This Day in Reds History: Some strange characters

Roy Thomas - Wikimedia.org

On this day in history, the National League made a couple of rule changes, and two unique players passed away.

I am incorporating some tangentially related material (and one completed unrelated entry) today, because I find the items too good to ignore.

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On this day in 1884, the National League announced that the league would allow overhand pitching the following season. However, pitchers had to keep both feet on the ground throughout their pitching motion. In addition, batters could still request that the pitch be thrown high or low. The NL also stated that home teams must provide visitors with a separate bench.

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On this day in 1888, the Joint Rules Committee reduced the number of balls needed for a walk from five to four. This establishment of the four-ball walk and three-strike strikeout would remain in effect until the present day.


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On this day in 1936, former Red Jay Ritchie was born in Salisbury, NC. Ritchie, a right-handed reliever, played in Cincinnati during the 1968 season in which he threw 56.2 innings of 4.61 ERA (69 ERA+) ball for the Reds. He washed out of the major leagues for good after that season.


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On this day in 1953, former major leaguer Billy Maharg died in Philadelphia. Maharg appeared in only two big league ballgames. He first appeared for the 1912 Detroit Tigers as a replacement player. The regular Tigers were on strike to protest Ban Johnson's suspension of Ty Cobb for beating the hell out of a disabled spectator. The fan had lost a hand and two fingers from the other hand in an industrial accident. While at the game, the man called Cobb one of the English language's ugliest words, and Cobb went into the stands to assault him. Some of the onlookers yelled at Cobb to stop because of the man's disability. Cobb reportedly said, "I don't care if he has no feet!" (Wikipedia). I told you all that Cobb was a horse's ass. (The replacement Tigers lost their one game, 24-2, to the Philadelphia Athletics.)


Maharg was later a trainer and chauffeur for the 1916 Philadelphia Phillies. He pinch-hit and played a bit of left field for the Phillies in their final game that season. One would think that this would be the end of Maharg's presence in baseball. However, he later became involved in the White Sox's plot to throw the 1919 World Series against the Reds. Maharg worked with Sleepy Bill Burns (who was also a replacement player on the 1912 Tigers) to finance the scheme. The two men were able to contact Arnold Rothstein to raise enough money for the players. From there, the story gets complicated as Maharg and the others began to fight amongst themselves over the money. Maharg later recounted his side of the story to a newspaper writer. At the Black Sox trial, he denied being the same person as "Peaches" Graham, though many now believe that they were the same person. (Maharg is Graham backwards.) I wish I could clarify Maharg's role in the scandal, but as you can see, he was a terribly dishonest man. The truth, or a great part of it, has been lost to time. After the Black Sox were acquitted, Maharg supposedly celebrated with eight dirty Sox.


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On this day in 1959, former major league player Roy Thomas died in Norristown, PA at the age of 85. Thomas has one of the oddest statistical records in the history of baseball. For starters, his career slash line was .290/.413/.333 (129 wRC+). That is not a typo: His on-base percentage was 80 points higher than his slugging percentage. He led the league in walks seven times while never slugging greater than .365. Thomas collected 1011 runs in his career while only driving in 299. His whole Baseball-Reference page is filled with unusual figures. I cannot do justice to the uniqueness of his statistics.


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On this day in 1971, Johnny Bench won his fourth Gold Glove Award. The Hall of Fame backstop won the NL Gold Glove every year from 1968 through 1977.


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On this day in 1992, the Reds released rightfielder Geronimo Berroa. "The Chief" was also mentioned in Cy's piece on great names in Reds history (1990s edition) from last week. This has to be two more Geronimo Berroa references than anyone could have ever expected in a four day span.


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On this day in 1998, former Red Dick Sisler died in Nashville, TN at the age of 78. Sisler played for the Reds during the first few weeks of 1952 before managing the Reds in part of 1964 and all of 1965. I wrote about Dick's brother Dave in a post from last month.


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On this day in 2006, the Reds signed Alex "Sea Bass" Gonzalez.


Also on this day in 2006, the Reds sold catcher Jason LaRue to the Kansas City Royals.


Also on this day in 2006, the Reds signed veteran left-handed reliever Mike Stanton.


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On this day in 2010, the Reds signed right-hander Chad Reineke.


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Kevin Mitchell is Batman and ams78 earned a point apiece in the last TDIRH.


1) Eddie Cicotte hit the first Reds batter of the 1919 World Series to signal the gamblers that the fix was on. Who was the Reds batter?

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