Some time ago, we named the top ten catchers in Reds history. It’s time now for the second installment in our “Top Ten” series. Today, we’re going to look at the ten greatest first baseman in the long and illustrious history of the Cincinnati Reds. 1. Joey Votto. 2007-present. This is going to be the […]

December 13, 1906: On this date, the Reds purchase pitcher Andy Coakley from the Philadelphia Athletics. Coakley becomes (and remains) the all-time Reds leader in career Earned Run Average. Coakley was a five year veteran of the Athletics when the Reds purchased his contract (in Coakley’s first season–3 games–he played as Jack Mc Allister), compiling […]

When Joey Votto won the 2010 National League MVP Award, it marked the 12th time that a Red had won the Award since it’s inception in 1911 (no award was given from 1915-23 or in 1930).

Reds winners are listed below, and in deference to Joey Votto’s quote about batting average (“we all know that batting average is kind of an overrated statistic”), I’ll use more modern metrics for their performance.

1938, Ernie Lombardi, catcher, .342 batting average/.391 OBP/.524 SLP
1939, Bucky Walters, pitcher, 27-11, 2.29 ERA, 137 K’s
1940, Frank McCormick, 1st base, .309/.367/.482
1961, Frank Robinson, outfield, .323/.404/.611
1970, Johnny Bench, catcher, .293/.345/.587
1972, Johnny Bench, catcher, .270/.379/.541
1973, Pete Rose, outfield, .338/.401/.437
1975, Joe Morgan, 2nd base, .327/.466/.508
1976, Joe Morgan, 2nd base, .320/.444/.576
1977, George Foster, outfield, .320/.382/.631
1995, Barry Larkin, shortstop, .319/.394/.492
2010, Joey Votto, 1st base, .324/.424/.600

You most likely know about most, if not all, of these guys. Lombardi, Walters, and McCormick were stars that played with the 1939-40 Reds teams. Robinson was the best player of the late 50’s/early 60’s and played on the 1961 World Series team. Bench, Rose, Morgan, and Foster were stars from the Big Red Machine World Series teams. Larkin was a star from the 1990 World Series team, and Votto broke many Reds hitting records from this past season.

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November 13, 1940: Reds first baseman Frank McCormick (.309, 19 homers, 127 rbi) wins the Most Valuable Player award becoming the third consecutive Red to win the MVP. Catcher Ernie Lombardi (.342, 19 homers, 95 rbi) won in 1938 and starting pitcher Bucky Walters (27-11, 2.29 ERA) won in 1939. McCormick won the 1940 award […]

The National League Gold Glove winners are to be announced today. Hopefully, there won’t be any disastrous shocks like yesterday when Derek Jeter was awarded his fifth Gold Glove. The folks at baseball-reference.com were so mortified they even had a disclaimer next to the announcement (since taken down). The disclaimer was something like “We can’t […]

October 31, 1938: Ernie Lombardi becomes the first Cincinnati Reds player to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award. Lombardi wins by becoming only the second catcher in Major League history to win a batting title. For the season, Lombardi batted .342 with with 19 homers and 95 rbi, a .391 OBP, and a .524 slugging percentage. He was third in the league with an overall OPS of .915.

The only other catcher to have been credited with a batting title through 1938 was another Reds catcher, Bubbles Hargrave, who had won the title in 1926 when he batted .353. Hargrave had played in 105 games with 365 plate appearances; Lombardi played in 129 games with 529 plate appearances. Lombardi later won a second batting title, in 1942 with the Boston Braves, when he batted .330 in 105 games and 347 plate appearances. I believe the rule at the time was a player had to appear in a minimum of 100 games. Joe Mauer is the third catcher to win a batting title and he’s accomplished the feat three times to this date.

Heinie Groh is another Reds player who would’ve possibly won an MVP Award if one had been announced for the 1919 Reds World Championship season. Groh batted .310/5 hr/63 rbi and a league leading .823 OPS for the 1919 team but no award was granted that season. Sabermetrician Bill James and the Stats, Inc., group retroactively named Groh to that honor in their book “All-Time Baseball Sourcebook.”

Hall of Famer Lombardi was a legend even during his playing days. A very large man, James even devotes more than 10 pages of his 2001 book “The Bill James New Historical Baseball Abstract” to the Lombardi legend. Lombardi was possibly the slowest runner in baseball history, or, at least, the slowest runner of any consequential star hitters in baseball history. The shortstops and third basemen of the National League regularly, not often, but regularly played him from the outfield grass. James says in his historical abstract that some infielders played so far back that they would have to run up to have enough strength to throw the ball to first base to get Lombardi out. On at least one occasion, Lombardi was thrown out at first base in Philadelphia after hitting the ball off the left field wall.

