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That Guy Played for the Reds?

An incomplete list of surprising Reds alumni

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Stephen Dunn

The Cincinnati Reds are an old organization. To put it mildly, they've had a lot of players come and go through the organization over the decades. Some were already famous for other things, and some would go on to become famous with other teams. Here is a very partial list of a few of the players who many Reds fans may be surprised to learn once wore the wishbone C (or whichever of these logos were in use at the time). This list is in no way exhaustive, so if anyone knows of any other players who might belong on a list like this, please share them in the comments. I'd be interested to know.

Old Hoss Radbourn

Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn owns the record for most wins for a pitcher in a single season with 59 in 1884. He also has the distinction of possibly being the first public person ever to be photographed giving the middle finger and is the inspiration for a fantastic parody Twitter account. In 1890, Radbourn jumped from the National League Boston Beaneaters to the Players League Boston Reds. The Players League lasted just that one year, and in 1891 Radbourn became a Cincinnati Red, although the details are unknown. Baseball Reference lists the transaction as “Sent from ??? to the Cincinnati Reds in an unknown transaction.” At 36 years old, 1891 was Radbourn's worst year statistically. He started 24 games and pitched in relief in two others, throwing 218 innings, which was the second fewest of his career (but was more than any member of the Reds 2013 pitching staff and would have been eighth in all of baseball last year). His career ended when the Reds released him in August of 1891.

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey is primarily known for being the owner of the Chicago White Sox when several members of that team were paid by gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. But he was also a very good player in his day, and was an early star of the American Association with the St. Louis Browns . He was known as an outstanding defensive first baseman and may have pioneered the practice of standing away from and behind the first base bag instead of right on top of it to increase his range. Prior to the 1892 season, he jumped from the American Association St. Louis Browns to the National League Cincinnati Reds, where he became the player-manager for four years. It was during this period that Comiskey became friends with a Cincinnati sportswriter named Bancroft Johnson, which led to Comiskey's joining Johnson in the establishment of the American League as a rival major league to the National a decade later.

Joe Tinker

Considered one of the more undeserving Hall of Famers, Joe Tinker was enshrined largely due to his inclusion in the famous “Tinker to Evers to Chance” poem, “Baseball's Sad Lexicon.” Even still, Tinker was a good player on some very good Chicago Cubs teams, including their last World Series championship team in 1908. Prior to the 1913 season, he was part of an eight player trade between the Cubs and the Reds and became the Reds player-manager that season. He played well in 1913, putting up an OPS+ of 128 in 110 games. After the season, he jumped to the Chicago Federal League team where he spent two seasons as a player-manager before ending his career with one more season with the Cubs in 1916.

Jim Thorpe

A descendant of a Chippewa warrior, Jim Thorpe was one of the most famous athletes of his era. He was an Olympic gold medalist in multiple events and was a star early football player. He was less successful as a professional baseball player. He spent most of his career with the New York Giants, but early in the 1917 season, the Giants sold him to the Reds. He played in 77 games for the Reds, putting up decent numbers with an OPS+ of 97 and hitting four home runs, which was more than half of his career total of seven. His greatest moment as a Red came on May 2, 1917, when he drove in the only run in the Hippo Vaughn/Fred Toney double no-hitter game against the Cubs. His time with the Reds was a literal rental, as on August 18, he was returned to the Giants and finished the season there.

Wally Pipp

The popular perception of Wally Pipp is that he's the guy who took a day off on June 2, 1925 and lost his job, because he happened to be replaced by Lou Gehrig. Gehrig, of course, didn't take a day off for fourteen years and 2,130 games. The truth was that the entire Yankees team had gotten off to a slow start that year, due in part to Babe Ruth starting the year injured, so manager Miller Huggins decided to shake up the lineup somewhat. Pipp spent the rest of the 1925 season pinch hitting and pinch running, and in January of 1926 he was purchased by the Reds for $7500. Pipp played the next three seasons with the Reds, even receiving MVP votes in 1926. He retired from baseball as a Red after the 1928 season.

Curt Flood

All-Star center fielder Curt Flood rose to prominence in 1970 when he sued Major League Baseball and commissioner Bowie Kuhn for violating his rights under the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The lawsuit arose after Flood had been traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood felt that he should have the right to have some say in where and for whom he played. In 1972, the United States Supreme Court ruled against Flood, but it was this case and the arguments Flood made that laid the groundwork for the fall of the reserve clause and the advent of free agency a few years later. For all the stir it caused, the trade to the Phillies was actually the second of Flood's career. He had been initially signed by the Reds and came up through their minor league system. He played in a total of eight games for the Reds in 1956 and 1957 before being traded to the Cardinals for three no-name pitchers on December 5, 1957. Brad Snyder's excellent history of the Flood case A Well-Paid Slave suggests that the Reds traded Flood because “Cincinnati was not ready for an all-black outfield” (Flood would have played alongside Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson had he stayed) and quotes Robinson saying that many Major League Baseball teams had an unwritten racial quota at the time. Regardless of the reason, Flood was angry at being traded from the Reds and, again according to Snyder, “vowed that he would not allow himself to suffer the indignity of being traded ever again."

Don Newcombe

Strongly associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Don Newcombe is a trailblazer in baseball as he joined Jackie Robinson as one of the first black players in the major leagues in the 20th century. He was the first black pitcher to pitch in the World Series, and was the first player in history to win the Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young, and the MVP award in his career (he was the only player ever to accomplish that feat until Justin Verlander matched it in 2011). He was still with the Dodgers when they moved to Los Angeles in 1958, until he was traded to the Reds in June of that year. He spent two fairly productive years in Cincinnati before his contract was sold to the Cleveland Indians in the middle of the 1960 season, which was his last in Major League Baseball. Newcombe attributes the decline of his career at least partially to the alcoholism that he battled throughout his life.

Clint Hurdle

Current Pittsburgh Pirates manager, reigning National League Manager of the Year, and occasional Grimace impersonator Clint Hurdle was a first round draft choice by the Kansas City Royals in 1975. He was very highly regarded as a prospect and played well for Kansas City for a few years before chronic back problems stalled his progress. The Reds acquired him via trade prior to the 1982 season. He appeared in in 19 games for the Reds that year, putting up a .206 batting average and a .270 OBP before his back issues ended his season in mid-May. He spent a few more years in the league with the Mets and Cardinals before calling it quits for good after the 1987 season.