The Cincinnati Red Stockings were one of the eight charter members of the original National League when it first formed in February of 1876.
That first Reds involvement in the NL would not last long. The team was expelled after five seasons for violating two early league rules. Cincinnati opened their park on Sundays, and marketed beer. The final Reds club finished in last place with a 21-59-3 mark in the 1880 season.
Instead of disbanding, Reds ownership kept the club organized. They would eventually help to form the new American Association in 1881. The AA would last as a challenger to the NL for a full decade from 1882-91. The Reds would capture the very first AA pennant in the 1882 campaign.
Following the 1889 season, Cincinnati re-joined the National League. The club won 92 games by the 1898 season, good enough for a 3rd place finish.
THE BLACK SOX AND THE ROARING TWENTIES
The Reds finally captured their first NL pennant in 1919 under the guidance of skipper Pat Moran. Those Reds were heavy underdogs in the World Series to the AL champion Chicago White Sox. But Cincinnati shocked baseball when they pulled off a dramatic 5-3 win in the Fall Classic.
However, a number of key Chisox regulars had conspired with gamblers to “throw” the World Series. This would infamously become known in baseball history as the “Black Sox” scandal.
The Reds would finish in 2nd place three times over the next seven seasons, but collapsed to the bottom of the league by the end of the 1920’s.
REDS RE-EMERGE AS CONTENDERS
The Reds struggled through the 1930’s. Then in 1939, the team emerged from a decade of obscurity to capture their 2nd NL pennant. They were promptly swept out by the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Led by manager Bill McKechnie, the club returned to the Fall Classic the following season. This time they battled the Detroit Tigers in a dramatic seven-game World Series.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 7th inning of Game 7, the Reds rallied for two runs. They hung on to that lead, and won the second World Series championship in franchise history. First baseman Frank McCormick took home the World Series MVP honors.
In the midst of America’s anti-communist “Red scare”, the team officially changed their nickname for 1953 back to their historical roots. The Cincinnati Redlegs would thus participate formally through 1959.
The club returned to use of the “Reds” nickname for 1960, and returned to the World Series in 1961 for the first time in more than two decades. However, they were summarily dismissed by the New York Yankees in five games.
The Reds fielded a winner for much of the 1960’s, but did not win another pennant. As the decade was ending a new crop of players emerged at the big league level and in the farm system. This would prove to be the beginnings of the ‘Big Red Machine’ dynasty.
THE BIG RED MACHINE
During the decade of the 1970’s, that group of Reds would capture a half-dozen NL West crowns, finishing second in the division three other times.
These were the first years of Major League Baseball’s “divisional era”, and the Reds would win the NL pennant in both 1970 and 1972. However, they were defeated in the World Series both times. In 1970, the Baltimore Orioles downed the Reds in five games. In 1972, Cincy lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games.
After being upset in five games by the New York Mets in the 1973 NLCS, and missing the playoffs despite 98 regular season wins the following year, the Reds finally broke through big in the 1975 season.
In 1975, the full dominance of the ‘Big Red Machine’ was on display in a franchise record 108-win regular season. The Reds then swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS, advancing to the World Series for the third time in five years.
In one of the most dramatic and exciting World Series in history, Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson‘s Reds won a thrilling Game 7 to capture the third World Series championship in franchise history.
In 1976, the Reds continued their dominance. The club won 102 games during the regular season, and swept through the postseason. They downed the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 in the NLCS, then defeated the New York Yankees in four straight to capture back-to-back World Series titles.
Cincy was passed in the division by a talented Los Angeles Dodgers team in both 1977 and 1978. Then in 1979, the Reds returned to the top of the NL West. However, they were swept out in three games by the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS that year.
SURPRISE WORLD SERIES, RECENT FRUSTRATIONS
During the 1980’s there would be five 2nd place finishes for the Reds. This included both “halves” of the strike-shortened 1981 split-season format. But the club did not return to the postseason during that decade.
In 1990, manager Lou Piniella led the Reds to their first NL West crown in over a decade. Then they fought past a tough Pittsburgh Pirates team in six games to capture their first NL pennant since 1976.
In the World Series, the Reds were big underdogs to a powerful Oakland A’s team. But Cincy not only beat Oakland, they swept the A’s in four straight.
That 1990 World Series title, the fifth in franchise history, is the club’s most recent championship. The Reds won NL Central crowns in the 1995, 2010, and 2012 seasons. They were also the NL Wild card team in 2013. But they have just a 2-11 postseason record since the 1995 NLCS.
ALL-TIME ROSTER MAKEUP
The Reds have a tremendous history stretching back to the earliest organized days of the sport. However, much of their success has been built on strong offensive production. Pitching has rarely been a forte’ for the club.
The toughest decisions here came towards the back-end of the starting pitching rotation and in the bullpen.
With this Reds roster, I only went with a 10-man pitching staff. I stuck to my usual two slots for pure relievers. There are the usual two catchers as well, which for this team were easy calls. The rest of the position players break out as seven infielders and six outfielders.
APOLOGIES TO THOSE LEFT OUT
In a team with so much history, some good players who made significant contributions are going to get left out. So now it’s time for my usual “apologies” segment of these projects.