The birth of the Reds and the American Association (1881–1889)
The origins of the modern Cincinnati Reds can be traced to the expulsion of an earlier team bearing that name. In 1876, Cincinnati became one of the charter members of the new National League, but the club ran afoul of league organizer and long-time president William Hulbert for selling beer during games and renting out their ballpark on Sundays. Both were important activities to entice the city's large German population. While Hulbert made clear his distaste for both beer and Sunday baseball at the founding of the league, neither practice was actually against league rules in those early years. On October 6, 1880, however, seven of the eight team owners pledged at a special league meeting to formally ban both beer and Sunday baseball at the regular league meeting that December. Only Cincinnati president W. H. Kennett refused to sign the pledge, so the other owners formally expelled Cincinnati for violating a rule that would not actually go into effect for two more months.
Cincinnati's expulsion from the National League incensed Cincinnati Enquirer sports editor O. P. Caylor, who made two attempts to form a new league on behalf of the receivers for the now bankrupt Reds franchise. When these attempts failed, he formed a new independent ballclub known as the Red Stockings in the Spring of 1881, and brought the team to St. Louis for a weekend exhibition. The Reds' first game was a 12–3 victory over the St. Louis club. After the 1881 series proved a success, Caylor and a former president of the old Reds named Justus Thorner received an invitation from Philadelphia businessman Horace Phillips to attend a meeting of several clubs in Pittsburgh with the intent of establishing a rival to the National League. Upon arriving in the city, however, Caylor and Thorner discovered that no other owners had decided to accept the invitation, with even Phillips not bothering to attend his own meeting. By chance, the duo met a former pitcher named Al Pratt, who hooked them up with former Pittsburgh Alleghenys president H. Denny McKnight. Together, the three men hatched a scheme to form a new league by sending a telegram to each of the other owners who were supposed to attend the meeting stating that he was the only person who did not attend and that everyone else was enthusiastic about the new venture and eager to attend a second meeting in Cincinnati. The ploy worked, and the American Association was officially formed at the Hotel Gibson in Cincinnati with the new Reds a charter member with Thorner as president.
Led by the hitting of third baseman Hick Carpenter, the defense of future Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee, and the pitching of 40-game-winner Will White, the Reds won the inaugural AA pennant in 1882. With the establishment of the Union Association Justus Thorner left the club to finance the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds and managed to acquire the lease on the Reds Bank Street Grounds playing field, forcing new president Aaron Stern to relocate three blocks away at the hastily built League Park. The club never placed higher than second or lower than fifth for the rest of its tenure in the American Association.
The National League returns to Cincinnati (1890–1911)
Cincinnati Reds baseball team in 1909
The Cincinnati Red Stockings left the American Association on November 14, 1889 and joined the National League along with the Brooklyn Bridegrooms after a dispute with St. Louis Browns owner Chris Von Der Ahe over the selection of a new league president. The National League was happy to accept the teams in part due to the emergence of the new Player's League. This new league, an early failed attempt to break the reserve clause in baseball, threatened both existing leagues. Because the National League decided to expand while the American Association was weakening, the team accepted an invitation to join the National League. It was also at this time that the team first shortened their name from "Red Stockings" to "Reds". The Reds wandered through the 1890s signing local stars and aging veterans. During this time, the team never finished above third place (1897) and never closer than 101⁄2 games (1890).
At the start of the 20th century, the Reds had hitting stars Sam Crawford and Cy Seymour. Seymour's .377 average in 1905 was the first individual batting crown won by a Red. In 1911, Bob Bescher stole 81 bases, which is still a team record. Like the previous decade, the 1900s (decade) were not kind to the Reds, as much of the decade was spent in the league's second division.
Redland Field to the Great Depression (1912–1932)
Hall of famer Edd Roush
led Cincinnati to the 1919 World Series.
In 1912, the club opened a new steel-and-concrete ballpark, Redland Field (later to be known as Crosley Field). The Reds had been playing baseball on that same site, the corner of Findlay and Western Avenues on the city's west side, for 28 years, in wooden structures that had been occasionally damaged by fires. By the late 1910s the Reds began to come out of the second division. The 1918 team finished fourth, and new manager Pat Moran led the Reds to an NL pennant in 1919, in what the club advertised as its "Golden Anniversary". The 1919 team had hitting stars Edd Roush and Heinie Groh while the pitching staff was led by Hod Eller and left-hander Harry "Slim" Sallee. The Reds finished ahead of John McGraw's New York Giants, and then won the world championship in eight games over the Chicago White Sox.
