Editor: This is the fifth 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 […]
Yesterday, we took a look at the 2017 Reds and where they stood among others at their position around the major league. What we discovered was that the Reds really need major upgrades to the pitching staff if they expect to compete in 2017. As I was putting together that piece, I thought it might […]
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 […]
(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 […]
On November 28, 1966, the Reds drafted reliever Ted Abernathy from the Atlanta Braves. Abernathy proceeds to have probably the best season of any reliever in Reds history in 1967. It’s really hard to overstate just how good Abernathy was with the Reds in 1967. He made 70 appearances, all in relief, pitching 106 innings, […]
September 1: the day that rosters expand in baseball and a day of Reds pitching feats (not feets):
The Reds 1924 season had started in an awful way. Manager Pat Moran, who had guided the Reds to a 425-329 record and the 1919 World Series victory in five seasons, died in spring training from Bright’s disease. According to “Redleg Journal” (by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder), Moran fell ill on a train on March 1 during spring training, was admitted to a hospital on March 4, and died on March 7. In the recent book “Evaluating Baseball’s Managers” (by Chris Jaffe), Moran is listed as possibly the most underrated manager in baseball history.
Moran was replaced by Jack Hendricks who went on to manage six years for the Reds and has the third most wins of any Reds manager (469-450). Hendricks inherited a team built on pitching and defense in a big ballpark where the new home run balls often fell into outfielder’s gloves for outs.
The Reds overcome their spring training adversity to finish fourth for the season (83-70), ten games behind the pennant winning New York Giants. The Reds led the league with a 3.12 ERA, while finishing next to last in runs scored per game (4.24) despite the hitting of Hall of Fame centerfielder Edd Roush (.348, led the league with 21 triples). The Reds primarily used a four man rotation of Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey (15-14, 2.76 ERA), Mays (20-9, 3.15), Pete Donohue (16-9, 3.60), and Dolf Luque (10-15, 3.16). Their fifth starter was Rube Benton (7-9, 2.77).
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.