Editor: This is the third installment of a season-long series by our resident Reds historian, John Ring. The series will examine the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Cincinnati Reds, a team on the brink (of huge success) playing during a year that it seemed the world was on the brink. Enjoy! Part 1: Remembering 007’s […]

So how bad is it? It snowed on April 9. In the first week of the 2018 season, the Reds lost as many starting players (2) as they had wins. Manager Bryan Price was still making some head-scratching decisions. Some were saying the season is over after just 8 games. It hasn’t gotten better, as […]

Editor: This is the second installment of a season-long series by our resident Reds historian, John Ring. (Check out the first installment here.) The series will examine the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Cincinnati Reds, a team on the brink (of huge success) playing during a year that it seemed the world was on the […]

Editor: This is the first installment of a season-long series by our resident Reds historian, John Ring. The series will examine the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Cincinnati Reds, a team on the brink (of huge success) playing during a year that it seemed the world was on the brink. Enjoy! 1968. It was a […]

On November 28, 1966 the Reds acquired an itinerant 33 year old relief pitcher from the Braves in the Rule 5 draft. Ted Abernathy had already pitched for four teams with varying success at a time when the role of relief pitchers was rapidly changing. Little did the Reds know that they had just acquired […]

Billy McCool. Now you have to admit, that’s a cool name. Billy McCool was a relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He had good stuff. He was lefthanded. And he had the cool name. He broke in with the Reds in the 1964 season. Fred Hutchinson saw something in the 19-year old McCool he liked. […]

[This post was written by John Ring, who is the Nation’s correspondent from Afghanistan, where he is serving the entire nation.] It’s all quiet —- some would say too quiet -— on the Reds front. No news on Arroyo. Choo is gone. No trades. Nothing. So while we collectively ponder the state of the current […]

(This is the second in a series of articles about Cincinnati Reds pitchers to throw no-hitters. Twelve Red hurlers have thrown no-hitters, including Homer Bailey’s gem against the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Bailey’s no-hitter was the first thrown since Mr. Perfect, Tom Browning, beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 1989, retiring all 27 hitters […]

(This is the first in a series of articles about Cincinnati Reds pitchers who have thrown no-hitters. Twelve Red hurlers have thrown no-hitters, including Homer Bailey’s gem against the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Bailey’s no-hitter was the first thrown since Mr. Perfect, Tom Browning, beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 1989, retiring all 27 […]

Asterisks (*) in this case indicate that neither item turned out to be true…

December 9, 1965: Future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for prospect outfielder Dick Simpson, all-star starting pitcher Milt Pappas, and star reliever Jack Baldschun. The Reds traded former and future MVP Robinson for they thought he was an “old 30” after thinking he was in decline* (notice the asterisk again).

Reds owner Bill DeWitt worked for legendary baseball general manager Branch Rickey as an office boy at age 14 for the St. Louis Cardinals and later followed him to the St. Louis Browns. Rickey, best known for his role in developing farm systems and his leadership in the integration of baseball through Jackie Robinson, had learned an important Rickey adage, that it was better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late. He took that role in trading Robinson for other talents. I described the players the Reds received in trade (Pappas, Baldschun, and Simpson) the way that I did because, in theory, it’s quite likely that DeWitt made a quality trade. He was addressing a Reds need (pitching), he was trying to make room for the Reds future (Tony Perez and Lee May) and he felt that Deron Johnson would be able to repeat his 130-rbi seasonal performance. Coupled with the fact that Robinson wasn’t playing at the same level he had from 1961-63, he thought Robinson was in decline.

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August 2, 1967: Pete Rose homers from both sides of the plate to power the Reds to a 7-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves. The win keeps the third place Reds eight games behind the league leading St. Louis Cardinals and makes a winner out of starting pitcher Milt Pappas.

The home runs are Rose’s seventh and eighth of the year. Pete Rose is the only Reds player to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game and he accomplished the feat twice. On this day, he victimized Braves starter Denny Lemaster in the third inning and Braves reliever Cecil Upshaw in the eighth inning. Rose had three hits in the game as did centerfielder Vada Pinson and left fielder Lee May. May’s output included a three-run homer in the third inning off Lemaster.

The score was tied 1-1 entering the home half of the third inning. With one out, Rose hit a solo homer to give the Reds a 2-1 advantage. Pinson singled to right and Tony Perez tripled into the leftcenter field gap, scoring Pinson (3-1, Reds). Deron Johnson was intentionally walked to set up the double play, but youngster May homered giving the Reds their 6-1 lead.

Pappas gave up 10 hits and 3 runs in 6 1/3 innings to improve his record. Reds reliever Ted Abernathy, having an incredible season, finished the last 2 2/3 innings of shut out ball to earn his 18th save and drop his earned run average to 1.64.

Many may not realize that the Reds had baseball’s best pitching staff in 1967. In Frank Robinson’s last Cincinnati season (1965) the Reds averaged 5.1 runs per game and had a team OPS+ of 112. The second best offense in the National League belonged to the Milwaukee Braves (102 OPS+ and 4.4 runs per game). The Minnesota Twins had the American League’s best offense at 4.8 runs per game (100 OPS+). However, the Reds had one of the worst pitching staffs and defenses in baseball. The Reds’ allowed 4.3 runs per game with only three National League teams doing worse. Reds’ pitching posted an ERA+ of 97 (only two teams worse) and the Reds defense had a negative run total of -26 runs, which, again, was third from the bottom.

The Robinson trade played havoc with the team’s offense. The Reds’ 1966 offensive produced a putrid OPS+ of 87, which was third lowest in the league, and it dropped to 82 in 1967, the second lowest in the league, just ahead of the 61-101 New York Mets. However, the Reds’ pitching staff and defense were turning around. There was a year’s delay, but new Reds GM Bob Howsam’s diligence made the Reds’ team an entirely different team. The 1966 team’s pitching staff again had an ERA+ of 97, but their defense dropped even further to -50 runs for the year. Changes had to be made.

One change was to move budding Reds’ hitting star Pete Rose to the outfield. Rose was a below average fielding second baseman who became a Gold Glove outfielder. Leftfielder Deron Johnson moved to first base with Tony Perez moving to third base, Tommy Helms moving from third base to second base, and Lee May was given increased playing time at 1b and LF. Helms became a Gold Glove second baseman, and while the others weren’t Gold Glovers, it did get Johnson out of the outfield and minimized some risk. But, the big improvement was in the team’s pitching staff.

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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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