By 1920, the "Black Sox" scandal had brought a taint to the Reds' first championship. After 1926, and well into the 1930s, the Reds were second division dwellers. Eppa Rixey, Dolf Luque and Pete Donohue were pitching stars, but the offense never lived up to the pitching. By 1931, the team was bankrupt, the Great Depression was in full swing and Redland Field was in a state of disrepair.
Championship baseball and revival (1933–1940)
Powel Crosley, Jr., an electronics magnate who, with his brother Lewis M. Crosley, produced radios, refrigerators, and other household items, bought the Reds out of bankruptcy in 1933, and hired Larry MacPhail to be the General Manager. Crosley had started WLW radio, the Reds flagship radio broadcaster, and the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation in Cincinnati, where he was also a prominent civic leader. MacPhail began to develop the Reds' minor league system and expanded the Reds' fan base. The Reds, throughout the 1930s, became a team of "firsts". The now-renamed Crosley Field became the host of the first night game in 1935, which was also the first baseball fireworks night, the fireworks at the game were shot by Joe Rozzi of Rozzi's Famous Fireworks. Johnny Vander Meer became the only pitcher in major league history to throw back-to-back no-hitters in 1938. Thanks to Vander Meer, Paul Derringer and second baseman/third baseman-turned-pitcher Bucky Walters, the Reds had a solid pitching staff. The offense came around in the late 1930s. By 1938 the Reds, now led by manager Bill McKechnie, were out of the second division finishing fourth. Ernie Lombardi was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1938. By 1939, they were National League champions, but in the World Series, they were swept by the New York Yankees. In 1940, they repeated as NL Champions, and for the first time in 21 years, the Reds captured a World championship, beating the Detroit Tigers 4 games to 3. Frank McCormick was the 1940 NL MVP. Other position players included Harry Craft, Lonny Frey, Ival Goodman, Lew Riggs and Bill Werber.
The Reds played at Crosley Field
, pictured here in 1969, from 1912 to 1970.
World War II and age finally caught up with the Reds. Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, Cincinnati finished mostly in the second division. In 1944, Joe Nuxhall (who was later to become part of the radio broadcasting team), at age 15, pitched for the Reds on loan from Wilson Junior High school in Hamilton, Ohio. He became the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game—a record that still stands today. Ewell "The Whip" Blackwell was the main pitching stalwart before arm problems cut short his career. Ted Kluszewski was the NL home run leader in 1954. The rest of the offense was a collection of over-the-hill players and not-ready-for-prime-time youngsters.
In April 1953, the Reds announced a preference to be called the "Redlegs", saying that the name of the club had been "Red Stockings" and then "Redlegs". A newspaper speculated that it was due to the developing political connotation of the word 'red' to mean Communism. From 1956 to 1960, the club's logo was altered to remove the term "REDS" from the inside of the "wishbone C" symbol. The "REDS" reappeared on the 1961 uniforms, but the point of the C was removed, leaving a smooth, non-wishbone curve. The traditional home-uniform logo was restored in 1967.
In 1956, led by National League Rookie of the Year Frank Robinson, the Redlegs hit 221 HR to tie the NL record. By 1961, Robinson was joined by Vada Pinson, Wally Post, Gordy Coleman, and Gene Freese. Pitchers Joey Jay, Jim O'Toole, and Bob Purkey led the staff.
The Reds captured the 1961 National League pennant, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, only to be defeated by the perennially powerful New York Yankees in the World Series.
The Reds had winning teams during the rest of the 1960s, but did not produce any championships. They won 98 games in 1962, paced by Purkey's 23, but finished third. In 1964, they lost the pennant by one game to the Cardinals after having taken first place when the Phillies collapsed in September. Their beloved manager Fred Hutchinson died of cancer just weeks after the end of the 1964 season. The failure of the Reds to win the 1964 pennant led to owner Bill DeWitt's selling off key components of the team, in anticipation of relocating the franchise. In response to DeWitt's threatened move, the women of Cincinnati banded together to form the Rosie Reds to urge DeWitt to keep the franchise in Cincinnati. The Rosie Reds are still in existence, and are currently the oldest fan club in Major League Baseball. After the 1965 season he executed what may be the most lopsided trade in baseball history, sending former Most Valuable Player Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun, and outfielder Dick Simpson. Robinson went on to win the MVP and triple crown in the American league for 1966, and lead Baltimore to its first ever World Series title in a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds did not recover from this trade until the rise of the "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s.
