Record: 96-67, finished 2nd out of 6 team National League Central division
Did this team matter?: Ultimately, no. Eagle-eyed readers may note that the above win-loss record totals to 163 games, which is one more than the current standard of 162. Writers of this piece may remember that 1999 was the year in which we graduated college and entered the workforce. The rise of the Reds that summer coincided with the excitement of embarking on a new career, renting an apartment for the first time, etc. Perhaps someday writing about the eventual disappointment of a game 163 against the Mets as a metaphor to the realities of a career in the corporate world would be a fun exercise that would in no way be clichéd or lead to a lifetime of crippling alcoholism.
Performances to remember: Mike Cameron, filling in the role of primary leadoff hitter, brought speed and power to the table, along with a very competent ability to work the count. 21 homers, 38 stolen bases, 80 walks. And mind-blowingly good defense in centerfield. All before the guy was eligible for salary arbitration. 1999 was Cameron’s first season with the Reds. He was acquired in a trade in which the Reds sent Paul Konerko to the White Sox. Once in tow, however, surely the Reds would build around Cameron en route to a multi-year run of…(EVERYTHING ABOUT THE 1999 SEASON ENDS IN SADNESS)
Wikipedia says: “During the season the Reds became a surprising contender in the National League Central, winning 96 games and narrowly losing the division to the Houston Astros, ultimately missing the playoffs after losing a one game playoff with the New York Mets.”
Uniform notes: For the first time in team history, the color black was added as a primary component of the uniform, showing up on the hats, the wishbone C logo, and the undershirt sleeves.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “Ooooh. Black, black, black, black. That’s good. <Giggles>.”
Record: 89-79, finished 3rd out of 6 team National League West division
Did this team matter?: Yeah, I think so, but in ways that had little to do with the team itself. First, 1969 was the last full season in Crosley Field, and was the 100th anniversary of the first pro team, and was the last season before the magical run of the 1970s. And it was the first season of divisional play, complete with expanded playoff opportunities, which a promising roster combined with deft roster construction by Bob Howsam (who would trade his starting left fielder, first baseman, and second baseman in the coming seasons to spectacular result), would soon take ample advantage of. I like to think of 1969 as the grainy prelude to the technicolor Big Red Machine.
Performances to remember: This was Charlie Hustle’s best season as a hitter. A rundown of the numbers will perhaps elicit some low whistles (.348/.428/.512, with 120 runs scored, 218 hits, 33 doubles, 11 triples, and 16 HR), but I like some of the just-under-the-radar weirdness. Rose was the team’s leadoff hitter, nearly every day, but led the team with 18 intentional walks and was thrown out 10 of the 17 times he attempted to steal a base. I think a person would be hard pressed to find a decent parallel example, although I encourage you not to research this, since I definitely did not. Also, I think I’ve probably made a point along these lines on this site before, but: Pete Rose, way before he became the really old player-manager with bad hair, a gambling problem, and a driving need to reach 4,192, was an elite hitter. But he was also an elite hitter whose peak came at baseball’s post-deadball offensive nadir. 1969 was not quite 1968, but Rose was hitting nearly .350 when the league was hitting just .250, in aggregate. And he had hit .335 the year before when teams were averaging 3.4 runs per game. Yeah, he hung on too long and became a national joke, but put peak Rose in a different era and he might have been a candidate for a .400 season.
Wikipedia says: “(The season) consisted of the Reds finishing in third place in the newly established National League West, four games behind the NL West champion Atlanta Braves. The Reds were managed by Dave Bristol, and played their home games at Crosley Field, which was in its final full season of operation, before moving into their new facility in the middle of the following season.”
Uniform notes: The 1969 uniforms essentially matched the 1968 version, only with a centennial patch added. And this style would last through the 1971 season. After which would come a 20-year run of pullover-style jerseys. Akin to the comment earlier, this was the last link to the old world before Astroturf, polyester, and multi-purpose stadia.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “It’s plain and keeps repeating the same stuff.”
So, better uniforms...?
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