Lombardi used a HUGE bat and would interlock his fingers somewhat like a golf swing to hit. He had such strength and bat speed that he would rocket line drives everywhere. He once hit a line drive off a pitcher’s hand and broke three fingers. A right handed batter, the corner infielders would ask their pitchers to work the plate hoping that Lombardi would hit the ball to the other side of the infield. He told Dodger Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese that it took Lombardi three years to realize that Reese wasn’t an outfielder. A quote from sportswriter Arthur Daley:

“You almost come to the conclusion that he was the greatest hitter of all time. Every hit he made . . . was an honest one.” –

The quote stands from the fact that defenses played so far back on him, only legitimately crushed line drives would fall for hits. Another quote, this one from an exceptional fielder, Lombardi’s teammate Harry Craft:

“He was the best righthanded hitter I ever saw. And he was an exceptional player in every way except running. If he hadn’t been so slow, he would have had an even better batting average.”

Lombardi played 17 major league seasons and batted over .300 in ten of them with a lifetime batting average of .306, an OBP of .358, with a SLP of .460, a lifetime .818 OPS. His career OPS+ was 126. He hit 190 career home runs with a seasonal high of 20 in 1939. What must be understood is that the Reds home run record had been 19 (Harry Heilman in 1930) until Ival Goodman hit 30 in 1938 after the Reds moved home plate 20 feet closer to the outfield fence. Crosley Field was death to home run hitters at the time and not the home run band box that it became in the 1950’s. Lombardi played 10 seasons for the Reds, batting .311 with 120 homers and an .828 OPS.

What should be noted here is that Lombardi was so good that he won the MVP Award in a season where the Reds finished fourth in the standings after being a league doormat for nearly a decade. Lombardi’s MVP award was the first of three consecutive winners by Reds players (Bucky Walters in 1939 and Frank McCormick in 1940 were the others) with the Reds winning the National League pennants in both 1939 and 1940. They ultimately won the 1940 World Series championship.

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October 8, 1904: Rookie second baseman Miller Huggins strokes three triples in an 8-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. The Reds’ win enabled them to sweep a doubleheader as they won the first game, 6-0.

The Reds were second in the league in 1904 with 92 triples, 10 behind Pittsburgh’s 102. Cy Seymour and Joe Kelley both tied for third in the league with 13 triples. Rookie Huggins finished with seven. For the season, Huggins batted .263 with a .377 OBP (OPS+ 110). Over six seasons with the Reds, Huggins batted .260 with a .362 OBP. He played 13 major league seasons, but is most famous for managing the New York Yankees to their first six World Series titles.

The 1904 Reds finished the season 88-65, in third place, 18 games behind the New York Giants. Seymour was their most effective hitter, batting .313 with 26 doubles and 13 triples (134 OPS+), while manager-1b Kelley batted .281 with 21 doubles and 13 triples (OPS+ 121). The Reds’ asset was their pitching, for they had six starting pitchers with ERA+ of 112 or higher. The Reds were third in the league with an ERA of 2.34. Jack Harper was 23-9 with a 2.30 ERA; Noodles Hahn was 16-18 with a 2.06 ERA; and Tom Walker was 15-8 with a 2.24 ERA. Win Kellum was 15-10 with a 2.60 ERA.

October 8, 1919: The Chicago White Sox get a complete game victory from Ed Cicotte and two run singles from both Shoeless Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch as they pull within four games to three by defeating the Reds, 4-1, in the seventh game of the World Series. The major principals for the White Sox were all later said to have been in on the Black Sox fix for the Series. Dolf Luque pitched four innings on one-hit shutout baseball in relief for the Reds.

October 8, 1939: The Yankees score three times in the tenth inning to sweep the 1939 World Series from the Reds. The Reds made four errors in the final game of the 1939 Series, and included the play noted for “Lombardi’s Snooze.”

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October 7, 1882: The National League champion Chicago White Stockings return a favor from the previous day by shutting out the American Association champion Cincinnati Red Stockings, 2-0.

The White Stockings, heavily favored as the National League champion over the newly formed American Association champion had lost the first game of the two game set the previous day, 4-0. After having played the first game with their best pitcher, Larry Corcoran, at shortstop, the White Stockings pitched Corcoran the second game and he shutout the AA champion Reds. Two unearned first inning runs were the only runs of the game.