Starting in the early 1960s, the Reds' farm system began producing a series of stars, including Jim Maloney (the Reds' pitching ace of the 1960s), Pete Rose, Tony Pérez, Johnny Bench, Lee May, Tommy Helms, Bernie Carbo, Hal McRae, Dave Concepción, and Gary Nolan. The tipping point came in 1967 with the appointment of Bob Howsam as general manager. That same year the Reds avoided a move to San Diego when the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County agreed to build a state of the art, downtown stadium on the edge of the Ohio River. The Reds entered into a 30-year lease in exchange for the stadium commitment keeping the franchise in its original home city. In a series of strategic moves, Howsam brought in key personnel to complement the homegrown talent. The Reds' final game at Crosley Field, home to more than 4,500 baseball games, was played on June 24, 1970, a 5–4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
Under Howsam's administration starting in the late 1960s, the Reds instituted a strict rule barring the team's players from wearing facial hair and long hair. The clean cut look was meant to present the team as wholesome in an era of turmoil. All players coming to the Reds were required to shave and cut their hair for the next three decades. Over the years, the rule was controversial, but persisted well into the ownership of Marge Schott. On at least one occasion, in the early 1980s, enforcement of this rule lost them the services of star reliever and Ohio native Rollie Fingers, who would not shave his trademark handlebar mustache in order to join the team. The rule was not officially rescinded until 1999 when the Reds traded for slugger Greg Vaughn, who had a goatee. The New York Yankees continue to have a similar rule today, though unlike the Reds during this period, Yankees players are permitted to have mustaches. Much like when players leave the Yankees today, players who left the Reds took advantage with their new teams; Pete Rose, for instance, grew his hair out much longer than would be allowed by the Reds once he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979.
The Reds' rules also included conservative uniforms. In Major League Baseball, a club generally provides most of the equipment and clothing needed for play. However, players are required to supply their gloves and shoes themselves. Many players enter into sponsorship arrangements with shoe manufacturers, but through the mid-1980s, the Reds had a strict rule that players were to wear only plain black shoes with no prominent logo. Reds players decried what they considered to be the boring color choice as well as the denial of the opportunity to earn more money through shoe contracts. A compromise was struck in 1985 in which players could paint red marks on their black shoes, then the following year, they were allowed to wear all-red shoes.
The Big Red Machine (1970–1976)
In 1970, little known George "Sparky" Anderson was hired as manager, and the Reds embarked upon a decade of excellence, with a team that came to be known as "The Big Red Machine". Playing at Crosley Field until June 30, 1970, when the Reds moved into brand-new Riverfront Stadium, a 52,000 seat multi-purpose venue on the shores of the Ohio River, the Reds began the 1970s with a bang by winning 70 of their first 100 games. Johnny Bench, Tony Pérez, Pete Rose, Lee May and Bobby Tolan were the early Red Machine offensive leaders; Gary Nolan, Jim Merritt, Wayne Simpson and Jim McGlothlin led a pitching staff which also contained veterans Tony Cloninger and Clay Carroll and youngsters Pedro Borbón and Don Gullett. The Reds breezed through the 1970 season, winning the NL West and captured the NL pennant by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in three games. By the time the club got to the World Series, however, the Reds pitching staff had run out of gas and the veteran Baltimore Orioles, led by Hall of Fame third baseman and World Series MVP Brooks Robinson, beat the Reds in five games.
After the disastrous 1971 season (the only season of the 1970s during which the Reds finished with a losing record) the Reds reloaded by trading veterans Jimmy Stewart, May, and Tommy Helms for Joe Morgan, César Gerónimo, Jack Billingham, Ed Armbrister, and Denis Menke. Meanwhile, Dave Concepción blossomed at shortstop. 1971 was also the year a key component of the future world championships was acquired in George Foster from the San Francisco Giants in a trade for shortstop Frank Duffy.
The 1972 Reds won the NL West in baseball's first ever strike-shortened season and defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in an exciting five-game playoff series. They then faced the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. Six of the seven games were won by one run. With powerful slugger Reggie Jackson sidelined by an injury incurred during Oakland's playoff series, Ohio native Gene Tenace got a chance to play in the series, delivering four home runs that tied the World Series record for homers, propelling Oakland to a dramatic seven-game series win. This was one of the few World Series in which no starting pitcher for either side pitched a complete game.
