Whether you celebrate the Reds beginning from a starting date of 1869 (first full professional team), or 1882 (first year in the American Association), or 1890 (first year in the National League), you have to be a little amazed at the longevity of the Cincinnati team and the events that filled those years. A 2019 version of a uniform from the past is great, but 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 debuted.
The style is a marked difference from the preceding years—fewer accents, graceful, yet simple, and functional.
4/11/1912, at the yet-to-be-named Cincinnati Baseball Field. Garry Herrmann resisted the call to name the Reds’ new ballpark after him, so the team entered the 1912 season in new uniforms in a park with no name. The day after the opener, Herrmann heard a suggestion that the park be named “Redland Field”, and liked it. On May 18th the park was officially christened. At the time, the playing field was the most expansive in the game.
Team’s Record that Season
75-78, 4th place 29 games back
344,000. A new park and only a 44 K gain from 1911. The sub .500 record, a less-than-dynamic product on the field, plus a historic run of mediocre teams can be blamed for this.
Reds Manager: Hank O’Day
This Reds manager, like the one he replaced, pitched in the 19th century. He first made his name in the baseball world in the 1880’s in Washington, forty years after the Washington Monument was built and twenty four years before the Lincoln Memorial. His catcher was a 25-year-old named Connie Mack and, in outfield, a young deaf mute named Luther Hoy patrolled center field.
It’s not documented, but one must suppose that O’Day and Hoy had a rapport as O’Day’s parents were both hearing impaired. O’Day gained pitching fame as a mid-season pickup for the New York Giants in 1889, winning nine games and guiding them to a World Series championship. The following year in the Players League, he threw 329 innings. His arm never recovered from that workload and he faded out of the National League, languished in the minors for a few seasons before he drifted into the umpiring business where he found his calling.
It was as an arbitrator that O’Day reached his greatest fame. He umpired in 4 World Series contests by 1911, as well as the famous Merkle Game in 1908. It was after the 1911 World Series that he showed up at Reds owner Garry Herrmann’s office with an offer. It was widely known that the Reds were looking for a manager since Clark Griffith left Cincinnati for a piece of the Washington franchise. Surprised that O’Day was interested in the position, Herrmann decided he would mull it over. O’Day was impressive and Herrmann offered him the job the following day, surprising the city and all of baseball.
At first it looked like a perfect match, and after 26 games, the Reds sat in second place at 20-6. The first place Giants were 19-4 and were in town for a 5-game set. Rumblings around the league were that O’Day was receiving preferential treatment in calls by umpires due to his former position. The Reds took the first two games and climbed into first place. Alas, this would be the high point of O’Day’s team’s season. Over the next 20 games, the team would go 4-16 and eventually fade lower in the standings.
By seasons end, it was evident the experiment had not worked. O’Day caught wind that the Reds were in the hunt for Cubs Shortstop Joe Tinker as their new manager. Before he could be fired, O’Day resigned. He returned to umpiring the next year and even had a go at managing with another failed season as skipper of the Cubs in 1914. Afterwards O’Day returned to umpiring, participating in six more World Series. He was also behind the plate the day Hod Eller threw a no-hitter for the Reds in 1919. In the end, O’Day umpired thirty five major-league seasons, managed two, and played in six. Hank O’Day was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013 by the Veteran’s Committee.
The 1912 Reds were not blessed with any stars and had many carryovers from the 1911 team that had not been too successful. Bob Bescher, Doc Hoblitzell and Armando Marsans, who was the Yaseil Puig of the deadball era, were the best the team had to offer. Making a brief appearance for five games was Jim Bagby who was 22-years-old. Bagby would drop back into the minors for four more seasons and reappear with the Indians. He would win 31 games (still the Cleveland record) in 1920 and lead the team to their first World Series title. The Reds, at least, tried to find talent and seemingly were always searching for bodies. A total of forty players appeared in uniform for Cincinnati in 1912, including twenty players who appeared in fewer than ten games.
Best Reds batter
Bob Bescher, .788 OPS. In 1912, Bescher batted a career-high .281 leading the NL with 120 runs scored and successfully stole 87% of the bases he attempted that season, finishing .046 above the league average in OPS . Baseball Magazine called him the “Stolen Base King”. Bescher was an Ohio boy who grew up in London, near Columbus. He attended high school at the University of Notre Dame when that school still provided schooling to young teens. Like many Reds in that era, he toiled for the Giants for a brief time and, like many other Midwest-bred boys, he had personality issues with the volatile John McGraw and lasted only a year as a New Yorker. A classic speed player, Bescher’s game diminished as he aged and he was out of the game by age 34.
Best MLB batter
Heine Zimmerman (Cubs) OPS – .989. Nicknames and ethnic nicknames were all the rage back in the early 20th Century. For players of German heritage, there were two prominent ones: Dutch (which by my count has been attached to 30 players in MLB history), and Heinie (which is also slang for one’s backside). Heinie was usually attached to a player of German descent who was named, Henry.
In 1912, that happened to be the name of the best hitter in the National League. Heinie Zimmerman was a powerful batter who history tagged with several storylines that stray from the feared hitter he was when he was young. Short version, Heinie was known for his lack of wits (see Zimmerman’s folly), and for falling-in with Hal Chase in 1919 as a New York Giant and his eventual banishment from baseball for that transgression.
