The Reds had a full slate of games this week, so I won’t waste too much time on an introduction. But I will say: Due to an unfortunate turn of events, an old face will be making his Reds debut next week.

If you missed the explainer of this little project, you can find it here and last week’s results here. To give the Sparknotes: I will be randomizing every Reds game by picking a historical box score and subbing in the current Reds. As you might guess, these randomizations are not meant to be realistic, unlike Tom Mitsoff’s Strat-o-Matic simulation exercise. I just want people to remember how absurd baseball can be and maybe learn about some guys from years gone by. Sadly, Joey Votto did not steal a base this week. Happily, neither did anyone else?

Thursday April 16: Reds vs. Giants

Randomized Game: Washington Senators at Philadelphia Athletics, September 25, 1938

The Game (5-4 loss): Another loss for the Redlegs as Trevor Bauer gets roughed up for four runs in his seventh inning of work, costing the Reds late in this rain-shortened game. Going into the final frame, the Reds were up 4-1, but Bauer gave up five hits and a bases loaded walk while only recording one out. Raisel Iglesias came on to quell the tide, but it was too little too late. Prior to Bauer’s meltdown, Nick Castellanos had been the hero of the game, breaking a 1-1 tied with a two-run triple in the fifth. Curt Casali also turned in a nice game, going 2-3 with a double and two runs scored. With the loss, the Reds drop to .500 and fourth in the Central.

The Guy: Nick Etten made his debut with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1938, after spending nine years in the minors because his manager wanted him to be an outfielder, he said. He played parts of two seasons with the club before again spending all of the 1940 season in the minors. When Etten resurfaced in the majors in 1941, he was with the other Philadelphia team, the Phillies. Connie Mack, the A’s owner, was experiencing money troubles at the time, so it’s possible he simply couldn’t afford Etten. The first baseman played two seasons with the Phils, before a trade sent him to the Yankees where he really took off. From 1943 to 1945, Etten annually garnered MVP votes, and led the American League in both homers and walks in 1944.

Friday April 17: Reds at Yankees

Randomized Game: New York Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates, August 24, 1906

The Game (3-0 win): Anthony DeSclafani finally threw a complete game, becoming the final Reds starter to do so. Disco scattered seven hits from the Yankees, only striking out two but escaping every jam. Shogo Akiyama and Derek Dietrich provided the offense, going 4-7 with a double, a triple, a walk, and two runs scored between them. Other than that, this was a relatively straightforward pitcher’s duel, with the Reds guy coming out on top.

The Guy: Joe McGinnity either lacked a UCL or simply decided arm pain didn’t matter as the original “Iron Man” pitched nearly 3,500 innings in just ten seasons played. McGinnity never understood why other pitchers weren’t as durable as he was. When he was the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1926, he claimed only four or five pitchers were needed on the roster and said, “They have been influenced into the belief that they should not have to work without a long rest and that they can’t be effective without that rest.” McGinnity lead the majors in innings pitched three times, twice throwing more than 400 innings in a season. McGinnity also might have been one of the first submariners, throwing a rising curveball, nicknamed “Old Sal,” that he released just inches from the ground. McGinnity was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1946, nearly 20 years after his death.

Saturday April 18: Reds at Yankees

Randomized Game: California Angels at Chicago White Sox, May 25, 1979

The Game (6-1 loss): Philip Ervin provides the Reds only hit, a double, in another loss where the bats fail to show up. After an auspicious start, this randomized Reds team is starting to look like the Reds of the past two years: high expectations, great pitching, and no hitting whatsoever. Wade Miley turns in a dud (despite Nolan Ryan as his counterpart), and Robert Stephenson limits the damage from the pen. The Reds failed to capitalize on eight free passes through the first eight innings, only managing the one run on a Nick Castellanos sacrifice fly.