The Reds won a third NL West crown in 1973 after a dramatic second half comeback, that saw them make up 10 1⁄2 games on the Los Angeles Dodgers after the All-Star break. However they lost the NL pennant to the New York Mets in five games in the NLCS. In game one, Tom Seaver faced Jack Billingham in a classic pitching duel, with all three runs of the 2–1 margin being scored on home runs. John Milner provided New York's run off Billingham, while Pete Rose tied the game in the seventh inning off Seaver, setting the stage for a dramatic game ending home run by Johnny Bench in the bottom of the ninth. The New York series provided plenty of controversy with the riotous behavior of Shea Stadium fans towards Pete Rose when he and Bud Harrelson scuffled after a hard slide by Rose into Harrelson at second base during the fifth inning of Game 3. A full bench-clearing fight resulted after Harrelson responded to Rose's aggressive move to prevent him from completing a double play by calling him a name. This also led to two more incidents in which play was stopped. The Reds trailed 9–3 and New York's manager, Yogi Berra, and legendary outfielder Willie Mays, at the request of National League president Warren Giles, appealed to fans in left field to restrain themselves. The next day the series was extended to a fifth game when Rose homered in the 12th inning to tie the series at two games each.
The Reds won 98 games in 1974 but they finished second to the 102-win Los Angeles Dodgers. The 1974 season started off with much excitement, as the Atlanta Braves were in town to open the season with the Reds. Hank Aaron entered opening day with 713 home runs, one shy of tying Babe Ruth's record of 714. The first pitch Aaron swung at in the 1974 season was the record tying home run off Jack Billingham. The next day the Braves benched Aaron, hoping to save him for his record breaking home run on their season opening homestand. The commissioner of baseball, Bowie Kuhn, ordered Braves management to play Aaron the next day, where he narrowly missed the historic home run in the fifth inning. Aaron went on to set the record in Atlanta two nights later. The 1974 season was also the debut of Hall of Fame radio announcer Marty Brennaman, who replaced Al Michaels, after Michaels left the Reds to broadcast for the San Francisco Giants.
With 1975, the Big Red Machine lineup solidified with the "Great Eight" starting team of Johnny Bench (catcher), Tony Pérez (first base), Joe Morgan (second base), Dave Concepción (shortstop), Pete Rose (third base), Ken Griffey (right field), César Gerónimo (center field), and George Foster (left field). The starting pitchers included Don Gullett, Fred Norman, Gary Nolan, Jack Billingham, Pat Darcy, and Clay Kirby. The bullpen featured Rawly Eastwick and Will McEnaney combining for 37 saves, and veterans Pedro Borbón and Clay Carroll. On Opening Day, Rose still played in left field, Foster was not a starter, while John Vukovich, an off-season acquisition, was the starting third baseman. While Vuckovich was a superb fielder, he was a weak hitter. In May, with the team off to a slow start and trailing the Dodgers, Sparky Anderson made a bold move by moving Rose to third base, a position where he had very little experience, and inserting Foster in left field. This was the jolt that the Reds needed to propel them into first place, with Rose proving to be reliable on defense, while adding Foster to the outfield gave the offense some added punch. During the season, the Reds compiled two notable streaks: (1) by winning 41 out of 50 games in one stretch, and (2) by going a month without committing any errors on defense.
at bat in a game at Dodger Stadium during the 1970s
In the 1975 season, Cincinnati clinched the NL West with 108 victories, then swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in three games to win the NL pennant. In the World Series, the Boston Red Sox were the opponents. After splitting the first four games, the Reds took Game 5. After a three-day rain delay, the two teams met in Game 6, one of the most memorable baseball games ever played and considered by many to be the best World Series game ever. The Reds were ahead 6–3 with 5 outs left, when the Red Sox tied the game on former Red Bernie Carbo's three-run home run. It was Carbo's second pinch-hit three-run homer in the series. After a few close-calls either way, Carlton Fisk hit a dramatic 12th inning home run off the foul pole in left field to give the Red Sox a 7–6 win and force a deciding Game 7. Cincinnati prevailed the next day when Morgan's RBI single won Game 7 and gave the Reds their first championship in 35 years. The Reds have not lost a World Series game since Carlton Fisk's home run, a span of 9 straight wins.
