November 15, 1886: The Cincinnati Reds completed the first trade of “reserved” players in Major League history when they traded catcher Jack Boyle and $350 to the St. Louis Browns for outfielder Hugh Nicol.

The reserve clause is part of the anti-trust exemption granted Major League Baseball when it comes to interstate commerce that deals directly with player management and control. From baseball-reference.com’s bullpen:

The reserve clause was a clause in player contracts that bound a player to a single team for a long period, even if the individual contracts he signed nominally covered only one season. For most of baseball history, the term of reserve was held to be essentially perpetual, so that a player had no freedom to change teams unless he was given his unconditional release. The clause was widely believed to have been overturned in the 1970s, but in practice young players today are still bound for up to 12 years (6 in the minors and 6 in the majors) before they have free agent rights.

When baseball started there was no reserve clause and the players were free to move from team to team at the end of their one-year contracts. This caused great turmoil amongst the teams and competitive imbalance was always at risk to a wealthy owner. These battles especially became difficult when new major leagues such as the American Association, Union League, and the Player’s League would compete with the National League for talent. “Small market” teams like Cincinnati were especially vulnerable and Cincinnati stars such as Charley Jones, King Kelly, and Tony Mullane jumped from team-to-team and league-to-league, sometimes signing or verbally agreeing with more than one team in a season. These player jumps led to court battles between the leagues and the players. Mullane and Jones were both either blackballed and/or suspended at different times due to excessive contract jumping.

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October 24, 1879: The Cincinnati Reds, an organization in disarray, are disbanded by Reds president, J. W. Neff, in a move that destroys a team of promising young players at one of the more critical points in early baseball history. The 1876 and 1877 Reds were abysmal teams, finishing the seasons with records of 9-56 […]

October 9, 1876: The first National League Cincinnati Reds team finished the worst season in Reds history with an 11-0 lost to the Hartford Dark Blues. The Reds, or Porkopolitans as they were sometimes called, went 9-56, a .138 won-loss percentage, and finished 42 1/2 games behind the first place Chicago White Stockings.

The first Reds team had a genuine superstar, Charley Jones, who batted .286 with a .724 OPS (154 OPS+) and was second in the league with four home runs. Those were the only home runs the Reds hit all season. Jones was the only Red to have a slugging percentage over .279. Over the next decade, Jones became one of baseball’s best known and very best players with several teams signing him to contracts, but that’s another story. The Reds most common pitcher (carefully chose the word “common”) was Dory Dean who finished the season 4-26 with a 3.73 ERA (ERA+ 59). He led the team in games pitched and innings pitched despite missing the first two months of the season. His .133 winning percentage is the worst ever by a one-year pitcher with a minimum of 20 decisions.

At least the Reds finished the season. The New York Mutuals and the Philadelphia Athletics quit the season with two weeks to go and found their teams expelled from the National League. The nation’s two largest cities did not have major league baseball teams for at least the next five seasons. Philadelphia did not get another major league baseball team until 1882 when the American Association granted them a franchise. The National League granted a franchise to Philadelphia in 1883 in response to the AA move. The National League and American Association both granted New York franchises for the 1883 league seasons.

October 9, 1898: The Reds’ Dusty Miller collects eight hits in a Reds doubleheader with the Cleveland Spiders. The Reds won the first game, 12-5, but the second game resulted a 6-6 tie with the game called after seven innings due to darkness.

In the first game, Miller was 5-5 with five singles against Hall of Famer Cy Young. In the second game, he had a single, a double, and a triple. For the season, Miller batted .299 and led the Reds with 99 runs scored and 90 rbi. Miller played seven major league seasons, five with the Reds. His best Reds season was 1895, when he batted .335 with 10 homers, 112 rbi, 103 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 triples and an .888 OPS (124 OPS+). The best hitter for the 1898 Reds was Mike Smith, a former 34-game winning pitcher for the Red Stockings in 1887. Smith batted .342 with an .858 OPS (139 OPS+).

