This Day in Reds History: Hurlers & Homers

How often does one get an opportunity to post a photo of Corky Miller? Not often enough.

On this day in 1916, Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson made his only appearance as a player for the Reds in the second game of a doubleheader at Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field). Mathewson allowed 8 runs in a complete game win over the Chicago Cubs. Fellow Hall of Famer and longtime rival, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, took the mound for Chicago. Brown also went the distance, but gave up 10 runs (9 earned) and took the loss. It was the 25th and final meeting of the two all-time greats. Despite the high score, the game lasted only two hours and ten minutes. It was the last major league appearance for both Mathewson and Brown.

Mathewson debuted for the New York Giants in 1900, but only pitched in six games before the Giants returned him to minor league Norfolk. Cincinnati acquired Mathewson from Norfolk that same year, but the club sold him back to the Giants before he could throw a pitch in the Queen City. "Big Six" did not waste his second chance in New York. Matty spent another 16 seasons in the Big Apple compiling some of the most dazzling statistics in the history of baseball. He posted a 373-188 record in his major league career with a 2.13 ERA (135 ERA+). Matty hurled 79 shutouts and led the league in many categories throughout his career. Mathewson's 373 wins are still tied for the most in National League history (Grover Cleveland Alexander* also has 373).

*Though he never played for the Reds, Alexander was a fascinating player in his own right. His personal redemption in game 7 of the 1926 World Series is one of my all-time favorite baseball stories. He's also the answer to one of my favorite baseball trivia questions: Who is the only player named after one president and portrayed by another?

Matty was a reserved, quiet man who attended college prior to his playing days. Despite their contrasting personalities, Mathewson became fast friends with John McGraw, the rowdy manager of the New York Giants during much of Matty's career. Mathewson was known for his devastating screwball, which he called his "fadeaway" pitch. He also notably pitched three shutouts in six days to lead the Giants to the 1905 World Series championship. Matty was also an outstanding college football player. He dabbled in professional football at the start of his career, but he gave up the gridiron after a short time, likely at the Giants' request.

The Reds reacquired Mathewson on July 20, 1916. He managed the Cincinnati nine through the 1918 season, but played only the aforementioned game. Mathewson enlisted in the United States Army in 1918 to serve in World War I. Unfortunately, he was accidentally gassed during a training exercise and developed tuberculosis. The disease haunted him for the rest of his life. Mathewson was in and out of baseball after 1918. He was also one of the first to observe that the White Sox were throwing games during the 1919 World Series. Mathewson died in 1925 at the age of 45. Both teams in the 1925 World Series wore black armbands in remembrance of Matty. The Hall of Fame inducted Mathewson in the inaugural election in 1936.

Mathewson also wrote a memoir of his time in the big leagues, Pitching in a Pinch. It was one of the first books to provide an inside look at the major leagues. Although I have not read it, I have heard nothing but good things about the book. It is in the public domain and available at Project Gutenberg.

On this day in 1950, Reds rightfielder Johnny Wyrostek batted in a total of eight runs in a doubleheader versus St. Louis. The Reds won the first game, 5-4; the second, 8-4.

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On this day in 1988, Reds left-hander Danny Jackson picks up his 20th win of the season in 17-0 blowout of the Dodgers. He was the first NL pitcher to win 20 games. Jackson is the last pitcher to win 20 games for the Reds.

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On this day in 1999, the Reds blast nine home runs to destroy the Phillies, 22-3. Greg Vaughn, Jeffrey Hammonds, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young, Pokey Reese, Brian Johnson, and Mark Lewis all went deep once for Cincinnati. Eddie Taubensee also smacked two home runs for the Reds.

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On this day in 2001, Corky Miller made his major league debut. Miller went 0-3 for the Reds, but did reach base on a hit by pitch.

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On this day in 2007, Joey Votto made his major league debut. It certainly would be nice if Votto could celebrate this anniversary with a return to the Reds' lineup tonight.

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