1976 saw a return of the same starting eight in the field. The starting rotation was again led by Nolan, Gullett, Billingham, and Norman, while the addition of rookies Pat Zachry and Santo Alcalá comprised an underrated staff in which four of the six had ERAs below 3.10. Eastwick, Borbon, and McEnaney shared closer duties, recording 26, 8, and 7 saves respectively. The Reds won the NL West by ten games. They went undefeated in the postseason, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies (winning Game 3 in their final at-bat) to return to the World Series. They continued to dominate by sweeping the Yankees in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium, the first World Series games played in Yankee Stadium since 1964. This was only the second ever sweep of the Yankees in the World Series. In winning the Series, the Reds became the first NL team since the 1921–22 New York Giants to win consecutive World Series championships, and the Big Red Machine of 1975–76 is considered one of the best teams ever. So far in MLB history, the 1975 and '76 Reds were the last NL team to repeat as champions.
Beginning with the 1970 National League pennant, the Reds beat either of the two Pennsylvania-based clubs, the Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Pirates to win their pennants (Pirates in 1970, 1972, 1975, and 1990, Phillies in 1976), making The Big Red Machine part of the rivalry between the two Pennsylvania teams. In 1979, Pete Rose added further fuel in The Big Red Machine being part of the rivalry when he signed with the Phillies and helped them win their first World Series championship in 1980.
The Machine dismantled (1977–1989)
The later years of the 1970s brought turmoil and change. Popular Tony Pérez was sent to Montreal after the 1976 season, breaking up the Big Red Machine's starting lineup. Manager Sparky Anderson and General Manager Bob Howsam later considered this trade the biggest mistake of their careers. Starting pitcher Don Gullett left via free agency and signed with the New York Yankees. In an effort to fill that gap, a trade with the Oakland A's for starting ace Vida Blue was arranged during the 1976–77 off-season. However, Bowie Kuhn, the Commissioner of Baseball, vetoed the trade for the stated reason of maintaining competitive balance in baseball. Some have suggested that the actual reason had more to due with Kuhn's continued feud with Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley. On June 15, 1977, the Reds acquired Mets' franchise pitcher Tom Seaver for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman. In other deals that proved to be less successful, the Reds traded Gary Nolan to the Angels for Craig Hendrickson, Rawly Eastwick to St. Louis for Doug Capilla and Mike Caldwell to Milwaukee for Rick O'Keeffe and Garry Pyka, and got Rick Auerbach from Texas. The end of the Big Red Machine era was heralded by the replacement of General Manager Bob Howsam with Dick Wagner.
In Rose's last season as a Red, he gave baseball a thrill as he challenged Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, tying for the second-longest streak ever at 44 games. The streak came to an end in Atlanta after striking out in his fifth at bat in the game against Gene Garber. Rose also earned his 3,000th hit that season, on his way to becoming baseball's all-time hits leader when he rejoined the Reds in the mid-1980s. The year also witnessed the only no-hitter of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver's career, coming against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 16, 1978.
After the 1978 season and two straight second-place finishes, Wagner fired manager Anderson—an unpopular move. Pete Rose, who since 1963 had played almost every position for the team except pitcher, shortstop, and catcher, signed with Philadelphia as a free agent. By 1979, the starters were Bench (c), Dan Driessen (1b), Morgan (2b), Concepción (ss), Ray Knight (3b), with Griffey, Foster, and Geronimo again in the outfield. The pitching staff had experienced a complete turnover since 1976 except for Fred Norman. In addition to ace starter Tom Seaver; the remaining starters were Mike LaCoss, Bill Bonham, and Paul Moskau. In the bullpen, only Borbon had remained. Dave Tomlin and Mario Soto worked middle relief with Tom Hume and Doug Bair closing. The Reds won the 1979 NL West behind the pitching of Tom Seaver but were dispatched in the NL playoffs by Pittsburgh. Game 2 featured a controversial play in which a ball hit by Pittsburgh's Phil Garner was caught by Cincinnati outfielder Dave Collins but was ruled a trap, setting the Pirates up to take a 2–1 lead. The Pirates swept the series 3 games to 0 and went on to win the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
The 1981 team fielded a strong lineup, but with only Concepción, Foster, and Griffey retaining their spots from the 1975–76 heyday. After Johnny Bench was able to play only a few games at catcher each year after 1980 due to ongoing injuries, Joe Nolan took over as starting catcher. Driessen and Bench shared 1st base, and Knight starred at third. Morgan and Geronimo had been replaced at second base and center field by Ron Oester and Dave Collins. Mario Soto posted a banner year starting on the mound, only surpassed by the outstanding performance of Seaver's Cy Young runner-up season. La Coss, Bruce Berenyi, and Frank Pastore rounded out the starting rotation. Hume again led the bullpen as closer, joined by Bair and Joe Price. In 1981, Cincinnati had the best overall record in baseball, but they finished second in the division in both of the half-seasons that were created after a mid-season players' strike, and missed the playoffs. To commemorate this, a team photo was taken, accompanied by a banner that read "Baseball's Best Record 1981".