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October 2, 1877: The Reds finish one of their worst season in Cincinnati baseball history, by losing to the Chicago White Stockings, 13-1. The 1877 Reds, who had disbanded and restarted at mid-season, finish the year 15-42 in last place, 25 1/2 games behind the first place Boston Red Caps. The Red Caps were remnants of the original Cincinnati Red Stockings team, led by George Wright and managed by brother Harry Wright. The 1877 Reds won-loss percentage of .263 was tied for second worst of all time.

The 1877 Reds were led by superstar Charley Jones, who batted .310 with an .819 OPS (168 OPS+) in 55 games. He had the second highest WAR (wins above replacement rating) in the league in 1877 (3.2), not that he knew that at the time since it’s a recently developed metric. Shortstop-manager Jack Manning batted .317 (OPS+ 151) and outfielder-manager Lip Pike (142 OPS+) also had strong years. The Reds used three different managers during the season. Pitching was the Reds’ downfall as their staff ERA (4.19) was nearly a run worse than any other team in the league.

October 2, 1892: The St. Louis Browns score eight runs in the top of the first inning, but the Reds come back to win the first game of a double header, 12-10. The Reds also win the second game, 4-1, to sweep the Browns. The 1892 Reds go on to finish in fifth place.

October 2, 1919: The Reds win the second game of the 1919 World Series, 4-2, over the Chicago White Sox in Cincinnati. The Reds now led the best of nine series, two games to one.

The Reds struck for three runs in the fourth inning when White Sox starter Lefty Williams ran into control problems. Williams, who had averaged 1.8 walks/9 innings for the season, walked three Reds hitters in the inning leading to three Reds runs on a single by Edd Roush and a triple by Larry Kopf. The Reds added an insurance run in the sixth when Greasy Neale singled home Roush. The White Sox scored their two runs in the seventh when Ray Schalk singled to score two, aided by two Reds throwing errors on the play.

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September 19, 1883: Within nine days, Cincinnati Red Stockings star first baseman John Reilly twice hits for the cycle and becomes the first Cincinnati player to homer twice in the same game.

The hot streak began on September 10, when Reilly hit two inside-the-park home runs as the Red Stockings defeated the Pittsburgh Alleghenies, 12-6. Reilly was second on the team in home runs with nine in 1883, trailing team leader Charley Jones who had 10.

His first cycle came on September 12, 1883, when he and left handed third baseman Hick Carpenter both went 6-7 in a 27-5 win over the Pittsburgh. The Red Stockings collected a club record 33 hits in the game. Charley Jones had five hits in the game. This is the only game in major league history that two players from the same team had six hits in the same game. Three other Cincinnati players have collected six hits in a game: Tony Cuccinello (1931), Ernie Lombardi (1937), and Walker Cooper (1949).

Reilly’s second cycle came seven days later on September 19 as the Red Stockings defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 12-3 in Cincinnati. For the season, Reilly led the Red Stockings with a .311 batting average, a .485 SLP, an .810 OPS, and an OPS+ of 150. He scored 103 runs in only 98 games and collected 79 rbi.

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September 15, 1885: Rookie Cincinnati Red Stockings pitcher George Pechiney defeats the Baltimore Orioles, 1-0, in Baltimore. Pechiney joined the Red Stockings in August after pitching in the minors and started 11 games down the stretch. He went 7-4 with a 2.02 ERA (161 ERA+) during the last few weeks of the season. The 1885 Red Stockings finished in second place to the St. Louis Browns. The Red Stockings were 63-49, 16 games behind the Browns.

Pechiney didn’t fare as well in 1886. He started 40 games and pitched 330 innings, finishing the season 15-21 with a 4.14 ERA (85 ERA+). The nadir of his season came on April 27 when the Browns beat him 20-2 with Pechiney going the distance. He allowed 15 earned runs and 24 hits. At year’s end his contract was sold to the Cleveland Blues. In 1887 (his final season) he went 1-9 with a 7.12 ERA (61 ERA+).