Before all that occurred, it was his versatility around the diamond that made him an enhancing prospect when the Cubs acquired him in 1908. At first, on a log-jammed Cubs team, Zimmerman was often the odd man out when he arrived in Chicago as a 20-year-old. However, the deadball era was fraught with calamities and through two of them Zimmerman found his way into the starting lineup.
In 1911, long time second baseman Johnny Evers suffered a nervous breakdown and had to leave the club. Sliding into the vacant second base position, Zimmerman pounded-out a solid .307/.343/.462/.805. Nonetheless, it was known that he was going back to the bench when Evers returned in 1912. Then in early February of 1912, Jim Doyle, the team’s third baseman, suddenly died from appendicitis, leaving a spot for Zimmerman to fill. He ended up with an electrifying line of .372/.418/.571/.989, even winning the league triple crown.
An indifferent fielder, Zimmerman was adept at generating errors. From 1912-1919, he played 897 games at third and made 218 errors, an average of 37 a season. He never matched the 1912 season with his bat again and once his career was over, he faded into retirement in New York City. By chance of marriage, Heine eventually became involved with businessman Arthur Simon Flegenheimer, whose parents were also German immigrants. Arthur, having a German name in an Anglo world, had earlier shed his birth name and was now known around town as “Dutch” Schultz, and his business was not exactly considered “on the level.”
Best Reds Pitcher
Art Fromme – 11 (Runs Saved Against Average)
Fromme was a Red from 1909 to 1913, and was traded to the Giants in 1913 in the package that the Reds obtained Heinie Groh. Mainly a fastball pitcher, Fromme was the best pitcher on a mediocre team. A good Reds comp for him is John Smiley.
- Won/Loss Record: Fromme – 49-50 / Smiley – 48-48
- Games Started: Fromme – 109 / Smiley – 123
- Innings Pitched: Fromme – 888 / Smiley – 775
- ERA vs. League – Fromme +15 / Smiley +.02
Best National League Pitcher
Christy Mathewson – 45 RSAA (Runs Saved Against Average)
Three Facts about Christy Mathewson
- He started 550 games for the Giants, 104 more than second place Juan Marichal
- He started one game for the Cincinnati Reds. Tied with 95 for the fewest starts as a Red.
- In college, Walter Camp, the originator of the All-America team, called him “the greatest drop-kicker in intercollegiate competition”.
363,591. 13th in the USA – In 1912, St. Louis was the 4th largest city with 687K, and Cleveland was 6th with 560K. Today, they sit at 308K (down 379k) and 385k (down 185k). Cincinnati has 208K (a net loss of 65K).
Team Media Sources
What applied in 1911 still applied in 1912. If you follow the team, chances are you can read local papers like the Post or Enquirer or the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. If you’re 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. During the World Series, one could go to “The Flickers” to catch silent reels of the action from the games, or maybe you would buy a ticket to a local theater and watch a large mechanical scoreboard diamond trace the movement of the action that was delivered to the theater by telegraph.
Michael “Mack” Sennett founded Keystone Studios in Edendale, California in 1912 (which is now a part of Echo Park). W. C. Fields, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and numerous other stars of the silent era would get their start with Sennett. Like many of the silent era, Sennett would be unable to translate his talent for silent comedies into the sound era, and like many others in the Depression he found himself broke. Musically, 1912 was not known for much, however there are a few popular songs I have to share, including “Keep Away From The Fellow Who Owns An Automobile”, “Everybody Loves A Chicken”, and the not-so-famous, “Beans! Beans!! Beans!!!”
The RMS Titanic is the big winner in the technology field in 1912, all else pales in comparison for it was indeed Titanic.
- Length: 882 ft., 9 in.
- Beam: 92 ft., 6 in.
- Height: 175 ft.
- Draught: 34 ft., 7 in.
- Depth: 64 ft., 6 in.
- Decks: 9 (A–G)
Titanic’s electrical plant was capable of producing more power than an average city power station of the time, and the furnaces required over 600 tons of coal per day to be shoveled in by hand, requiring the services of 176 firemen working around the clock.
As everyone knows, it validated Murphy’s Law on its first and only voyage.
Julia Child, American television chef (d. 2004)
Minnie Pearl, American humorist (d. 1996)
Bram Stoker, Irish writer (Dracula) (b. 1847)
The Deadball era is known for several events that intertwine: the lack of offense, trick pitches, the Federal League threat, and gambling. But, it’s also an era of great movement in the technology of the fan experience. Prior to 1909, all ballparks were built of wood. This was problematic as it was not unusual for wood damage to cause structure collapse and patron injuries. They were also plagued with fires due to smoldering cigars and loose papers. Many clubs experienced such events, including the Reds in 1901 and again in 1911. The great steel and concrete era began in 1909 and soon spread throughout the league. Below are the dates that the original sixteen clubs moved to steel and concrete.
- Boston Red Sox – 1912
- Washington Senators – 1911
- Philadelphia Athletics – 1909
- Chicago White Sox – 1910
- Cleveland Naps – 1910
- Detroit Tigers – 1912
- St. Louis Browns – 1909
- New York Highlanders – Polo Grounds 1913
- New York Giants – 1911
- Pittsburgh Pirates – 1909
- Chicago Cubs – 1916
- Cincinnati Reds – 1912
- Philadelphia Phillies – Shibe Park in 1938
- St. Louis Cardinals – Sportsman Park in 1921
- Brooklyn Dodgers – 1913
- Boston Braves – 1915