Record: 91-63, finished 3rd in 8-team National League.
Did this team matter?: The Redlegs finished third in a 3 team race, finishing just two games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two weeks prior to the end of the season, Cincinnati dropped both games of a 2-game series in Brooklyn, losing each contest by one run. The team ripped off eight wins in its final nine games, but ultimately couldn’t recover from the head-to-head matchups with the Dodgers. This team mattered in one of the most painful ways possible.
Performances to remember: Rookies, as a general rule, are pretty overrated, aren’t they? We fans of losing teams love to get excited about prospects making their debuts, especially in the age of information, inflating potential over reality. The Reds have had seven Rookies of the Year in their long history, and those seven have split fairly evenly between all-timer greats (Robinson, Rose, Bench) and not (Helms, Zachry, Sabo, Williamson). I think you would expect that the best rookie in any particular year would have a better chance at becoming at least Hall-of-Very-Good quality. Scrolling through a list of prior Rookie-of-the-Year winners, Cincy’s success rate seems in line with other franchises.
Without spending more than two minutes on this research, Frank Robinson is the greatest rookie in Reds history. Robinson was 20 years old when he first appeared in a Reds uniform in April, 1956. He had exactly eight games of experience higher than A-ball. Day 1, he went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. He spent the rest of April making the league assume he wasn’t going to be very good. Then he exploded: three of the remaining five calendar months he rocked an OPS over 1000. He led the league in runs scored (122) despite logging 30% of his plate appearances lower than the #3 spot in the batting order. He crushed 38 home runs, and finished the season with a batting line of .290/.379/.558 (143 OPS+). That’s how someone should rookie.
Wikipedia says: “On Sunday, June 24, following a doubleheader sweep of the Brooklyn Dodgers, eleven Redlegs players appeared on the panel quiz show What’s My Line?.”
Uniform notes: 1956 kicked off an eleven year run of sleeveless jerseys, with the 1956 version being the only uniform in team history to feature the Mr. Redleg depiction on the front of the uniform.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “Ew. What’s up with the sleeves? It has a picture and a number on the front, but it also has a number on the back. Weirdo.”
Record: 87-75, finished 4th in 10-team National League.
Did this team matter?: It’s an interesting comparison between now and 50 years ago. Then, a team flirting with 90 wins was pretty much out of the pennant race by early August. Today, a similar win total is a recipe for a wild card slot, or at least falling just short. Which is better? That’s a litmus test that I’ve heard compelling arguments for on both sides. I’m of the opinion that baseball is entertainment and baseball is more entertaining when there’s the perception that the tribe you belong to is playing compelling games. The 1967 Reds led the NL standings for nearly two months in the beginning of the year, which is also a fun experience as a fan. Did this team matter? That’s probably a judgment call that’s mostly dependent on how you think about the nature of being a fan.
Performances to remember: In 1967, two rookie pitchers emerged in the National League that could have easily won the Rookie of the Year award. Pitcher A went 16-13 with a 2.76 ERA (122 ERA+) over 251 innings, with 170 strikeouts and 78 walks. Pitcher B was 14-8 with a 2.58 ERA (147 ERA+) over 226.7 innings, with 206 strikeouts and 62 walks. Both pitchers had a bWAR over 6. Two great seasons. Pitcher A’s rookie season was the springboard towards a remarkable career, as Tom Seaver eventually won 3 Cy Young awards, was credited with 311 wins, and pitched into his 40’s. Pitcher B was the ill-fated Gary Nolan who won 110 career games and was out of the game before he turned 30. I’ve never seen video of Nolan and have no idea what his mechanics were like, but possessing an explosive arm with a big league debut before he turns 19? Probably a recipe for a short starburst of a career, unless you are blessed with extraordinary genetics.
Wikipedia says: “On August 28, Johnny Bench made his major league debut at age nineteen.”
Uniform notes: 1967 ended a string of sleeveless jerseys (and the Reds would be be-sleeved for the next quarter century thereafter). The following year, the Reds would lose the pinstripes, so 1967 became a rare example of the jersey containing both pinstripes and sleeves.
My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “<groans> It’s boring.”
Who had the better uniforms?
This poll is closed