the first professional league, which formed early in 1871.
“Redleg Journal” reports that the 1869 Red Stockings made a grand total of $1.39 in profits, and that did not include a $6000 debt for the grounds, of which $1000 carried over into 1870. After the team lost six games (six games!!) out of 74 in 1871, attendance dropped and sponsorships dwindled. Club President A.P. Bonte is reported to have told the Red Stockings organization,
“You can…talk about the glory of the Red Stockings and the nine that knows no defeat, but you must put your hands in your pockets and pay the bills. You can’t run the club on glory.”
The Wrights went to Boston and started the Boston Red Stockings which have evolved into the Atlanta Braves of today. So, while Cincinnati can boast having the first all-professional baseball team, the Braves are able to boast of having the longest continued professional baseball franchise.
November 21, 1895: Nine years after the Reds made the first trade of “reserve clause” players, the Reds make their first “major” trade involving several players. On this day, they deal aging star third baseman Arlie Latham, starting pitcher-OF Tom Parrott, reserve catcher Morgan Murphy, and prospect catcher Ed McFarland to the St. Louis Browns for starting pitcher Red Ehret and catcher Heinie Peitz.
Analyzing the trade, one would have to conclude the Reds won the deal. Latham, a 14-year veteran at the time, only played 18 major league games after the trade. Parrott had been a pitcher for the Reds, but switched to the outfield for the Browns and hit .291 with 32 extra base hits in his last major league season. Murphy was a back up catcher for five more seasons, playing two seasons for the Browns. McFarland did play for 13 seasons as a starting catcher, but only for a 1 1/2 seasons for the Browns.
Ehret joined the Reds rotation and went 18-14 with a 3.42 ERA (135 ERA+) in 1895. In 1896, he became a swing man for the Reds and manager Buck Ewing who became a pioneer in the use of a bullpen in baseball. Ehret started 19 games and completed 11 of them. He also pitched 15 games in relief, and finished 11 of those, overall going 8-10 with a 4.78 ERA (95 ERA+). He played one more season before retiring.
Peitz, however, became the major player in the trade. He became a nine-year starting catcher for the Reds, batting .279 with a .342 OBP, and a .703 OPS (92 OPS+). He played for the Reds during the offensive explosion of the mid-1890’s and for the Reds as baseball entered the deadball era of the early 1900’s. He was regularly among the catcher league leaders in runners caught stealing and one of the leaders in fielding percentage at catcher. Overall, Peitz played 16 major league seasons and is ranked among the better catchers in baseball history.
The Reds did not “win” this trade. Harper had led the National League in runs scored with the Reds with 126 in 1965, but had slumped to hit .225 in his sixth season with the Reds in 1965 before being dealt to the Indians. He only hit .217 with Cleveland and was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected to play for the Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers). He became a star in the American League with his best season coming in 1970 when he hit .296 with 31 homers, 38 steals, and an .899 OPS (146 OPS+). He played 15 major league seasons.
Culver joined the Reds rotation for 1968, going 11-16 with a 3.23 ERA and even pitching a no-hitter for the Reds before becoming a swing man in 1969. He was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1970 season and pitched five more seasons as a reliever. Whitfield played two seasons with the Reds, primarily as a pinch hitter, batting .224 with seven homers. He had been a slugging first baseman for the Indians, but had declined rapidly following the 1966 season. Raudman never played another major league game.
November 21, 1973: Pete Rose is named Most Valuable Player of the National League after batting .338 with a major league leading 230 hits. Rose had a .401 OBP with an .838 OPS (138 OPS+). He edged out Pirate slugger Willie Stargell, who had batted .299 with 44 homers and 119 rbi, a 1.038 OPS (186 OPS+). It helped Rose’s case in that the Pirates were a sub-.500 team, finishing 80-82 their only losing season of the decade. Rose had 12 first place votes and 274 voting points; Stargell had 10 first place votes and 250 voting points.
This would be Rose’s only MVP-winning season, but he received enough MVP support over his career to be 19th all-time in MVP Career Shares. He received MVP votes in 15 of 17 successive seasons from 1965 through 1981, only missing out of the MVP balloting in 1974 and 1980. He finished second to pitcher Bob Gibson in 1968, finished fourth twice and fifth once. He placed in the top ten in MVP voting on ten different occasions and he received MVP votes playing at 1B, 2B, 3B, RF, CF, and LF.
Winning the MVP often has a lot to do with the level of competition in the league as well as how a player’s team performs for the season. 1973 was probably not Rose’s best season, with his best seasons coming in 1968 and 1969, and possibly 1976. He had a remarkably consistent run of of having an OPS+ of 115 or higher from 1965 through 1979. Rose’s 1973 MVP gave the Reds three MVP Award winners in four years with Johnny Bench having won in both 1970 and 1972. Joe Morgan would win in 1975 and 1976, and George Foster in 1977, giving the Reds six MVP winners in eight seasons from 1970-77.
