The Cincinnati Reds trace their origins to an independent club formed in 1881 that became a charter member of the American Association in 1882, before transfering to the National League in 1890 (an earlier NL Cincinnati Reds club was the progenitor of the AA club, but is considered a separate franchise owing to a year’s gap in the operation of the two entities). More popularly, the Reds identify themselves with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, formed in 1866 and a member of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) from 1867 to 1870, the latter two years operating as a fully professional club.
The Reds are the third of the original NL clubs in our Mount Rushmore series. Your task is to choose the four players who best represent this franchise. Have fun!
The professional Red Stockings won their first game on May 4, 1869 by the score of 45-9, en route to a perfect 57-0 season (against other NABBP clubs) that was followed up by a season of only 6 losses in 1870. That success on the field, however, did not translate into success at the box office and the Cincinnati club decided to cease operations when the newly christened National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (or just National Association) succeeded the NABBP in 1871. As a result, half of the Cincinnati team followed shortstop (and team organizer, promoter and much else) George Wright to Boston where a new Red Stockings team (the ancestor of the Braves) was formed.
Five years after the club’s demise, one of the original Red Stockings’ organizers (John Joyce) established a new Reds team in Cincinnati and then promptly sold it to one Josiah Keck, a local meat packer. That happened just in time for the Reds to be included among the original 8 clubs of the National League at its founding meeting in February 1876. Those Reds lasted 5 seasons before being expelled from the NL for the sins of playing Sunday baseball and selling beer at the ballpark. Unrepentant, the Reds did not operate in 1881, but then were reconstituted as the Cincinnati Red Stockings to become one of the founding teams of the American Association (where beer and Sundays at the ballpark were drawing cards, not grounds for expulsion).
The new Cincinnati Red Stockings were league champions in the American Association’s inaugural 1882 season, and finished above .500 for the 7 following AA seasons. Cincinnati placed fourth in their final two AA seasons and also in their first NL season (with the new nickname of Reds) in 1890. Those three seasons were the start of a 31 year period (1888-1918) in which the Reds failed to finish higher than third, a streak that was finally broken with their first NL pennant in 1919 . That Reds team was the heavy underdog in the World Series, but prevailed in eight games (a 5-3 series win) over the AL champion White Sox who were noticeably and uncharacteristically off their game, a circumstance that started to make more sense once it was revealed that several Chicago players had accepted bribes to throw the series. The most notable Reds player of the 19th and early 20th centuries was second baseman Bid McPhee with 52.4 WAR for Cincinnati, the only position player of that era to exceed 25 WAR in a Reds uniform. On the mound, Noodles Hahn, Tony Mullane and Frank Dwyer all topped 35 WAR as Reds.
Cincinnati remained a competitive team in the first half of the 1920s, finishing lower than fourth only once from 1920 to 1926, and missing out on a second pennant in 1926 by only two games after an extended pennant race in which Cincinnati was never more than 3 games behind from August 11th to the end of the season. But, eleven straight sub-.500 seasons (1927-37) followed, eight of them finishing last or second-to-last. Fortunes changed when Bill McKechnie succeeded Chuck Dressen as manager following the 1937 season, with the Reds claiming consecutive pennants in 1939-40, including a World Series win in the latter season after a memorable 7 game series against the Tigers. Notable Reds of the 1920-45 period include pitchers Eppa Rixey, Dolf Luque, Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer, and position players Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Edd Roush and Lonny Frey.
Propelled by a spectacular rookie campaign from Frank Robinson, Cincinnati next challenged in 1956, finishing just two games behind the Dodgers and within 6 games of the lead every day of the season. Everything fell into place in 1961 when Cincinnati claimed its first pennant in 21 years, after a season finishing 10 games above their Pythagorean projection. They were even better the next season, winning 98 games in that expansion year on the strength of a 59-30 finish, but placing only third behind the 101-win seasons turned in by the Giants and Dodgers. The Reds almost stole a pennant in 1964, finishing a game back of the Cardinals after both had passed a faltering Phillies club in the last two weeks of the season. Notable Reds of the 1946-69 period include Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Ted Kluszewski and Pete Rose, together with pitchers Jim Maloney, Joe Nuxhall and Ewell Blackwell.
Cincinnati enjoyed the most dominant period in franchise history with the Big Red Machine of the 1970s that claimed 6 division titles, 4 pennants and 2 world championships from 1970 to 1979, only once finishing more than 10 games back over that period. The 1975 club won a franchise record 108 games and swept the NLCS before prevailing in a memorable World Series against the Red Sox. After Boston’s dramatic win in an iconic game 6, the Reds fell behind 3-0 in game 7 but scratched their way back to a tie before pushing across the winning tally in the 9th inning. No such drama in 1976 as Cincinnati swept the NLCS and World Series in the only perfect post-season of the division era. It was a different story in the 1980s with the team finishing below .550 every year, including a 61-101 finish in 1982, the only 100 loss season in franchise history. Notable Reds of this period include Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster and Dave Concepcion. Only one Reds pitcher (Mario Soto) collected 25 WAR in this period.
The Reds ended their 1980s funk with a surprise world championship in 1990, sweeping the defending champion (and heavily favored) As in the World Series. Division titles followed in the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons, then 15 years in the wilderness until their next division crown in 2010, the first of 3 post-season appearances in 4 years. The Reds’ opening game win in a 2012 NLDS broke a string of 7 straight post-season losses, but the team still has not won a post-season series since their division series win in 1995. Notable players of this period include Barry Larkin and Joey Votto, with only Brandon Phillips and Jose Rijo also exceeding 25 WAR, while Eric Davis reached 30 WAR spread over this period and the one preceding.
Here are the top 15 batting WAR totals as Reds.
And, the top 15 pitchers.
|13||Johnny Vander Meer||27.1||1937||1949||22-34||313||279||131||29||11||116||116||.500||2028.0||1072||1251||3.41||3.57||108|
Please choose 4 players, or write in your own. Polls are open until midnight Pacific time on Tue, Dec 2nd. You can check on results using the link at the bottom of the ballot.