Whether you celebrate the Reds beginning from a starting date of 1869 (First full professional team) or 1882 (Reds first year in the American Association) or 1890 (Reds first year in the National League) you have to be a little amazed at the years that it encompasses as well as the history that has filled up those years. A 2019 version of a uniform from the past is great, knowing what was occurring when those uniforms were first worn is history and knowing your history is a big part of being a baseball fan, so we’ll try to cover a bit of what was happening when these uniforms were debuted.

Uniform

1911 Road Blues

First sign of the City Name in the Wishbone C

Date debuted

4/20/1911 – Forbes Field. The Pirates Opening Day ceremony involved allowing the Director of Public Works to toss out the ceremonial first pitch. In a tradition that obviously no longer exists the Reds leadoff hitter Bob Bescher took a hack at the throw and failed. From there the game continues.

Team’s record that season

70-83 – 6th place 29 Games Back

Teams Attendance

300,000– MLB was experiencing a lull in attendance around this time The Reds, Dodgers and Rustlers (Braves) had the worst attendance, Boston drew a scant 116,000 in 1911

Reds Manager

Clark Griffith, 1911 was the final season that “The Old Fox” led the Reds. A former pitcher known for his guile and baseball acumen Griffith had previously managed in the American League for Chicago and New York. He would leave the Reds after the 1911 season when he purchased a one-tenth interest in the Washington Senators, becoming its largest stockholder, in October 1911 he left the Reds to manage the Senators in 1912. Clark Griffith is the only man in major league history to serve as player, manager, and owner for at least 20 years each. Spending over 70 years in the game.

The Roster

The 1911 Reds were a collection of no names, journeyman and players who never were as big as stars as you’d thought they were to be. Over 100 year ago and the average fan would not recognize nary a name on this roster if it was to be shown to them today. Nevertheless, in baseball history there are a couple of notable names, third baseman Edie Grant was the first MLB player to die in WW 1 and a monument graced center field at The Polo Grounds for years stating that. Bob Bescher still is tied (With Eric Davis) for all time Reds leader in steals for a year, if one thing could be said about Clark Griffith’s Reds squads is that they liked to steal. The three-best season’s in team steals for the franchise are 1910 (310), 1911 (289) and 1909 (280). The 1911 team had 5 guys with 30+ steals.

Best Red Batter

Johnny Bates .808 OPS – Bates was average and only a few years from ending his career in the Federal League. His comp on Baseball Reference is Scott Podsednik, therefore there really is not much more to say about him other than his OPS is a palindrome.

Best Major League Batter

Honus Wagner (Pirates) – Him again? Nine years later!!  1911 was Wagner’s 13th straight season with 100 Runs Created, he accomplishes it one more season and begin his eventual decline.

Best Red Pitcher

Bobby Keefe – 9 RSAA (Runs Saved Against Average) – The 29-year-old right handed Keefe was a west coaster who played most of his career in the Pacific Coast League, 1911 was his one significant season in Major League Baseball. His arm must have had some life when he was younger because in 1904, he threw 438 innings and went 34-15 with a 2.40 ERA for Tacoma. The following season he threw 468 innings went 30-22 and had a 1.61 ERA.

Best National League Pitcher

Christy Mathewson – 47 RSAA (Runs Saved Against Average) – How big a star was Mathewson in 1911? Big enough to pen a book (Pitching in a Pinch: or Baseball from the Inside)  which is still is pertinent in understanding the game then as well as today.

Cincinnati Population

363,591- 13th in the USA – Buffalo slipped to #8 and Milwaukee and Detroit leapfrogged Cincinnati.

Team Media Sources

What applied in 1902 still applied in 1911. If you are following the team, chances are you can read local papers like the Post or Enquirer or the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. If you are a hardcore fan you read Sporting Life or The Sporting News. One might get the Spaulding Guide or Reach Guide that detailed the NL and AL season the following winter. Also available was Baseball Magazine which would last for the next 30 years

Entertainment Business

The film industry was growing but theater still was king, touring America in 1911 was an English Vaudeville troupe that had two young actors who would become icons of the film industry in the next few decades though young Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel were making note of what worked and what didn’t.  In popular music Irving Berlin penned Alexander’s Ragtime Band and numerous other hits that would elevate him to a household name during that year.

Hot technology

Sunglasses found their way to the baseball world when Pirates manager Fred Clarke invented a way to attach them to the ball cap visor thus soothing the burning retinas of outfielders around the game, including Reds outfielders Bob Bescher and Mike Mitchell. Meanwhile Chevrolet hit the market to directly take on Ford’s Model T, a battle that would ensue for the next century.

Born

Ronald Reagan Actor, Politician, (d. 2004)

Died

Joseph Pulitzer, Publisher, Congressman (b. 1847)

Notes

If you are pulled aside and asked to name two facts about the 1911 baseball season for a million dollars then I have something that might help you out. If anything is different and important about 1911 and major league baseball, then it would be the ball itself. 1911 was the first season that baseball was wrapped around a cork center. Seems innocuous to some, others might note that mass plays a part in physics and that any change in the mass of the ball would affect the actions of the ball and the actions of the ball is often the games main variable to scoring runs. The 1910 season had seen an average of 3.83 runs and 0.14 home runs per game. The 1911 season, by contrast, saw an average of 4.51 runs and 0.21 home runs per game. Frank Schulte led the league with 21 home runs, a figure that more than doubled the league-leading total in 1910. He became the only player from the 20th century to have more than 16 HR’s in a season since the National League started. The Reds themselves would score 682 runs, which was a fantastic number for a team had scored 530, 524, 488, 606 over the past 4 seasons. They would not score that many for another decade. Cork… the magic ingredient.

The second thing is a signing by the Reds themselves. In July of 1911 The Reds purchased the contract of two Cuban players, Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans who became the first Cubans to reach the majors since 1873 also known as before the National League began. Neither made a huge splash statistically with Marsan’s settling in as the teams 4th outfielder, known for his aggressive running and fielding they both were novelties in the game and the city. Reds Business Manager Frank Bancroft had prior connections with barnstorming in Cuba and noting the lack of talent on the team was willing to try anything to enrich the win column. This relationship enriched future relationships for manager Clark Griffith, who moved to Washington and over the next 44 years in charge of the Washington club, 63 Cubans debuted in the majors – 35 of them with the Senators.

You can read more about the throwback uniforms and history around each throughout the season right here.

10 Responses

  1. Steve Mancuso

    This is a fantastic series of posts. Thanks, Brian.

  2. yorktownred

    Another great article, Brian. Love the blue in the Reds uniforms. Wish they’d bring that back.

  3. MK

    For as disappointing of a start as it has been for the Reds there is only one last place Division team (Oakland 4.5 games) that is closer to first place than the Reds (6 games).

  4. MK

    Mike Mitchell could be someone who had 1911 star power. Coming off of two straight times leading the league in triples he finished second in that category in ’11 with 22. He also had 39 outfield assists which is still a Reds record. Bill James listed him as the 100th best right fielder of all time. Bescher was a four time NL Stolen Base leader including 1911. Surprisingly these two outfielders grew up 20 miles from each other Mitchell in Springfield Ohio and Bescher in London, OH.

  5. KDJ

    Gotta love a team named “Reds” wearing blue uniforms.

  6. Gerardo Helguera

    Josh Van Meter called up to the show. Hopefully he continues to take and makes a push for a starting role.

  7. Chris Holbert

    Who is supposed to sit, Suarez, Iglesias, or DD…..for Van to gain a starting job?

  8. GoRedsGo

    Great article on the uniforms and the times. Thanks for the quick history lesson and look forward to more of the series.