Cincinnati Reds History: The Redland Field Years

May 03, 2019 5 Comments

Redland Field 1912 Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds of the early 1900s were nowhere near as dominant as the first professional team from 1869. The turn-of-the-century era Reds oscillated between third and sixth place. However, despite the mediocre on-field performance, the team was packing their stadium, The Palace of the Fans which opened in 1902. By the end of the decade, the need for a new stadium was evident. While the team continued to finish in the middle of the standings, the fans still came out to cheer them on. The Palace of the Fans, though, was not up to the task and was deteriorating rapidly with each passing baseball season. A fire exacerbated the declining state of the ballpark and it was demolished in the fall of 1911.

Redland Field, built for $225,000, became the home of the Reds for the next 68 years on April 11, 1912. The Reds opened their new park with a 10-6 win over the Chicago Cubs before 23,500 fans. Oddly, the stadium was still among the smallest in baseball. Fenway Park in Boston, which opened the same year, could accommodate 37,000 fans.

The Reds went on to a 75-78 finish, good for fourth place in the National League. They also finished fourth in attendance as 344,000 fans came through the turnstiles, which wouldn’t actually be invented for about four more years.

Those first years in Redland Field the Reds finished near the bottom of the standings. Starting in 1916, under manager Pat Moran, the team began to move in the right direction, finishing in 4th place in 1917 and 3rd place in 1918, before finally capturing their first National League pennant in 1919. That season, the Reds finished with a record of 96-44, nine games ahead of the New York Giants.

Stars on that ball club included third baseman Heine Groh, who used a bottle-shaped bat, along with centerfielder Edd Roush who led the team and the league in hitting with a .321 average. On the mound, pitchers Hod Eller, Dolf Lugue, and Slim Sallee, winners of 20, 19, and 21 games respectively in 1919, led the way.

In their first World Series, they faced the Chicago White Sox and won 5 games to 3. However, it was later revealed that eight of the White Sox might have conspired to throw the series. Though suspicions arose even before the series was completed,, the scandal didn’t break until late the following season when White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte confessed to a grand jury investigating the series. A trial followed in 1921 and while all eight players involved were acquitted, they were banned permanently from Major League Baseball. They were later the subject of the 1988 film Eight Men Out.

Many of the players later said a fix had been discussed, but the idea was quickly abandoned. Nonetheless, the Reds’ first World Series win has remained tainted by the scandal, even though most historians agree the Reds won fair and square.

“Pitchers (Claude ‘Lefty’) Williams and Cicotte were involved,” says historian Richard Williams in the documentary The Official History of the Cincinnati Reds from 1987. “I don’t think the rest of the players did anything except go out and play their best. I think that series belonged to the Reds, and the Series was won honestly.”

In 1920, the Reds finished third and fell to sixth in 1921 before bouncing back for a second place finish in 1922 and again in 1923, but they couldn’t get past the Giants. Stars from that era included pitcher Dolf Lugue, again, who in 1923 won 23 games while posting a 1.23 ERA. Also on the pitching staff was six-foot-five Eppa Rixey, the team’s all-time winningest hurler.

The Reds stayed competitive through most of the 1920s before falling to seventh place in 1929 and second to last again in 1930. In 1931, 1932, and 1933, they finished eighth. Bankrupt since 1931, the team somehow soldiered on, eventually being purchased in 1933 by local magnate Powel Crosley.

Crosley had made his fortune manufacturing refrigerators and radios. He was also a pioneer in radio and owned the largest station in town, and one of the biggest in the nation, WLW. Redland field became Crosley Field in 1934, and the Reds embarked on a new era.

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Teddy Jack Eddy
Teddy Jack Eddy

October 14, 2019

So Chick Gandil didn’t help throw the series in 1919? I think only people in Cincy believe that the Reds won without the Sox help and every documentary ever made agrees.

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