Whether you celebrate the Reds 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.

Uniform

1919 – Home Whites

The style is similar to the season’s home uniform, with small changes to the branding to celebrate the Reds’ first appearance in the World Series. This was the uniform that Morrie Rath was wearing when Eddie Cicotte hit him with the first pitch of the World Series, signaling that the fix was on.

Date Debuted

10/1/1919 – Home, Game One of the World Series, perhaps the biggest moment in Reds history up to that time and Garry Herrmann’s biggest moment as the Reds owner.

Team’s Record that Season

96-44, 1st place 9 games ahead of the Giants.

Team’s Attendance

532,501 – More people saw the Reds play at the corner “Findlay and Western” in 1919 than any other season in team history. The prior year’s 163,009 number was increased by 369,492, a number that itself was greater than any year’s attendance since 1910. Once again proving that the Reds fans will come out for winning baseball.

Reds Manager Pat Moran

As 1918 rolled into 1919, the Cincinnati Reds had a problem. They didn’t know where their manager was. Manager Christy Mathewson had left the team in late August of the 1918 season to take a Commission with the Army in their Chemical Weapons Department. In the shadow of the Work or Fight edict by the US Government, Matty felt it was his duty to serve his country. The remaining games were managed by 3rd baseman Heine Groh. Though the war had ended in November, the Reds were unaware that Mathewson was accidentally gassed in a training exercise and was currently in a French hospital. Though Matty was popular, Herrmann needed a manager and turned to Pat Moran, who was coaching for the Giants after leaving the Philles. Moran was revered around the league as a pitcher’s manager. A former catcher who backed-up Johnny Kling on the famous Cub teams of the century’s first decade, he was credited with shaping Grover Cleveland Alexander into the powerhouse he was, and even managed to bring success to the long suffering Phillies fans with a National League Pennant in 1915. Taking the reins to the club, Moran knew he had work to do.

The Roster

The 1918 Reds were a good hitting club that got on base and scored runs. They finished second to the Giants in runs scored, despite having a home field that suppressed slugging substantially. The team, though, was a mess. Hal Chase was accused of throwing games, and Fred Toney was indicted for violating the Mann Act, lying to the government, and dodging the draft. The team’s main weakness was pitching, and when Pat Moran took over on the last day of January, he knew he had some work to do and he didn’t wait long.

  • 2/1/19 – Traded Tommy Griffith to the Brooklyn Robins. Received Jake Daubert.
    • Hal Chase was done as a Red. Daubert was a respected vet and a strong LH hitter in a league that was 2/3rds right-handed.
  • 2/19/19 – Traded Hal Chase to the New York Giants. Received Walter Holke and Bill Rariden.
    • Nested in this deal was the transfer of the rights to Giants hold-out Slim Salle. Getting rid of Chase was a good deal, and by the end of the season he’d be out of the game forever.
  • 3/15/19 – Selected Ray Fisher off waivers from the New York Yankees.
    • Fisher threw the spitball and really firmed up the bottom of the team’s rotation with a 14-5 record, 12 complete games, and 2.17 ERA
  • 3/18/19 – Selected Slim Sallee off waivers from the New York Giants.
    • Sallee had threatened to retire if he could not play for the Reds. He owned a farm in Ohio and wished to live on it during the season. A long time National League hurler, he was known for using an array of arm angles, as well as substances on the ball to achieve his outs. In 228 innings in 1919, he would walk only 20 men and strike out only 24. Hodd Eller once said he learned more about pitching talking to Sallee for 15 minutes than he’d learned in his whole life prior.

Best Reds batter: Heinie Groh, .823 OPS  

Three things about Heinie Groh

  1. He was interviewed in Glory of Their Times and recounts many great tales about playing from 1912 to 1928. He was able to watch the World Series from the dugout in his first and last season as a player, and was lucky enough to play in four of them in-between.
  2. His bat weighed 47 ounces, and he designed it himself. He always choked up, but you had to know that.

Bat Weight

  • George Foster – 35.75 oz.
  • Mark McGwire – 35 oz.
  • Roberto Clemente – 38 oz.
  • Ted Williams – 35 oz.
  • Babe Ruth – 50 oz.
  • Rod Carew – 29 oz.
  1. Heinie Groh is the leader in games at 3rd base for the Reds, if you only count National League games. If you count American Association games, Hick Carpenter has 7 more starts.

