Cincinnati Reds (1876-1880)
For the modern franchise, see Cincinnati Reds
Ballparks: Avenue Grounds (Apr. 25, 1876-Aug. 27, 1879); Bank Street Ground (May 1-Sept. 30, 1880)
After almost four years without organized professional baseball in Cincinnati, OH, local businessmen decided the time had come for the city to retake its place in the baseball world. First organized in July of 1875, the team was called the Red Stockings after the first Red Stockings team. Wealthy Cincinnati meat packer Josiah "Si" L. Keck was the principal owner. Due to the fact that it was the middle of the season, it was a little late for the team to join the National Association and participate in its season, so the team competed in a series of exhibition games instead. Its first game came on August 31, 1875 against the Stars Baseball Club from Covington, Kentucky. With 3,000 spectators on hand, the Red Stockings battled the Stars to a 5-5 tie, which was called after 12 innings due to darkness. The two teams would not play each other again until September.
On February 2, 1876, the Red Stockings were one of eight founding members of the newly formed National League. The team was made up of players from the Brooklyn Atlantics, Chicago White Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Washington Nationals, and the Philadelphia Pearls. Five players were first timers, and two players, first baseman Charlie Gould and second baseman Charlie Sweasy, were newcomers, with Gould also serving as manager of the new team. The team played at Avenue Grounds, a ballpark conveniently located near Keck's own meat-packing plant and the stock yards. The Red Stockings opened the season at home on April 25th against the St. Louis Brown Stockings, in a 2-1 win. They would follow this up with a 5-2 win also against the Brown Stockings two days later. Unfortunately this initial success was short-lived. The team would go on long double-digit losing streaks, including an 18-game losing streak in July and August. The Red Stockings ended the season with a 9-56 record, the worst record ever posted by a Cincinnati baseball club.
During the off-season, Keck retained the services of Gould as first baseman, but he was replaced as manager by journeyman Lip Pike. Sweasy however was not brought back. The Red Stockings opened the 1877 season in Louisville, KY where they defeated the Grays, 15-9. Again the team would play poorly, with Pike lasting only 14 games before being replaced by fellow outfielder Bob Addy. Not only was the club performing poorly on the field but financial setbacks by owner Josiah Keck resulted in the team disbanding on June 19th with a 3-14 record. The Red Stockings returned to the diamond on July 3rd, however, still managed by Bob Addy, but with a new owner in J. Wayne Neff. It has been said that Neff had played for the team the previous year, but there is no record of this.
When the club returned to action, the newspapers around the country each seemed to handle the situation differently. Some newspapers refused to carry the game results, other papers split their results between the two clubs, while some kept them together. Addy lasted as manager until being let go following 7-0 loss to the Boston Red Stockings on August 21st. His replacement was shortstop Jack Manning. When the season ended, the league waited until its annual league meeting held in December, when it was decided that both Red Stockings teams were one and the same, thus giving the Red Stockings an overall record of 15-42-1.
During the off-season, Neff created a season ticket plan whereby fans could buy a book of 20 coupons for $10. He also reorganized the team roster with Charley Jones, Bobby Mitchell and Lip Pike remaining from the previous season. He brought in players from the Boston Red Stockings, such as Deacon White, and Cal McVey, who was also a former member of the original Cincinnati Red Stockings. McVey was named the team manager. In 1878, the Red Stockings opened their season with a win for a third straight year. Unlike the previous two seasons, though, the team would not fall apart, causing fans to endure long losing streaks. By the end of May it was in first place for the first time. It looked as though the Red Stockings might actually win the pennant, but the team went 4-8 in June which dropped them down to 2nd. A couple of losses in early July dropped them further down to 3rd place where they would remain for most of the season. But they won 10 of their last 11 games, including 9 straight, for a 2nd-place finish and a 37-23-1 record.
Heading into the 1879 season, it was hoped that the team would be able to capitalize on the previous year’s success and finally be able to win the pennant. In fact the team got off to good start. The Reds swept newcomers the Troy Trojans, and took two out of three from the Syracuse Stars. Unfortunately a three-game losing streak as well as two blowout losses to both the Boston Red Stockings and Providence Grays dropped the team to 6-6 at home before they went out on the road. Things would not get better. The Reds dropped down to 6th place by the first day of summer, but were up to fifth on June 24th, where they remained for the rest of the season. The team reached .500 on July 21st, but not before August 19th would it stay above .500 for a prolonged period. Some of the factors for the team’s demise were poor defense, as well as resentment coming from players over salary. Team stars Ross Barnes, Deacon White and Cal McVey each made $2000, while the rest of the players had salaries at about $800. Because of the team’s poor performance attendance dropped. When the team's debts reached $10,000, Neff decided to drop out. He informed the players, while on a road trip to Buffalo that they would be released after October 1st. The team still won 5 of its last 6 games.
On October 24th, Justus Thorne, who was president of a semi-pro baseball team, bought the team and applied to the National League for re-instatement. It was readmitted on December 3rd. Thorner then set about reorganizing the team. Deacon and Will White, and Blondie Purcell were the only holdovers from the previous year. He also moved the team to a new ballpark, the Bank Street Grounds, as the Avenue Grounds were too far away from the downtown area. To help bring additional revenue, Thorner and the other owners rented out the old park for Sunday games, where beer was sold. Both of which were not allowed by the league. Some sources have said that Oliver Caylor managed the team for the 1880 season. However at the time, Caylor was baseball editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The manager in reality was John Clapp, who was also the catcher. The team lost the first game of the season, 4-3, to the Chicago White Stockings. The Reds managed to get even by winning their second game against the White Stockings, but it was the only time they were at .500. The season was marked with losing streaks including a 9 game losing streak in June. They only managed to produce winning streaks of 2 wins twice. The first was in early July and the last in late September. Thorner, after spending most of season fighting with the other directors, was replaced by Nathan Menderson, who was then replaced by W.H. Kennett (or John Kennett, depending on the source). It has been reported that Kennett cannot be found in any of the record books or in the city directory, due to the spotty information on him, but apparently he was frequently mentioned as club president by the press.
At a league meeting in October, it was decided that there was to be a new rule prohibiting the sale of alcohol at ballparks; both at league parks and even non-league parks, as well as the usage of the ballpark on a Sunday. Any team that did not follow these rules would be expelled from the league. These rules were designed specifically to target Cincinnati, whose revenue was generated primarily by the sale of alcohol and Sunday games. When the team refused to abide by these rules, it was expelled on October 8th.
- Lee Allen: The Cincinnati Reds, Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 2006
- The Cincinnati Daily Star, Cincinnati, Ohio, 28 July 1875. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993
- Steven A. Riess: Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball Clubs, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006
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- Early Reds history