By 1982, the Reds were a shell of the original Red Machine; they lost 101 games that year. Johnny Bench, after an unsuccessful transition to 3rd base, retired a year later.
After the heartbreak of 1981, General Manager Dick Wagner pursued the strategy of ridding the team of veterans including third-baseman Knight and the entire starting outfield of Griffey, Foster, and Collins. Bench, after being able to catch only seven games in 1981, was moved from platooning at first base to be the starting third baseman; Alex Treviño became the regular starting catcher. The outfield was staffed with Paul Householder, César Cedeño, and future Colorado Rockies & Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on opening day. Hurdle was an immediate bust, and rookie Eddie Milner took his place in the starting outfield early in the year. The highly touted Householder struggled throughout the year despite extensive playing time. Cedeno, while providing steady veteran play, was a disappointment, and was unable to recapture his glory days with the Houston Astros. The starting rotation featured the emergence of a dominant Mario Soto, and featured strong years by Pastore and Bruce Berenyi, but Seaver was injured all year, and their efforts were wasted without a strong offensive lineup. Tom Hume still led the bullpen, along with Joe Price. But the colorful Brad "The Animal" Lesley was unable to consistently excel, and former all-star Jim Kern was a big disappointment. Kern was also publicly upset over having to shave off his prominent beard to join the Reds, and helped force the issue of getting traded during mid-season by growing it back. The season also saw the midseason firing of Manager John McNamara, who was replaced as skipper by Russ Nixon.
The Reds fell to the bottom of the Western Division for the next few years. After the 1982 season, Seaver was traded back to the Mets. The year 1983 found Dann Bilardello behind the plate, Bench returning to part-time duty at first base, rookies Nick Esasky taking over at third base and Gary Redus taking over from Cedeno. Tom Hume's effectiveness as a closer had diminished, and no other consistent relievers emerged. Dave Concepción was the sole remaining starter from the Big Red Machine era.
Wagner's tenure ended in 1983, when Howsam, the architect of the Big Red Machine, was brought back. The popular Howsam began his second term as Reds' General Manager by signing Cincinnati native Dave Parker as a free agent from Pittsburgh. In 1984 the Reds began to move up, depending on trades and some minor leaguers. In that season Dave Parker, Dave Concepción and Tony Pérez were in Cincinnati uniforms. In August 1984, Pete Rose was reacquired and hired to be the Reds player-manager. After raising the franchise from the grave, Howsam gave way to the administration of Bill Bergesch, who attempted to build the team around a core of highly regarded young players in addition to veterans like Parker. However, he was unable to capitalize on an excess of young and highly touted position players including Kurt Stillwell, Tracy Jones, and Kal Daniels by trading them for pitching. Despite the emergence of Tom Browning as rookie of the year in 1985 when he won 20 games, the rotation was devastated by the early demise of Mario Soto's career to arm injury.
Under Bergesch, from 1985–89 the Reds finished second four times. Among the highlights, Rose became the all-time hits leader, Tom Browning threw a perfect game, Eric Davis became the first player in baseball history to hit at least 35 home runs and steal 50 bases, and Chris Sabo was the 1988 National League Rookie of the Year. The Reds also had a bullpen star in John Franco, who was with the team from 1984 to 1989. Rose once had Concepción pitch late in a game at Dodger Stadium. Following the release of the Dowd Report which accused Rose for betting on baseball games, in 1989 Rose was banned from baseball by Commissioner Bart Giamatti, who declared Rose guilty of "conduct detrimental to baseball". Controversy also swirled around Reds owner Marge Schott, who was accused several times of ethnic and racial slurs.
World Championship and the end of an era (1990–2002)
In 1987, General Manager Bergesch was replaced by Murray Cook, who initiated a series of deals that would finally bring the Reds back to the championship, starting with acquisitions of Danny Jackson and José Rijo. An aging Dave Parker was let go after a revival of his career in Cincinnati following the Pittsburgh drug trials. Barry Larkin emerged as the starting shortstop over Kurt Stillwell, who along with reliever Power, was traded for Jackson. In 1989, Cook was succeeded by Bob Quinn, who put the final pieces of the championship puzzle together, with the acquisitions of Hal Morris, Billy Hatcher and Randy Myers.