The 1885 Red Stockings team was built on offense. Managed by local sportswriter Ollie Caylor (see, sportswriters can manage a team…), the offense was led by local superstar Charley Jones (fascinating biography found here…), Jones was fifth in the league in OPS and batted .322 (157 OPS+). The Red Stockings boasted one of the best infields in Cincinnati history in first baseman John Reilly ( career 128 OPS+), Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee (career OPS+ 106), third baseman Hick Carpenter (OPS+ 86) and slugging shortstop Frank Fennelly (OPS+ of 118). Fennelly had a huge 1885, batting .273 with 10 homers (41 extra base hits) and 89 rbi in just 112 games (OPS+ 142).

The 1886 Red Stockings declined and were the worst Cincinnati team of their American Association era, finishing in fifth place (65-73) the only sub-.500 team of the 1880’s.

September 15, 1887: The Cincinnati Red Stockings defeat two different teams on the same day. In the morning, they defeat The New York Metropolitans, 4-0, on Staten Island, and then travel to Brooklyn to beat the Brooklyn Grays that afternoon, 11-1.

The 1887 Red Stockings finished second with an 81-54 record, 14 games behind the St. Louis Browns. The 1887 Red Stockings featured duel 30-game winners in Mike Smith (34-17, 2.94 ERA, 148 ERA+) and Tony Mullane (31-17, 3.24 ERA, 134 ERA+). (You can read more about Smith and Mullane here). John Reilly was the hitting star, batting .309 with 96 rbi in 134 games.

September 15, 1950: The pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies sweep a doubleheader from the Reds. The Reds lose the first game, 2-1, and then go 19 innings before losing the nightcap, 8-7.

The Phillies first game runs scored on a double play ground out and a home run by catcher Andy Seminick, giving them a 2-0 lead after four innings. The Reds’ only run came in the sixth inning when Virgil Stallcup doubled home Lloyd Merriman. Knuckleballer Willie Ramsdell went the distance in the loss.

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September 6, 1877: From “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder:

“In a game filled with three historic ‘firsts,’ the Reds shutout Louisville, 1-0. Reds pitcher Bobby Mitchell becomes the first left-hander to start a game in major league history and his delivery baffled the Louisville hitters. This was also the first shutout in Reds history. And, Lip Pike hit the first-ever over-the-fence home run for the Reds, over the right field fence.”

The 1877 National League Cincinnati Red Stockings were a mess. The worst team in the league, the team ran out of cash part-way through the season and shut down operations during June. According to “The Great Encyclopedia of 19th-Century Baseball” by David Nemec:

(Cincinnati’s) “games were thrown out of the standings (they were later restored and thrown out again). In the few days Cincinnati was out of business, (Chicago White Stockings owner) William Hulbert pilfered three of its players–Charley Jones, Jimmy Hallinan, and Harry Smith–for his Chicago White Stockings. The outcry from the other league cities against the piracy forced Hulbert to remember that he was also loop president. He returned Jones, the best of the three, but kept the other two even after the ‘Chicago Tribune’ vowed to stop running the scores of the White Stockings’ games on its sports page.”

The 1877 Red Stockings team finished 15-42, 25 1/2 games behind the league champion Boston Red Caps. The Red Caps apparently won the league because several members of the league’s best team, the Louisville Grays, were found to have thrown the second half of the season. The gambling scandal led to the expulsion of four Louisville players including possibly the league’s best pitcher and player, Jim Devlin. (Devlin’s scandal and biography can be found here–it’s a fascinating story). The White Stockings, who had taken some of the Red Stockings’ players apparently really needed them. Even with the additions, they finished next-to-last with a 26-33 record.

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July 20: I’ve been trying to avoid listing several events on the same day, but July 20 deserves an exception.

First, probably the most important event was July 20, 1916, when the Reds traded for three Hall of Famers on the same day. The Reds traded their shortstop player-manager Buck Herzog and outfielder Red Killefer for future Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Roush, infielder and future Reds Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, and Hall of Fame pitcher and newly appointed Reds manager for 1916, Christy Mathewson. One of the most important acquisitions in Reds history, Roush becomes one of the very best deadball hitters of all-time, leads the Reds to a 1919 World Series victory, accumulates a .323 lifetime batting average, and is named to baseball’s Hall of Fame. For more info, please read the link above (three Hall of Famers).

