For two generations of Reds fans in the Nation, Riverfront Stadium was our home for baseball. It was our ballpark, our home away from home and it was the face of the Cincinnati Reds. More than that, for better or worse, it was the face of Cincinnati. Both politically and from a geographic sense, Cincinnati […]
The Merritt-Cardenas trade came in the post-1968 season, the so-called Year of the Pitcher, when baseball offense reached it’s nadir and baseball pitching reaching it’s dominant peak. Leo Cardenas was coming off his fourth all-star selection during the year of his 29th birthday, but he batted only .235 with seven home runs, his lowest batting average since 1963. He had made the all-star team batting .206 at all-star time, along with two other National League shortstops, the Pirates’ Gene Alley and the Cubs’ Don Kessinger who started the game. Alley and Kessinger both batted in the .240’s in 1968.
In other words, nobody hit; that is seemingly nobody except for the Reds’ Pete Rose and the Pirates’ Matty Alou who were duking it out for the batting championship (Rose won, batting .335 to Alou’s .332). The Giants’ Willie McCovey batted .293 with 36 homers and was the only National Leaguer to pass 100 rbi (105). McCovey hit, too, but the league shortstops did not.
And, Cardenas had reached the magic trade age, age 29, the age when baseball general managers use famed GM Branch Rickey’s adage about trading players before they reach 30, before they have so many “miles” that they have no trade value. And, anyway, shortstops have even shorter career spans since very few shortstops hold on to starting jobs past the very early 30’s; the position is too demanding.
There’s something to the age 29 theory, since most hitters “peak” at ages 25-29. The peak age crept up through the steroid years as steroid became the magic “anti-aging” drug for players. However, that change in peak years has/is been returning back to normal as fewer “elder” players are now able to play later in their careers. Frank Robinson was traded after his age 29 season; so was Vada Pinson. Lee May was traded after his age 28 seasons. It turns out that Robinson and May had a lot more to give; Pinson was nearing the end.
October 21, 1877: Does the curveball really curve or is it an optical illusion? It’s easy for us to see today with digital graphics, but even when I was a child, I would sometimes come across “scientific” sports articles discussing the physics of how a pitched baseball curved or whether it was actually an optical illusion.
Well, as is the case with most things, the magazine articles I read as a child weren’t exactly full of original ideas. Back in 1877, the folks managing the Cincinnati Reds team of the National League conducted a demonstration to prove that a pitched ball could curve. Unfortunately for the 1877 Reds, this may have been the high point of the season that had concluded on October 2. The 1877 Reds were 15-42 in their second year of existence, 25 1/2 games behind the league champion Boston Red Caps. On the flipside, the 15-42 season was an improvement. In 1876, the team had gone 9-56.
From “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder:
A demonstration is conducted in Cincinnati prior to an exhibition game between the Reds and Boston to prove that a pitched baseball actually curves. A wooden stake was driven into the ground just in front of home plate. Boston’s Tommy Bond, a right-handed pitcher, threw from the right side of the pitcher’s box, and the ball curved around to the left side of the stake. To prove the ball was not influenced by the wind or any other atmospheric condition, Cincinnati’s left-handed pitcher Bobby Mitchell curved a toss around the right side of the stake.
It’s timely that or fortunate that the demonstration took place in Cincinnati in 1877. One of the Reds’ pitchers that year was Hall of Famer Candy Cummings, who is credited with having “invented” the curveball. Cummings was the most commonly used Reds pitcher that season, going 5-14 with a 4.34 ERA (61 ERA+). Cummings (career 21-22) is one of only three pitchers in the Hall of Fame with lifetime records under .500, along with modern day reliever Rollie Fingers (114-118) and Negro League star Satchel Paige who didn’t make his Major League debut until age 41 and went 28-31 (it’s thought his Negro Leagues record was 103-61).
October 20, 1972: Pete Rose hit the first pitch of the game for a home run and the Reds later overcame a 4-2 deficit in defeating the Oakland A’s, 5-4, to stay avoid elimination in the 1972 World Series. The Reds now trailed the A’s three-games-to-two through five games. Rose’s first inning homer gave the […]
October 11, 1970: The Reds lose Game 2 of the 1970 World Series to the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 6-5, blowing an early lead for the second consecutive day. The Orioles now lead the World Series, two games to none.
The Reds scored three times in the bottom of the first inning off Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar to take the lead. Pete Rose reached on shortstop Mark Belanger’s error, but was forced out at second base by Bobby Tolan. Tony Perez singled to centerfield with Tolan stopping at second base. Tolan moved to third on a Johnny Bench flyout. Lee May then doubled to centerfield, scoring both Tolan and Perez and with May advancing to third base on an error by Orioles centerfielder Paul Blair. May scored on a Hal McRae squeeze bunt to give the Reds a 3-0 lead. Tolan made it 4-0 in the third with a solo home run.