In 1990, the Reds under new manager Lou Piniella shocked baseball by leading the NL West from wire-to-wire. Winning their first nine games, they started off 33–12 and maintained their lead throughout the year. Led by Chris Sabo, Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Paul O'Neill and Billy Hatcher in the field, and by José Rijo, Tom Browning and the "Nasty Boys" of Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers on the mound, the Reds took out the Pirates in the NLCS. The Reds swept the heavily favored Oakland Athletics in four straight, and extended a Reds winning streak in the World Series to nine consecutive games. The World Series, however, saw Eric Davis severely bruise a kidney diving for a fly ball in Game 4, and his play was greatly limited the next year. In winning the World Series the Reds became the only National League team to go wire to wire.
In 1992, Quinn was replaced in the front office by Jim Bowden. On the field, manager Lou Piniella wanted outfielder Paul O'Neill to be a power-hitter to fill the void Eric Davis left when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Tim Belcher. However, O'Neill only hit .246 and 14 homers. The Reds returned to winning after a losing season in 1991, but 90 wins was only enough for second place behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves. Before the season ended, Piniella got into an altercation with reliever Rob Dibble. In the off season, Paul O'Neill was traded to the New York Yankees for outfielder Roberto Kelly. Kelly was a disappointment for the Reds over the next couple of years, while O'Neill blossomed, leading a down-trodden Yankees franchise to a return to glory. Also, the Reds would replace their "Big Red Machine" era uniforms in favor of a pinstriped uniform with no sleeves.
For the 1993 season Piniella was replaced by fan favorite Tony Pérez, but he lasted only 44 games at the helm, replaced by Davey Johnson. With Johnson steering the team, the Reds made steady progress. In 1994, the Reds were in the newly created National League Central Division with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, as well as fellow rivals Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros. By the time the strike hit, the Reds finished a half-game ahead of the Astros for first-place in the NL Central. By 1995, the Reds won the division thanks to Most Valuable Player Barry Larkin. After defeating the NL West champion Dodgers in the first NLDS since 1981, they lost to the Atlanta Braves.
Team owner Marge Schott announced mid-season that Johnson would be gone by the end of the year, regardless of outcome, to be replaced by former Reds third baseman Ray Knight. Johnson and Schott had never gotten along and she did not approve of Johnson living with his fiancée before they were married, In contrast, Knight, along with his wife, professional golfer Nancy Lopez, were friends of Schott. The team took a dive under Knight and he was unable to complete two full seasons as manager, subject to complaints in the press about his strict managerial style.
In 1999 the Reds won 96 games, led by manager Jack McKeon, but lost to the New York Mets in a one game playoff. Earlier that year, Schott sold controlling interest in the Reds to Cincinnati businessman Carl Lindner. Despite an 85–77 finish in 2000, and being named 1999 NL manager of the year, McKeon was fired after the 2000 season. The Reds did not have another winning season until 2010.
Contemporary era (2003–present)
GABP opened in 2003, becoming the seventh home field for the Reds.
Riverfront Stadium, by then known as Cinergy Field, was demolished in 2002. Great American Ball Park opened in 2003 with high expectations for a team led by local favorites, including outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr., shortstop Barry Larkin, and first baseman Sean Casey. Although attendance improved considerably with the new ballpark, the team continued to lose. Schott had not invested much in the farm system since the early 1990s, leaving the team relatively thin on talent. After years of promises that the club was rebuilding toward the opening of the new ballpark, General Manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone were fired on July 28. This broke up the father-son combo of manager Bob Boone and third baseman Aaron Boone, and Aaron was soon traded to the New York Yankees. Tragedy struck in November when Dernell Stenson, a promising young outfielder for the Reds, was shot and killed during a carjack. Following the season Dan O'Brien was hired as the Reds' 16th General Manager.
The 2004 and 2005 seasons continued the trend of big hitting, poor pitching, and poor records. Griffey, Jr. joined the 500 home run club in 2004, but was again hampered by injuries. Adam Dunn emerged as consistent home run hitter, including a 535-foot (163 m) home run against José Lima. He also broke the major league record for strikeouts in 2004. Although a number of free agents were signed before 2005, the Reds were quickly in last place and manager Dave Miley was forced out in the 2005 mid season and replaced by Jerry Narron. Like many other small market clubs, the Reds dispatched some of their veteran players and began entrusting their future to a young nucleus that included Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.