No third game was ever played or ever scheduled. The White Stockings were on their way to play a post season tournament against the second place Providence Grays. The Red Stockings were fined $100 by the American Association for playing a postseason game against league wishes.

October 7, 1919: Chicago White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil singled home Buck Weaver with the go ahead run in the top of the tenth inning as the White Sox defeated the Reds, 5-4. The Reds still lead the best-of-nine series at four games to two.

The Reds had taken a 4-0 lead through four innings before the White Sox scored once in the fifth and three times in the sixth to tie the game. Dickie Kerr went the distance to win the game for the White Sox. Greasy Neale had three hits for the Reds.

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October 4, 1902: The Pittsburgh Pirates set a new major league record with 103 wins as they defeat a disinterested Cincinnati Reds team, 11-2, in Pittsburgh. Rain had dampened the grounds in Pittsburgh and the Reds did not want to play, but the Pirates insisted on playing the game to have a chance at playing the record. The Reds played many players out of position in protest of playing the game.

Pitchers were first baseman Jake Beckley and star outfielders Mike Donlin and Cy Seymour. Seymour and player-manager Joe Kelley were reported to have been smoking cigarettes in the game. The catcher was pitcher Rube Vickers who set a modern major league record (still standing) of six passed balls in one game.

October 4, 1919 Jimmy Ring fires a three-hitter as the Reds take a 3-1 World Series lead over the Chicago White Sox with a 2-0 victory.

Both Reds runs came in the fifth inning when they took advantage of two errors by White Sox starting pitcher Eddie Cicotte. With one out, Reds outfielder Pat Duncan reached second base when Cicotte threw wildly to first base after fielding Duncan’s ground ball. Larry Kopf then singled to left to score Duncan and was safe at second base when Cicotte dropped a throw at second base as Kopf was trying to stretch the single into a double. Greasy Neale then doubled to left field to score Kopf and provide the last run of the game.

Ring walked three and struck out three, while Cicotte allowed five hits and walked no one.

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September 18, 1940: The Cincinnati Reds clinch their second consecutive National League pennant with a 13-inning 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Johnny Vander Meer pitched twelve innings, allowing eight hits and walking five, but striking out 11 in improving his record to 2-0. Ace Reds reliever Joe Beggs retired the hometeam Phillies in order […]

September 16, 1882: The Cincinnati Red Stockings clinch the first pennant of the new major league, the American Association, with a 6-1 victory over the Louisville Eclipse. The Red Stockings finish the year 55-25, 11 1/2 games ahead of the second place Philadelphia Athletics.

The Red Stockings were managed by catcher Pop Snyder who led the Red Stockings to a first place finish in 1882 and a third place finish in 1883. Playing in the majors for 18 years, in 1882, Snyder batted .291 with 50 rbi (OPS+ of 117). The offense was led by third baseman Hick Carpenter, who played more games at 3B than any other player in Cincinnati history. In 1882, Carpenter batted .342 with 67 rbi, an OPS+ of 155. It was his best major league season. Joe Sommer was the leading outfield hitter, batting .288 with an OPS+ of 129.

However, the star of the Red Stockings was their pitcher, Will White. White won 40 games that year (40-12) with a 1.54 ERA in 54 games on the mound. He led the league in wins, complete games (52), shutouts (eight) and innings pitched (480). He followed up his 1882 season, by going 43-22 in 1883, leading the league in wins and ERA (2.09). White loved to pitch inside to intimidate the hitters. He played 10 major league seasons (eight with Cincinnati) and finished his career 229-166 with a 2.28 ERA (121 ERA+). White’s mound mate was Harry McCormick who went 14-11 with a 1.52 ERA and 24 complete games. He pitched four seasons in the majors going 41-58. WIn two seasons with the Red Stockings, McCormick was 22-17 with a 2.02 ERA (143 ERA+).

One oddity for the 1882 team….their opening day first baseman was a player named Bill Tierney who played on opening day and quit after the game. He went 0-5 in the game and is the only Cincinnati player in history to make an opening day start and never play for Cincinnati again. He did play one other game as a major leaguer. He played outfield one game in 1884 for the Baltimore Monumentals of the short-lived Union Association and went 1-3 with a walk.

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August 20, 1941: Johnny Vander Meer fires a three-hitter and Elmer Riddle allows only six hits as the Reds shut out the Philadelphia Phillies in both games of a double header. Vander Meer won the first game, walking four and striking out five in improving his record to 13-10. The Reds scored both runs in […]