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 6, 1870: The Cincinnati Red Stockings score 13 runs in the final three innings to erase a 15-5 deficit and beat the Forest Grays of Cleveland, 18-15. It was the biggest comeback win of the year for the team that finished 67-6-1.

October 6, 1880: The Cincinnati Reds are expelled from the National League for selling beer during games and for renting the ballpark to amateur teams on Sunday.

At the time, not all players were not protected by the “reserve clause,” the ruling that binds players to teams. The teams could protect five players (normal roster size was 11) and teams generally protected their pitcher, their catcher, and three other players while other players were essentially free agents at the end of each season. The Reds didn’t protect future Hall of Famer King Kelly, which proved to be a mistake, and they attempted to protect Cal McVey, who instead of being protected, retired. Another star they protected, Deacon White, held out for a better contract. At first, it was a badge of honor to be protected, but then the players realized the teams were using the Reserve Clause to hold down salaries for the unprotected players were signing bigger contracts than the “face of the franchise” type players. The Reds were the first team to fall because of player reactions to the Reserve Clause. The 1879 team that went 43-37 and was expected to contend in 1880, instead limped home at 21-59. The team was losing money and resorted to selling spirits at the ballpark and leasing the ballpark for Sunday use, of which both items were banned by the National League.

The NL ignored the Reds’ practice until the more puritan northeastern teams took issue and started to complain. The Worcester Ruby Legs, who had just joined the league for the 1880 season, complained the loudest and the league sought to reinforcement the two rules. The Reds refused to sign an agreement and were bounced out of the league with the Detroit Wolverines taking their place. The result was that Cincinnati did not have a major league team in 1881 (the only year) and was a founding member of the American Association for the 1882 season in a league often called the “Beer and Whiskey League” for seemingly obvious reasons.

October 6, 1882: The Cincinnati Red Stockings in the first World Series game ever, well, sort of, 4-0, over the Chicago White Stockings in an unauthorized game in Cincinnati.

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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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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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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 […]