July 20, 1894: one of the more unusual and disturbing “rooter” (fan) events in Reds history occurs in a 7-6 extra inning victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. This story is better left told by the Greg Rhodes and John Snyder, authors of “Redleg Journal“:

“Aided by zealous bleacherites, the Reds pull out a dramatic 7-6 win over the Pirates at League Park in the ten innings. Pittsburgh scored in the top of the tenth to take a 6-5 lead, but a homer by Farmer Vaughn tied the game and then Germany Smith followed with another ball into the bleachers. According to the ground rules of the day, Pittsburgh left fielder Elmer Smith was permitted to jump into the stands to retrieve the ball and attempt to retire the Cincinnati baserunner on a throw back to the infield. Several overzealous fans held Smith down, and center fielder Jake Stenzel rushed to his teammate’s defense. The outfielders slugged their way free, but vacated the premises in a hurry when a fan displayed a revolver hidden in a coat pocket, and threatened to use the weapon if the Pittsburgh players continued their pursuit of the elusive horsehide.

There was certainly a much different code of sportsmanship in operation a year ago. The Enquirer termed the incident ‘excusable.’ ‘It would be a poor (fan), indeed.’ opined the paper, ‘who would not turn a trick to help out the home team….They would not have been loyal Cincinnati rooters had they acted any other way.’

For those keeping score of old-timer’s nicknames: Farmer Vaughn’s given name was Henry; Germany Smith’s given name was George; Elmer Smith’s given name was Elmer, but he sometimes went by Mike; and Jake Stenzel’s given name was Jacob. Prior to play the outfield for the Pirates, Elmer Smith had been a Reds pitcher, winning 34 games for the 1887 Reds and leading the American Association with a 2.94 ERA. Red Killefer’s given name was Wade. Christy Mathewson was known as “Big Six.” Buck Herzog’s given name was Charles. McKechnie was known as “the Deacon” for his low-key disposition.

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While the 1882 American Association Red Stockings were the first Cincinnati league champions, Cincinnati’s first major league team was not nearly as successful.

The 1876 National League was a new major league, replacing the National Association which existed from 1871-1875. The National Association was predominantly a northeastern-midwestern league with teams from as far east as New Haven, Boston, Hartford, New York, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia from the northeast and St. Louis, Chicago, and Keokuk, Iowa, representing the midwest . While not discussing the drama that ended the NA and began the NL, the new league promised solid and honest leadership. That principal worked until 1877 when some Louisville Grays players were found to be throwing games, costing the Louisville team first place, four expelled players, and bringing an end to one of the original NL teams.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings that played in 1876 had little resemblance to the famous 1869 Red Stockings team, the first acknowledged fully professional team. In fact, many of those of 1869 players were now members of the Boston Red Caps, who had won four consecutive National Association titles. Former Cincinnati stars George Wright and Andy Leonard were still playing with Boston in 1876, with Harry Wright now managing the Boston squad and another former star Red Stocking, Cal McVey, now playing for the Chicago White Stockings. The new Cincinnati team had two original Red Stocking players, 2b Charlie Sweasy and 1b Charlie Gould, but they proved to be more of sentimental value rather than stars that would help the team win.

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1882 Cincinnati Red Stockings

Team Notes:

Team Record: 55-25, .688 winning percentage, 11 ½ games ahead of Philadelphia Athletics

World Series: Tied National League champion Chicago White Stockings with 1 win, 1 loss

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Charley Jones is the name of a Reds superstar that few may know. In fact, Bill James, baseball historian, goes as far as to say he’s one of the two best unrecognized players of the 1870’s (the other being Levi Meyerle, who played one season for the Reds Stockings in 1877).

Jones was baseball’s first slugger. A good defensive outfielder, he played for no less than eight different organizations in his 13 year major league career…and that includes two years where he was expelled from baseball over a contract dispute (fans think baseball players are more transient today?).

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On May 1, 1878, according to “This Day in Baseball” (Nemec-Flatow), Cincinnati Reds catcher Deacon White and his rookie brother, Will White, become the first brother catcher-pitcher battery in professional baseball history. The Reds beat the Milwaukee Grays on this day, 6-4. The 1878 Reds (37-23) finished second that year to the Boston Red Caps […]