Everyone knows it. Me, Chad, The Nation, everybody. The Reds need to obtain a veteran starting pitcher who can reliably show up on the mound every fifth day, give them (dare I say?) 180 innings of work and anchor the pitching staff. Given that the Reds are a small market team, getting one through free […]

(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 […]

November 23, 1968: The Reds trade all-star shortstop Leo Cardenas to the Minnesota Twins for lefty starting pitcher Jim Merritt.

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.

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November 9, 1973: The Reds trade disgruntled outfielder Bobby Tolan and relief pitcher Dave Tomlin to the San Diego Padres for starting pitcher Clay Kirby.

Tolan had been acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals along with reliever Wayne Granger on October 11, 1968 for popular star Reds outfielder Vada Pinson. Pinson played for seven more seasons after leaving the Reds, but he was never the same player he had been as a Red, except for his 1970 season with the Cleveland Indians (.286, 24 homers, 82 rbi, 115 OPS+). Meanwhile, Tolan became an outstanding outfielder for the Reds and probably the most underrated player on the 1970 World Series team.

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October 10, 1961: In the National League’s first expansion draft, the Reds lose six players, four to the New York Mets and two to the Houston Colt .45’s.

The Mets selected pitchers Jay Hook and Sherman Jones, infielder Elio Chacon, and popular outfielder Gus Bell. The Colt .45’s selected first baseman Dick Gernert and pitcher Ken Johnson.

The expansion draft didn’t do a lot of damage to the Reds. Johnson was the probably the biggest loss. He had been acquired in trade for reliever Orlando Pena from the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League and made 11 second half starts for the Reds. Johnson was 6-2 with 3.25 ERA for the 1961 Reds, but went on to play 13 major league seasons going 91-106 with a 3.46 ERA (102 ERA+). He became a rotation starter through the 1968 season.

Bell was the surprise loss. One of the most popular Reds since 1951 and a four-time all-star, Bell had become a role player by the 1961 Reds World Series sesason. Bell picked up the first New York Met hit ever in 1962, but batted only .149 in 115 plate appearances before being dealt to the Milwaukee Braves where he played one season on the bench and pinch hit three times in each of the next two seasons.

Hook was a prospect that had not panned out for the Reds. Hook went 11-18 with 4.50 ERA in 1960 as a 23-year-old, but did not pitch well in 1961 going 1-3 with a 7.76 ERA in 62 innings, allowing 14 home runs. After the Mets started 1962 with an 0-9 record before winning the first game in Mets’ history.

October 10, 1967: In more damage control following the aftermath of the Frank Robinson trade, the Reds deal slugging first baseman Deron Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Mack Jones, outfielder-1b Jim Beauchamp, and reliever Jay Ritchie.

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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 […]

September 4, 1916: Reds manager and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson makes his one and only appearance on the mound for the Reds and, ahem, “fires” a 15 hit-complete game to beat another Hall of Fame pitcher (and former Red) Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and the Cubs, 10-8.

The win is an important one, for the Reds were in last place at the time and remained in sole possession of last place until the last day of the season when a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled them into a tie with the St. Louis Cardinals at 60-93, 33 1/2 games behind the first place Brooklyn Robins.

Mathewson was once property of the Reds, but for only a few days in November of 1900. Mathewson had joined the New York Giants in 1900 and went 0-3 with a 5.08 ERA in six games before being dispatched back to the minor leagues. The Reds drafted him from a minor league team in early November, but Reds owner John T. Brush traded him back to the Giants on November 15 for Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. Rusie had been one of baseball’s biggest pitching stars of the 1890’s, winning more than 20 games every season that he played from 1890-98 and winning more than 30 games in four straight seasons. He sat out 1899 and 1900 in a contract dispute with the Giants, but reported to the Reds after the trade. However, he only pitched three games with the Reds, going 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA in 22 innings and then he retired. Rusie’s final record was 234-163 with a 3.07 ERA. In five separate seasons, he led the major leagues in K/rate per nine innings, hitting a high of 6.01 in 1891.