The Orioles got one run back in the fourth on a Boog Powell home run and then erupted for five runs in the fifth inning to take a 6-4 lead. With one out, three straight singles from pinch hitter Chico Salmon, Don Buford, and Blair scored Salmon and chased Reds starting pitcher Jim McGlothlin. Powell greeted Reds rookie pitcher Milt Wilcox with another single, scoring Buford and making the score 4-3. Frank Robinson flied to right, but Brooks Robinson singled home Blair and then an Elrod Hendricks double scored both Powell and Brooks Robinson, giving the Orioles a 6-4 advantage. Clay Carroll relieved Wilcox on the mound and then he and Don Gullett pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. The Reds added one more run in the sixth inning on a Johnny Bench home run.
October 11, 1972: The Reds come from being down two games to one to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3. The Reds score two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs to win the game and the National League Championship Series.
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.”
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.
September 8, 1969: The 1969 Cincinnati Reds moved back into first place for one day as the Reds swept the San Francisco Giants in a double header. Both scores were 5-4 with the second game lasting 15 innings. Relief pitcher Wayne Granger earned a save in the first game and pitched eight innings of shutout […]
August 8, 1972: The Dodgers strike out 22 Reds, but nine innings of two-hit relief help the Reds outlast the Dodgers, 2-1, in 19 innings. The Reds entered the day in first place with a rather comfortable 5 ½ game lead over the second place Houston Astros and nine games ahead of the third place […]
July 25, 1974: Tony Perez hits a dramatic two-out two-strike two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap a five-run Reds rally. The Perez homer enables the Reds to beat the San Francisco Giants, 14-13, in the first game of a double header. In the second game, Fred Norman shuts out the Giants, 5-0.
I don’t get to attend many Reds games, but the first game was one I saw as a boy and was easily the most exciting Reds game I’ve ever seen.
The Reds entered the game with the second best record in baseball at 58-40, but the best record in baseball was held by the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds had fallen 10 1/2 games behind back (48-37) as recently as July 10 and had cut five games off the lead in about two weeks. The Reds had the best record in baseball the rest of the way through season’s end.
The Giants opened the game with three runs off Clay Kirby. After retiring the first two batters, Kirby walked four, allowed two singles, and threw a wild pitch before manager Sparky Anderson replaced him with Dick Baney.
The Reds struck back for five runs in the bottom of the second off Giants’ starter Mike Caldwell and reliever Tom Bradley. Third baseman of the day Johnny Bench led off with a single and Tony Perez reached on an error with Bench stopping at second. Dave Concepcion doubled to left scoring Bench with the Reds’ first run. George Foster grounded out to shortstop for the first out of the inning, Perez scoring and Concepcion holding at second base. Concepcion stole third and Bill Plummer doubled to left field to tie the score at 3-3. Terry Crowley pinch hit for Baney (second inning–Sparky’s playing to win) against Bradley, but grounded out for the second out. Merv Rettenmund walked and Pete Rose followed with an infield single to load the bases. Joe Morgan singled to right field, scoring Plummer and Rettenmund, and giving the Reds a 5-3 lead. Bench popped out to end the inning.
Pedro Borbon came on to pitch in the third inning for the Giants, but gave up a run on a Gary Matthews triple and a Tito Fuentes single, closing the gap to 5-4. The Reds made it 7-4 in their half of the third when Concepcion homered after a Perez single.
July 1, 1973: Third-string catcher Hal King slugs one of the most famous home runs in Reds’ history, a two-out three-run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to give the Reds a 4-3 come from behind win over the division league Los Angeles Dodgers. The King home run moved the fourth place Reds to nine games behind the Dodgers.
King’s homer is widely credited with sparking the Reds to an incredible 60-26 finish, with the Reds overtaking the Dodgers and winning the National League’s Western Division with a 99-63 record, 3.5 games ahead of the second place Dodgers. While King’s homer sparked the first win of the Reds’ comeback, the series fireworks actually began the night before, on Saturday, June 30.
The Reds had struggled to defend their 1972 National League pennant. They lost their first two games of the season and had barely played .500 ball for the first half, entering a four game series with the Dodgers only three games above .500 at 39-36. The Reds were leading the Dodgers on this Saturday, 5-1, on the strength of home runs by Tony Perez and Bobby Tolan. However, the wheels fell off in the Dodgers’ seventh when Los Angeles scored six times off Reds relievers Clay Carroll and Pedro Borbon, three of the runs unearned. The Reds tied it in the bottom of the ninth Joe Morgan, pinch hitting for Cesar Geronimo, stroked a two-run homer scoring Dan Driessen, who had singled off Dodgers reliever Pete Richert.
June 23, 1973–Fred Norman wins his third consecutive complete game since joining the Reds with a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ron Cey’s two-out ninth inning home run prevented Norman from winning his third consecutive shutout.
The 1973 Reds were defending National League champions, having won the 1972 National League Western Division by 10.5 games over the runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers. They defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the League Championship Series, before losing to the Oakland Athletics, four games to three, in one of the closest World Series ever played. Every game but one in the Series was decided by one run, with the Reds outscoring the Athletics in the World Series, 21-16, due to an 8-1 Game 6 offensive explosion (a five-run seventh providing the fireworks).