Record: 93-61, finished 1st out of 8 team National League. Lost World Series to Yankees in 5 games.
Did this team matter?: No? The ’61 Reds won about 10 more games than their runs scored vs. runs allowed ratio would have anticipated. And then were steamrolled by a historically great Yankees team, as though they were little more than a casual footnote. Or…yes? The franchise, by and large, had mostly been irrelevant since the early 1940s and taking advantage of good fortune can be a propellant towards a better future. This season not only represented a 26-win improvement over 1960, it also marked the kick-off of a stretch in which the Reds would be a winning team (pretty much every season) until the early 1980s. Also, in the midst of the Cold War, allowing the Yankees to prevail over the Reds was a nice prophetic touch.
Performances to remember: I don’t know that it’s a huge revelation for me to say that sometimes players win awards without necessarily being the best statistical option for said award. In 1961, for example, Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron had pretty similar batting numbers, but Aaron put up his numbers while playing half his games in centerfield and (according to today’s numbers) was about two wins better than Robby in the field. Context matters, generally, and the Reds won the pennant so Robinson won the trophy. How any of us would vote if we were hot-tub-time-machine’d to 1961 is an impossible question. But I’d like to think that there was a portion of the electorate that voted for Robinson under the conceit that Robinson was as well-rounded and efficient a player that one could imagine. He was a powerful hitter, launching 37 homers and leading the NL in slugging percentage. He was a contact hitter, boasting a .323 average (with exactly 100 singles) and just 64 strikeouts. He was a speedster, swiping 22 bases against three times caught. And he was the king of respect, receiving a league-leading 23 intentional walks throughout the year.
Wikipedia says: “The Reds were…the last team to win the National League in the 154-game schedule era, before going to a 162-game schedule a year later.”
Uniform notes: 1961’s uniforms married two pre-existing constructs, namely the pinstriped uniforms of the late 1950’s with the blue-backed wishbone C logo of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “This is the same thing as the other striped one but it has ugly sleeves and the number on the front again.”
Record: 75-78, finished 4th out of 8 team National League.
Did this team matter?: Definitely not. This was the 8th season in a string of 13 consecutive years (1905-1917) in which the Redlegs finished at least 20 games behind the pennant winner.
Performances to remember: George Suggs played four seasons with the Reds and stands tied for 26th on the franchise leaderboard for most complete games. He was a decent enough pitcher (106 ERA+ over those four years), but the deadball era was known (in part) for pitchers throwing until their arms fell useless. Come to think of it, most of the post-deadball era had similar characteristics. Anyways, Ol’ Suggsy (as he surely liked to be called) won 19 games for a sub-mediocre team, led the league in hits allowed (320), and posted a 2.94 ERA, which looks impressive until you scroll right far enough to see that calculate to just a 115 ERA+. What I really like about Suggs’s season: he surrendered a characteristic six home runs over 303 innings. Dead ball and all that. But as a hitter, Suggs jacked one of his own! Maybe inside the park, but a 6-to-1 ratio for homers surrendered to clobbered is really good for a pitcher! It probably doesn’t mean anything, per se, but I thought that was pretty cool.
Wikipedia says: “This was the inaugural year of the Reds’ new stadium, Redland Field, later known as Crosley Field.”
Uniform notes: The defining characteristic is the lack of logo or insignia on the chest, replaced instead with an old-timey C on the left sleeve.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “There’s nothing on the front anymore. There needs to be something on the front.”
The sharper of these two uniform options is...
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