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August 27, 1971: The defending National League champions come as close to .500 as they do all year by scoring five times in the top of the ninth inning to to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-7, in St. Louis. Reds supersub Jimmy Stewart socks a bases-loaded pinch triple in the top of the ninth to tie the score and then scores what proves to be the winning run on a Pete Rose sacrifice fly.

The Cardinals struck first with a two-run home run by Jose Cruz off Reds starter Wayne Simpson. The Reds scored three times in the third to take the lead, but the Cardinals scored two in the fifth and one run in each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings to take a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning.

Johnny Bench walked to open the ninth off Cardinals starter Jerry Reuss. George Foster singled to left with Bench stopping at second base. Al Santorini was called on to relieve Reuss, and Tommy Helms greeted him with a single to load the bases with no one out. Santorini was pulled in favor of Frank Linzy, but Linzy walked Woody Woodward to force in a run and pull the Reds within three at 7-4.

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August 3: A few short stories from a day of offensive explosions…

1989: The Reds erupt to score 14 runs on 16 hits in the first inning in defeating the Houston Astros, 18-2, at Riverfront Stadium. The 14 runs in one inning tied a team record set in 1893. The team set a major league record by having seven players get two hits and six players scored twice in the inning. Seven players had three hits in the game which tied another major league record.

The first seven Reds of the game reached base off Astro starter Jack Clancy before the Astros called on Bob Forsch with the bases loaded and no one out. A three-run homer by Ken Griffey was the big blast of the inning off Clancy. Ron Oester greeted Forsch with a double before Forsch retired pitcher Tom Browning on a groundball for the first out of the inning. The Reds then batted around again with every Red getting either a single or a double off Forsch before two flyballs finally ended the inning with the Reds leading 14-0. The bases were loaded as the final two outs were recorded. Rolando Roomes and Jeff Reed both homered in the seventh to add some insurance runs as Browning went the distance at pitcher to earn the victory. Roomes, Reed, and Todd Benzinger all had four hits in the game and Griffey had four rbi. Luis Quinones, Eric Davis, Griffey, and Oester all had three hits contributing to record of seven players with three or more hits in the game.

1994: Kevin Mitchell had possibly his best game as a Red as he goes 5-5 with a home run, two doubles, and five rbi as the Reds blitz Dusty Baker’s Giants, 17-4, at Candlestick Park.

Jacob Brumfield and Bret Boone opened the game for the Reds with back-to-back home runs off Giants starter, Bud Black. Barry Larkin reached on an error and Mitchell followed a two-run homer to give the Reds a quick, 4-0, lead before any outs were recorded. Later in the game, Mitchell had a run-scoring double in the second inning, a double in the fourth, a single in the fifth, and a two-run single in the sixth. Mitchell’s performance raised his batting average to .328 and his OPS to 1.116 on the year. Brian Hunter and Jeff Branson also homered in the game. Boone had four hits, and Hunter and Tony Fernandez each had three hits. John Roper was the winning pitcher for the Reds.

Mitchell was simply outstanding in 1994. Due to the player-strike shortened season, the Reds only played 114 games with Mitchell playing 95 of them. In those 95 games, Kevin Mitchell batted .326 with 30 homers, 77 rbi, a .429 OBP, .681 SLP, an OPS of 1.110, and an OPS+ of 185. The .681 slugging percentage set a Reds single season record, breaking Ted Kluszewski’s .642 in 1954. In Mitchell’s first season with the Reds (1993), Mitchell batted .341 (.986 OPS) with 19 home runs in 93 games.

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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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July 10, 1970: Reds shortstop Woody Woodward hits the only home run of his nine-year major league career in an 11-9 loss to the Atlanta Braves in the first game of a doubleheader. The Reds won the second game, 3-1, to avoid being swept and break a four game losing streak. The four game losing […]

June 29, 1968: On this day in Reds history, 20-year-old Gary Nolan fires his seventh career shut out and hits his only major league home run as the Reds beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-0, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Nolan had the started the 1968 season on the disabled list and didn’t make […]