Given that the Dodgers have gone streaking to the tune of 42 wins in their last 51 contests, my original idea was to write about the Reds best (41-9 in 1975) and worst (10-38 with 2 ties in 1914) 50 game stretches…but for practicality’s sake I opted to write about one long losing streak within that 1914 stretch of tomfoolery.
From September 5th to September 23rd the Reds lost a team record 19 games in a row and were outscored by 69 runs (111-42). The Enquirer’s online archive covers that entire period, so I used it to get an idea of how things went down. All the game stories and game notes appear to be written by one Jack Ryder (think of him as 1914’s snarky John Fay,) and quotes are from his write-ups as well. The stats I pulled from Baseball-Reference.com. This is a lengthy piece, so if you stick it out all the way through, thanks.
September 5th: Cards 12, Reds 2
The Cardinals beat the Reds by "sloughing several kinds of daylight out of the curveball of Leon Ames." A three run first by the Cards ensured that the Reds would be fighting uphill from the beginning, and a seven run seventh finished them off. The main excitement from this game appears to be the ejection of 2B Heinie Groh and player/manager Buck Herzog. In the seventh, Groh thought he had made a force out at second but the ump disagreed. Groh complained, "threw his cap several furlongs into the bracing atmosphere" and was booted, as was Herzog after coming to his defense.
September 6th, Cards 7, Reds 2
The newspaper report indicated that this game "was dragged out to great length, lasting two hours and a half." Seriously. Times were different. The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the first couple of innings of this one, but a botched hit and run in the first spoiled the chance for perhaps a bigger inning. After that the Reds were pretty quiet, and did nothing with runners on base. The Cards took the lead in the next inning and added 4 in the seventh, eighth, and ninth to stretch it out. The report lauded the Cardinals bunting ability in reference to a successful eighth inning squeeze: "The Cards have all been taught to bunt, even the slow men on the team being proficient in this valuable art." Fear the bunt!
September 7th DH: @Cubs 3, Reds 2 and @Cubs 3, Reds 1
Herzog was unable to manage or play in either game due to food poisoning, a fact which Ryder suggests likely cost the Reds at least a split. The Reds were offensively impotent in both games: "There are too many batters on the Red side who are helpless before a curve-ball pitcher." I am only several games into this losing streak and Ryder has mentioned the curveball blues several times. The difference maker for the Cubs in Game 1 was Victor Saier, who had a triple and homer. In Game 2 the Reds sent rookie Paul Fittery to the mound as a starter for the first time. He acquitted himself well but the club "was so weak with the stick that it never had a chance."
September 8th, @Cubs 4, Reds 3 in 10
Buck Herzog returned to the fray despite being "somewhat dizzy from sickness and lack of nourishment." This loss was put down to several Reds fielding gaffes, as well as their general inability to hit. In the 10th inning Wilbur Good of the Cubs smacked a grounder to Reds 1B Bill Kellogg, who muffed it (Good was given a hit though). A sacrifice out later, Heinie Zimmermann popped a ball up that catcher Mike Gonzalez flubbed. Frank Schulte singled to right and it was over. This marked the end of the season series with the Cubs. "Through in Chicago for the season, so there still may be a chance to win a game or two before October 5." The Reds went 5-17 against Chicago.
September 10th, Cards 3, Reds 2
This game was notable because the Reds lost it despite allowing one hit. They had a 2-0 lead through six innings and then everything came apart for starter Rube Benton in the seventh. He walked the bases loaded before making way for pitcher Phil Douglass. Two runs scored on a ground out and sac fly, and then the Cards got their first hit with an infield single to load the bases. At that point the "pass microbe" infected Douglass, who walked one to load the bases and another to push the go ahead run across. Of the loss Ryder said: "Losing a one-hit game is no particular credit to Reds hurlers, especially as Christmas is still a long way off."
September 12th, Cards 3, Reds 1
The Reds were done in by a lack of timely hitting; the inability to string hits together with men on base. This trend is rearing its ugly head often in the game recaps. Ryder noted that rookie left-handed pitchers often struggle, but not so with Reds pitcher Paul Fittery: "These birds are usually nuts, and as wild as squirrels, but Mr. P. Fittery can shoot the pill about where he wants it, and he has something on it nearly every time."
September 13th DH: Cards 4, Reds 3 and Cards 3, Reds 2
Well the Reds lost both ends of a doubleheader on Herzog Day, but Herzog did receive a chest of silver from fans appreciative of his efforts…so there is that. On his special day, Herzog was ejected from the first game in the fourth inning for arguing with an umpire. Despite his ejection meaning he was banished for the rest of the day, Herzog was not finished with one of the umpires. After Game 1 he "pulled and mauled Mal (Eason) around by his coat." Herzog had to be restrained by the Cardinals player/manager Miller Huggins.
At this point the Reds had lost 9 in a row and had an off day before embarking on a 20(!) game road trip to Pittsburgh and points east. They were in last place (eighth) and according to the Ryder their only realistic aspiration could be to finish sixth. Their woes were mainly offensive: no left handers in the lineup to combat solid right handed pitching, and an inability to score with men on.