In the Bill James Historical Abstract, James goes into great detail about the Dodgers trying to find a third baseman over the years, the great White Sox washout between Willie Kamm and Robin Ventura, and the Mets’ woes finding a steady contributor at the hot corner since their inception in the early 1960’s. What he doesn’t touch on is the Reds’ utter lack of stability at 3rd base, with its history of odd tales, odd balls and converts. Even Rob Neyer (in his Big Book of Baseball Lineups) unknowingly highlights the lack of solid candidates for the Reds all-time team when he names Billy Werber as the Reds #2 third sacker. Werber played a grand total of 399 games as a Red in three seasons, as many as Leo Durocher did and 69 more than Scott Rolen played

The Reds are the only franchise (that isn’t an expansion team) that doesn’t have a 3rd basemen with 1000 games played at that position as a Red. In fact, some franchises (Giants, Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox) have three players with at least 1000 games played at 3rd base. A few teams even have players with 2000 games played at third base. But not the Reds. They have a leader who last played for the team in 1890, didn’t use a glove, and was left handed

Furthering this madness, the Reds have had only three players that exceeded 100 games played at 3rd base in a season six times in their Reds career, and none have played since the spitball was abolished.

Hopefully someday, Suarez will make it all moot.

Best MLB batter: Heinie Groh, .823 OPS

The 1919 Reds had two of the best hitters in the National League, Groh and Edd Roush. That year, Groh was a tad better, despite Roush winning the batting title. Additionally, they were in a league that only averaged 509 runs per team and Groh’s .823 OPS loomed larger than it would in today’s game…runs have NOT always been easy to come by.

A good example of what that looks like in today’s hitting environment.

  • 509 runs National League 1919 – Heinie Groh – .310/.392/.431/.823 – 6.58 RC/27
  • 673 runs National League 2019 – Matt Carpenter – .271/.380/.505/.885 – 7.05 RC/27

Best Reds Pitcher

Dutch Ruether  – 31 RSAA (Runs Saved Against Average)

This was, without a doubt, Ruether’s finest season in the big leagues. He would not come close to this in his next 8 years in the majors. It would take a +12 RSAA as a Yankee in 1927 to get above double digits. Rather than focus on Ruether’s league leading RSAA in 1919, let’s focus on the Reds themselves. The 1918 Reds finished -35 RSAA, and that was the major reason they ended up only eight games above .500. No pitchers achieved a RSAA above 9. In 1919, new manager Pat Moran had an edge when looking for hurlers—namely no war, and no Hal Chase or Fred Toney, hence no distractions. His main three starters were Eller, Ruether and Salle. The rest of the starts were spread around to Ray Fisher, Jimmy Ring and Dolph Luque, with Rube Bressler picking up a few. ALL of them (except Bressler) achieved a positive RSAA. The Reds’ best weapon in 1919 was their arms, with four of the starters ending up in the top ten of the league leaders in RSAA. Combining for 893 Innings pitched (70% of the team’s total), these four starters, coupled with the hitting of Groh and Roush, helped lead the Reds to their all-time best winning percentage for a season .686.

RSAA RSAA IP
Hippo Vaughn 35 307
Dutch Ruether 31 243
Babe Adams 30 263
Grover C Alexander 28 235
Dick Rudolph 23 274
Slim Sallee 23 228
Fred Toney 20 181
Phil Douglas 19 213
Jesse Barnes 15 296
Hod Eller 15 248
Ray Fisher 15 174

Best National League Pitcher

Hippo Vaughn – 35 RSAA (Runs Saved Against Average)

Nicknames could be brutal eh?

Jim Vaughn doesn’t exist in Baseballreference.com, but Hippo Vaughn does, Big Jim Vaughn does not exist either, though some did call Jim Vaughn that. Simply put Hippo Vaughn at 6’4” was a large man in an age that there were not many of them in the game. Between 1876 and 1919 4002 men played major league baseball, only 50 of them stood 6’4 or taller a scant 1.2%. He also was wider than most men at that time (reportedly around 300 lbs. at one time) so hence the nickname.

Hippo Vaughan’s greatest achievement in baseball history was being part of the famous double no hit game with Fred Toney (6’6’) in 1917. He had also pitched a 17 inning no hitter in the minor leagues as a younger man, he also is the youngest Opening Day pitcher for the Yankees (1910) and he is without a doubt the best left hander in the Cubs history.

From 1914 to 1919 Vaughn was the 2nd best pitcher in the National League trailing only Grover Cleveland Alexander in RSAA 204 to 142. Vaughn won 20 games five times, mostly for mediocre teams. In 1918 the Cubs made a big move when they acquired Alexander, however the war got in the way of the pair appearing over the whole season as teammates when Alexander was drafted early in the season. Though the Cub fans were unable to see the pair together Big Jim Vaughn led the league in RSAA with 30 and the Cubs did make it to the World Series. In 1920 Alexander would join the Cubs and lead the NL with 49 RSAA,  but by then though Big Jim Vaughn was fading, at 32 he was able to muster 19 RSAA over the course of the season and it was in the middle of the next season that he flamed out magnificently on the mound and in the training room. Vaughn finished his career pitching in Semi Pro leagues in Wisconsin throughout the next decade.