The Guy: Despite accumulating more than 70 WAR in his career, Bobby Grich is not Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. The second baseman was a six-time All Star, four-time Golden Glove winner, and once a Silver Slugger winner during his 17-year playing career. He’s been inducted into both the Orioles’ and the Angels’ Hall of Fames, and has the highest JAWS score of any non-Hall of Fame player. All of this to say, Bobby Grich was pretty good. More interestingly though, Grich had a strong understanding of his worth as a player and how he could never have to work again once he retired.  “I’ll need an estate of about $2,000,000,” Grich said once. “If I can get a 10 percent return, that would give me $200,000 a year, enough to do almost anything I want. …To get $200,000, I need home runs, RBIs, and a good average. I’ve got to be a good offensive player. A defensive player won’t make a lot of money. I learned that during arbitration last winter.” Even without the Hall of Fame, I’d say Grich has it figured out.

Sunday April 19: Reds at Yankees

Randomized Game: Pittsburgh Pirates at Boston Braves, June 2, 1947

The Game (4-3 win): The Redlegs eke out a series win against the Bronx Bombers behind a stellar start from Luis Castillo and just enough run support. Every Red save Jesse Winker had a hit in this game, but the team struggled get runs across the plate, leaving 10 men on base. Philip Ervin takes home star of the game honors in this one, going 2-4 and doubling home the run that turned out to be the difference. Luis Castillo almost finished his third complete game of the season, but was roughed up for two runs in the ninth without recording an out. Raisel Iglesias staunched the damage for a save, but did allow one of the inherited runners to score.

The Guy: Before Ralph Kiner became the third-longest single-team broadcaster in baseball history (behind Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin), he was a Hall of Fame first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kiner made six All Star teams for the Pirates and led the National League in home runs for the first seven seasons of his career (leading all of MLB for the latter six of those). Kiner’s rise as a power hitter coincided with his burgeoning friendship with slugger Hank Greenburg, who the Pirates traded for before Kiner’s second season. The veteran took Kiner under his wing, building his work ethic and confidence. The Pirates also shortened the left field fence for Greenburg, adding a bullpen that brought the fence from 365 feet down the line to 335. The bullpen earned the nickname “Greenburg’s Gardens,” at least until Kiner cemented himself late in the season and it was rechristened “Kiner’s Korner.” My favorite story about Kiner however involves an entirely different sport. Kiner married Nancy Chaffee, an American tennis player, and once quipped that “after two years of lessons, he was able to beat Nancy at tennis – two weeks before she gave birth to their first child.”

Monday April 20: Reds at Cardinals

Randomized Game: Philadelphia Athletics at Chicago White Sox, June 17, 1954

The Game (6-4 loss)*: Despite playing the basement-dwelling Cardinals, the Reds drop the season-opener and fall back to .500 on the season. The Cardinals took out their pent-up aggression from the abysmal start on Sonny Gray, swatting 11 hits for six runs against the Reds No. 2. The offense woke up a little bit as Phil Ervin and Derek Dietrich both went long, but it wasn’t enough. At the end of this game, of the Reds seven best hitters by OPS, three are pitchers (Lorenzen, Bauer, and Miley). Shogo Akiyama, Philip Ervin, and Tucker Barnhart are the only regulars in that top seven, with Dietrich’s home run helping him to sneak in. It’s safe to say 22 games into the season that the heart of the Reds’ order is slumping hard.

*Nick Castellanos is listed as DH instead of LF in this box score. I regret the error, but I do not regret it enough to correct it.

The Guy: When he wasn’t belting three-run homers off the bench, Gus Zernial was playing matchmaker, having set up perhaps the most famous couple of last century: Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. During Spring Training one year, Twentieth Century Fox asked Zernial to take some pictures with Monroe — her at-bat and him with his arms around her — for the LA papers. The scene was pure publicity, but it set DiMaggio off. “How come that ****** busher gets to meet a beautiful girl like that?” he reportedly raged. DiMaggio asked Zernial how to get in contact with her soon thereafter, and the rest is history.

Outside of pairing retired ballplayers with starlets, Zernial had a career filled with novelties. When he debuted with the White Sox in 1949, Zernial took a pay cut from his rate in the Pacific Coast League, he said in an HBO special. Nicknamed “Ozark Ike” after a comic strip, Zernial once hit seven home runs across four consecutive games. And at the end of his time with the White Sox, he shared the outfield with Al Zarilla, becoming the first outfield to field two players with a last name starting with “Z.” To compound on that oddity, when the Sox traded Zernial to the A’s, they received Sam Zoldack as part of the deal, the only trade in baseball history with two players with a “Z” last name.