September 15th, @Pirates 9, Reds 0
Rube Benton was ineffective, giving up four runs in two different innings. You know things are getting bad when this is the best praise that can be offered up by Ryder: "They will not quit, no matter how often they are walloped by the victorious enemy." Buck Herzog was not a factor in this game due to being suspended indefinitely for his September 13th assault of an umpire. Heinie Groh was the only Red to do much, with three singles. It wasn’t surprising Groh led the way. He was the hitting star for the Reds that year, slashing .288/.391/.358.
September 16th, @NY Giants 8, Reds 1
"Eleven straight defeats and doubtless more to follow. Some ball team." This game was over after a first inning where Heinie Groh shot the Reds in the foot. With no outs he missed touching the bag at second to try and start a double play and got neither man in the process. What followed was a two run triple, a fielder’s choice and a two run homer. The Reds did little against Giants starter Al Demaree even though they had had past success against him. Demaree was also known for a 30 year career after baseball as a sports cartoonist. An example of his work.
September 17th, @NY Giants 10, Reds 1
Buck Herzog’s suspension ended, but Christy Mathewson’s "fadeaway had the Reds breaking their backs, and they were as helpless as blind kittens." For the Reds, Phil Douglas walked eight. He didn’t win. Bruce Berenyi, on 4/17/82, was the last Reds starter to walk at least eight in a game and get a winning decision. Since 1916 the Reds have only had 30 such games, and Johnny Vander Meer was responsible for eight of them.
September 18th, @NY Giants 3, Reds 2
The Reds were swept, but they played better than in any of their previous three games. They built a 2-0 lead on a bases loaded double play groundout and a solo shot by starting pitcher Pete Schneider. Schneider was solid, though wild, walking eight: "Pete is like Benton and Douglas, with a lot of stuff on the ball all the time, only he does not know where it is going." Schneider allowed the Giants to walk off in the 9th on a bases loaded single. In a bit of snark Ryder quipped "Looking ahead to next spring’s training trip, the mind’s eye can already see some of these wild birds being forced to practice for hours at a time with an electric light on the plate, so that they cannot help but see it."
September 19th DH: @Brooklyn 6, Reds 0 and @Brooklyn 8, Reds 6
The Reds found two different ways to lose in one day. In the first contest they were one-hit by Jeff Pfeffer. Reds starter Leon Ames had one bad five run inning and that was more than enough for Brooklyn. In the second game the Reds woke up offensively and fell asleep on the mound. They knocked Brooklyn starter Pat Ragon out of the game after 1/3 of an inning. Reds starter King Lear (yes the Reds had a starter named King Lear) wasn’t very good either though, and between him and Phil Douglas a 6-2 Reds lead became an 8-6 loss.
On another note, in the September 20th edition of the Enquirer there was a separate article on manager Buck Herzog’s philosophy on luck in baseball. In short: there is no such thing as luck. He ascribes every play that occurs as down to skill (or lack of it) by one party or the other. He said "Every time you regard any play on the ball field as lucky you are not giving one or more players due credit for skill and judgment."
September 21st DH: @Brooklyn 9, Reds 6 and @Brooklyn 8, Reds 2
On September 21st the Enquirer ran a story that Reds leadership had opted to keep Buck Herzog as manager next season: "The owners of the club, though naturally disappointed over the tail-end finish, are convinced that he has the right methods and will come through successfully in time." Of course, he didn’t. He was gone midway through 1916 and the Reds weren’t great until 1919.
Meanwhile his team lost both games of the September 21st doubleheader. In the first game they had a 5-1 lead, but a disaster of a 6th inning saw three pitchers give up seven runs and the game. In the second game the Reds left 13 men on base: "Our boys outhit the enemy, finding Allen easy to slough, except when there were men to be driven across the plate, and then they were not there with the stuff." It sounds like they needed the "stuff" of Brandon Phillips.
September 22nd, @Brooklyn 5, Reds 4 in 10
The Reds rallied twice from 2-0 and 4-3 down, including tying the game in the ninth, but they fell in 10. The streak was at 18. The next time the Reds would have a streak even close to this level of futility would be a 14 game stretch from 9/21/37 to 10/03/37.
September 23rd DH, @Boston 3, Reds 2 and Reds 3, @Boston 0
The losing streak stretched to 19 against the eventual league champs before mercifully ending in the second game of the doubleheader. The Reds lost a controversial first game on a solo shot by Boston in the bottom of the ninth. There was some debate over whether the ball actually made it into the stands before a fan knocked it back onto the field. Did they not have instant replay in 1914? In the second game King Lear dominated proceedings, pitching a complete game shutout. The Reds were held scoreless until the ninth, but busted out just in time to snap the skid 3-0. "The Reds jubilated at the breaking of their long losing streak and think they will be on the winning side for the rest of the season."
The Reds finished the rest of the season 3-10 with a tie, but I guess that is "on the winning side" compared to 0-19. Their final record was 60-94 with a stranglehold on last place.