November 21, 1980: From “Redleg Journal:”
…..(Reds pitchers) Tom Hume and Bill Bonham and their wives are rescued from…a deadly fire at the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas in which 84 people perished. The four some was airlifted off the roof of the building by helicopter. (Former Reds pitcher) Gary Nolan was employed as a card dealer at the casino, but wasn’t on duty at the time.
Hume was the Reds closer at the time, having gone 9-10 with a 2.56 ERA and 25 saves for the 1980 Reds. He pitched ten seasons with the Reds, going 52-66 with a 3.83 ERA and 92 saves. Bonham was an oft-injured starter that pitched three seasons for the Reds after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs. Bonham had pitched in only four games in 1980 (2-1, 4.74 ERA) and only made four starts for AAA Indianapolis in 1981 before the Reds released him. He made one start in 1982 for Indianapolis before shutting things down permanently. With the Reds, he was 22-13 with a 3.73 ERA; career-wise, Bonham was 75-83 with a 4.01 ERA.
November 21, 1990: Two seasons after Danny Jackson gives the Reds one of their best starting pitcher seasons ever (23-8, 2.73 ERA, six shutouts, 2nd in Cy Young voting), Jackson signs a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs. Jackson gets a raise from $1.15 million with the Reds to $2.625 million per year with the Cubs. Jackson proceeds to go 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA in 1991 (5-14, 5.19 ERA combined in 1991-92).
Jackson will rebound to win 12 and 14 games with the Philadelphia Phillies a couple of years later. In three seasons with the Reds, Jackson was 35-25 with a 3.61 ERA. Jackson had gone 6-11 with a 5.60 ERA in 1989 after his superb 1988 and went 6-6 with a 3.61 ERA for the Reds during their World Championship year of 1990.
Davis had become one of the biggest Reds stars since the days of the Big Red Machine, a Gold Glove winning, power hitting, speedy centerfielder who was a star of the 1990 World Series championship team. His best season had probably been 1987 when he hit .293 with 37 homers, 100 rbi, 120 runs scored, 50 stolen bases, and a .991 OPS (155 OPS+). However, he had lacerated a kidney making a diving catch in the 1990 World Series and spent time in the hospital following the championship classic.
In 1991 he slumped to .235 with 11 homers in 89 games and had told Reds management he desired to return to his hometown in Los Angeles and the Reds accommodated him. Unfortunately, Davis never really bounced back, hitting .228 with five homers in 76 games, and he was hitting .234 with 14 homers in 1993 when the Dodgers traded him to the Detroit Tigers in mid-season. Davis was diagnosed with colon cancer and did not play baseball in 1995.
The Reds shocked everyone when they announced they had signed Davis to a $750,000 free agent contract in 1996, and he responded by hitting .287 with 26 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .917 OPS (139 OPS+) in 129 games. He left via free agency following the season and signed a $2.2 million dollar contract with the Baltimore Orioles but was only able to play in 42 games due to injury. He did bounce back one more time to have one of his best seasons, hitting .327 with 28 homers and a .970 OPS (151 OPS+) for the Orioles in 1998, but left for free agency again. He played three more part-time seasons before retiring. For his career, Davis hit .269 with 282 home runs, 349 stolen bases, and an .841 OPS (125 OPS+). For the Reds in nine seasons, Davis hit .271 with 203 home runs, 270 stolen bases and an .877 OPS (137 OPS+).
Gross played six seasons as a swing man, going 7-8 with a 3.90 ERA. He made 34 of his 73 lifetime appearances with the Reds, going 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA.
Belcher was a former first round pick of the Dodgers who the Reds had hoped would team with Jose Rijo, John Smiley, and Tom Browning to give the Reds one of baseball’s best starting rotations. However, Browning was nearing the end, Smiley was hurt in 1993, and the Reds as a team suffered a slew of 1993 injuries taking them out of the race early. Belcher pitched okay for the Reds in 1992 (15-14, 3.91 ERA) and was 9-6 with a 4.47 ERA in 1993 before he dealt to the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline when it was found the Reds weren’t going anywhere that season. Belcher was making $3.8 million for the Reds, a large sum for them at the time. Belcher played 14 major league seasons, going 146-140 with a 4.16 ERA. With the Reds, he was 24-20 with a 4.12 ERA.
Wetteland never played for the Reds. He was repackaged in a deal and traded to the Montreal Expos for third base power hitting prospect Willie Greene just a few weeks later in one of the worst Reds trades ever. After having pitched parts of three seasons with the Dodgers (8-12, 3.84 ERA, 141 K’s in 154 innings pitched), Wetteland went on to become one of baseball’s best closers, beginning the very season after the Reds traded him. In a 12 year career, Wetteland was 48-45 with a 2.93 ERA with 330 saves in 618 games. His career K rate was 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He had 25 or more saves from 1992 through 2000, the year of his retirement.