Big Jim Vaughn used to pitch the particular kind of ball a batter liked best just to show him that he couldn’t hit it. Nothing pleased him better than to strike a man out pitching to his strength.

~ Grover Cleveland Alexander

Cincinnati Population – 401,247 – 16th in the USA

Los Angeles was ranked 10th in the nation as the decade ended, surpassing San Francisco as the most populated city on the West Coast. Seattle was ranked 20th, and Portland, Oregon 24th as America moved west—well west of Nevada, which was sparsely populated with a meek total of 77,000.

Team Media Sources

Newspapers didn’t change much by this time in Cincinnati, despite the demise of the German speaking press. 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 The Sporting News or Baseball Magazine. This was essentially the beginning of the golden age of Photojournalism. The rise of photographs in magazines began to replace the unique and beautiful artist renderings of the graphics arts era. Yearly, one might get the Spaulding Guide or Reach Guide that detailed the NL and AL season once the season ended. During the World Series, one could go to the moviehouse and catch the World Series like the newsreel found in Canada a few years ago. The era of the large mechanical scoreboard diamond in the local city square was at its peak and would soon fade to obscurity in the Golden Age of Radio.

Entertainment Business

Little did baseball know they were experiencing so much trouble that year, with gambling, and fan interest/cynicism, and their popular rival in the sporting world was just starting out.

  • Green Bay Packers established at Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Decatur Staleys established at Decatur, Illinois. The club will relocate to Chicago in 1921 and rename itself the Chicago Bears.

In the world of music, we can see a shift of the sale of popular sheet music to the increased popularity of the singers themselves. With this transition, we see the demise of the family sing-along and the rise of listening rooms in people’s homes. The 1920’s would explode with the popularity of celebrity culture in a way that was unmatched in the history of the country. Names like Edie Cantor, Ruth, Dempsey, Valentino, Pickford, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Hemingway and Keaton would be known by everyone in a matter of years. Also introduced in 1919 was a popular character that would become an archetype in the world of animation. Short and saucy with a rebel attitude, this black and white anthropomorphic animal would become the most popular cartoon character of America, all before Mickey Mouse.

Of course, I’m talking about Felix the Cat

But I digress… check out Mickey and Felix’s  Rap Battle and judge for yourself.

Hot Technology

In the mid 1970’s a regional insurance company created a computer network and began selling shared time to other companies. Eventually they began to offer access to software they hosted and built. With innovation we always see great growth of an idea, eventually the company morphed into Compuserve and began to charge people hourly access to interact with others and access games and other content. One hundred years ago there was new technology that was gaining traction in the public’s eyes as innovation was applied to it daily. This technology known as radio was poised to take the country by storm. Currently it was a solitary pursuit with a technical debt tied to it. To listen to the radio you had to make one in many cases, you listened to the radio with headphones, not sharing it with anyone but yourself, there were no radio stations at the time broadcasts were experimental and executed by the scientific type from the attic of his home. It’s in the world of radio we learn terms like, “The Ether”, “Wireless” and “Now a word from our sponsor”  The real power in radio for many was the ability to participate in something with others around the region, country and globe, that is what made it special.

Radio firsts

  • First game – Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies game on August 5, 1921
  • First College Football Game – West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh on October 8, 1921
  • First World Series – New York Yankees vs. New York Giants – 1923

Television contracts the imagination and radio expands it.

~ Terry Wogan

Born

  • Jackie Robinson, African-American baseball player (d. 1972)
  • George Wallace, 45th Governor of Alabama (d. 1998)

Died

  • Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (b. 1858)
  • Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-born businessman and philanthropist (b. 1835)

Notes

World Series Ticket Prices

  • Box Seats $6  ($87 today)
  • Lower Grandstand $5  ($72.57 today)
  • Temporary Bleachers (In LF) $3  ($43.54 today)
  • LF & RF Pavilion/RF Bleachers $2  ($29 today)

Why Nine Games?

The 1918 season was shortened due to the war. The 1919 season was scheduled at 140 games because the owners were afraid that fan interest would be lacking after the prior aborted season.

A completely crazy news year:

  • The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, authorizing Prohibition, is ratified.
  • 16 million reported to have died in World War I.
  • By the spring of 1919, the influenza pandemic sickened an estimated one-third of the world’s population.
  • The 19th Amendment, granting women the (long-overdue) right to vote, was passed by Congress on June 4th

Of course, to all the fans of baseball, no 1919 story burns as bright as the Black Sox scandal. Rather than me speaking to it, I will point you toward the motherlode for this story. Believe me when I say, it is well worth your time.

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

One Response

  1. V

    Thanks, Brian. Very enjoyable. And you’re right–the Eight Myths Out article was worth the time.