Tuesday April 21: Reds at Cardinals

Randomized Game: Boston Braves at New York Giants, August 3, 1935

The Game (3-2 loss): For the first time this season, the Reds fall under .500. Trevor Bauer pitches eight solid innings, but — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — the bats just don’t help. Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer is all the Reds manage in this one. Even worse, Alex Blandino goes down with a knock after just one at-bat. The Reds thinnest position has officially lost all of its depth just three weeks into the season. Until Freddy Galvis comes back, Kyle Farmer will be the starting shortstop with Aristides Aquino coming up from the minors to take Blandino’s roster spot.

The Guy: Rupert “Tommy” Thompson didn’t accomplish all that much in the bigs. Despite providing the only offense in this game vie home run, Thompson only hit nine dingers in his six-year major league career. He accumulated just 2.1 WAR over those six seasons as well. But for 1935, this game’s year, Thompson’s stats tell very little of the story. Babe Ruth had returned to Boston for his swan song, having spent the prime of his career in the Bronx. Ruth was 40 years old and nearing 250 pounds, but still managed to hit his 709th home run in his Braves’ debut. Despite Ruth’s aging body, until his retirement that June, Thompson was the Sultan of Swat’s backup. For three months, one of the greatest baseball players of all time and Tommy Thompson shared a field. For three months, they were essentially equal.

Wednesday April 22: Reds at Cardinals

Randomized Game: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs, July 2, 2005

The Game (4-2 win): Despite playing with a short bench as Aristides Aquino waits to meet the team in Cincinnati, the Reds took the series finale and climbed back to .500. Anthony DeSclafani pitched five serviceable innings, his worst outing of 2020 so far, but kept the Cards to just two runs. The bullpen shut it down the rest of the way, giving up only one hit across four innings. At the plate, the Reds bats came alive. Philip Ervin doubled, Shogo Akiyama tripled, and Eugenio Suarez went yard for the second game in a row. Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas are still scuffling at the dish, but at least Ervin has claimed the starting right field spot and staked his life to it.

The Guy: Jose Guillen defined journeyman, playing for ten teams across his 14 seasons including the Reds. He’s no Edwin Jackson or Octavio Dotel to be sure, but bouncing around that much as a hitter does have a veneer of its own. Before Juan Soto jumped from High-A to the bigs, Guillen blazed the path, having done so in 1997, making his major league debut with the Pirates. Guillen had his most productive stint with the Reds from August 2002 to July 2003, hitting 27 home runs with a .929 OPS. The Reds dealt him to Oakland at the deadline, bringing back the man who would anchor the rotation in the aughts: Aaron Harang.

In that 2003 season, Guillen finished with more home runs than walks, becoming one of six players to accomplish the feat. When Guillen played for the Angels, he publicly feuded with manager Mike Scioscia, leading to his Mike Fiers moment the following season. Now a member of the Nationals, Guillen told his new manager Frank Robinson to call for a search of the Halos starter’s glove. The ump indeed found illegal substances and ejected the pitcher. Guillen hit the game-tying home run that game as an added pinch of spite.

Season Stats and Standings

At the plate, Shogo Akiyama continues to lead the Reds; Philip Ervin has lugged the team through its extended slump; and Eugenio Suarez has finally found his power stroke. From the mound, the Cherebus of Garrett, Lorenzen, and Iglesias have shut down the end of games; Wade Miley has dramatically underperformed his peripherals; and Luis Castillo has outperformed his underlying stats. Regardless, the Reds now find themselves in the NL Central scrum, 2.5 behind the Cubs, 1 behind the Pirates, and tied with the Brewers.

NL Central Standings

2 Responses

  1. Doug Gray

    I can not stress enough how much I love the historical stuff in these posts, Wes.

  2. CFD3000

    Wholeheartedly agree Wes. The throwback recaps and player highlights are gold. I’d never heard of Gus Zernial or Tommy Thompson but they’re a little slice of what makes baseball so great. Also – Bobby Grich had 70 WAR? Really? Next you’ll tell me he and Mark Belanger were the best middle infield since Morgan and Concepcion. Who knew? Fantastic stuff.