Late summer 2004 saw the opening of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame (HOF). The Reds HOF had been in existence in name only since the 1950s, with player plaques, photos and other memorabilia scattered throughout their front offices. Ownership and management desired a stand-alone facility, where the public could walk through inter-active displays, see locker room recreations, watch videos of classic Reds moments and peruse historical items. The first floor houses a movie theater which resembles an older, ivy-covered brick wall ball yard. The hallways contain many vintage photographs. The rear of the building features a three-story wall containing a baseball for every hit Pete Rose had during his career. The third floor contains interactive exhibits including a pitcher's mound, radio booth, and children's area where the fundamentals of baseball are taught through videos featuring former Reds players.
Robert Castellini took over as controlling owner from Lindner in 2006. Castellini promptly fired general manager Dan O'Brien and hired Wayne Krivsky. The Reds made a run at the playoffs but ultimately fell short. The 2007 season was again mired in mediocrity. Midway through the season Jerry Narron was fired as manager and replaced by Pete Mackanin. The Reds ended up posting a winning record under Mackanin, but finished the season in 5th place in the Central Division. Mackanin was manager in an interim capacity only, and the Reds, seeking a big name to fill the spot, ultimately brought in Dusty Baker. Early in the 2008 season, Krivsky was fired and replaced by Walt Jocketty. Though the Reds did not win under Krivsky, he is credited with revamping the farm system and signing young talent that could potentially lead the Reds to success in the future.
The Reds failed to post winning records in both 2008 and 2009. In 2010, with NL MVP Joey Votto and Gold Glovers Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen the Reds posted a 91-71 record and were NL Central champions. The following week, the Reds became only the second team in MLB history to be no-hit in a postseason game when Philadelphia's Roy Halladay shut down the National League's number one offense in game one of the NLDS. The Reds lost in a 3-game sweep of the NLDS to Philadelphia.
After coming off their surprising 2010 NL Central Division Title, the Reds fell short of many expectations for the 2011 season. Multiple injuries and inconsistent starting pitching played a big role in their mid-season collapse, along with a less productive offense as compared to the previous year. The Reds ended the season at 79-83. The Reds won the 2012 NL Central Division Title. On September 28, Homer Bailey threw a 1-0 no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, this was the first Reds no-hitter since Tom Browning's perfect game in September of the 1988 season. Finishing with a 97–65 record, they earned the second seed in the Division Series and a match-up with the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. After taking a 2–0 lead with road victories at AT&T Park, they headed home looking to win the series. However, they lost three straight at their home ballpark to become the first National League team since the Cubs in 1984 to lose a division series after leading 2–0.
In the off-season, the team traded outfielder Drew Stubbs, as part of a three team deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians, to the Indians, and in turn received right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. On July 2, 2013, Homer Bailey pitched a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants for a 4-0 Reds victory, making Bailey the third pitcher in Reds history with two complete game no-hitters in their career.
Following six consecutive losses to close out the 2013 season, including a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, at PNC Park, in the National League wild-card playoff game, the Reds decided to fire Dusty Baker. During his six years as manager, Baker led the Reds to the playoff three times; however, they never advanced beyond the first round.
On October 22, 2013, the Reds hired pitching coach Bryan Price to replace Baker as manager.
Under Bryan Price, the Reds were led by pitchers Johnny Cueto and the hard-throwing Cuban Aroldis Chapman. While the offense was led by all-star third baseman Todd Frazier, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips. Although with plenty of star power, the Reds never got off to a good start and ending the season in lowly fourth place in the division to go along with a 76-86 record. During the offseason, the Reds traded pitchers Alfredo Simón to the Tigers and Mat Latos to the Marlins. In return, they acquired young talents such as Eugenio Suárez and Anthony DeSclafani. They also acquired veteran slugger Marlon Byrd from the Phillies to play left field.
The Reds' 2015 season wasn't much better, as they finished with the second worst record in the league with a record of 64-98, their worst finish since 1982. The Reds were forced to trade star pitchers Johnny Cueto (to the Kansas City Royals) and Mike Leake (to the San Francisco Giants), receiving minor league pitching prospects for both. Shortly after the season's end, the Reds traded home run derby champion Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox, and closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees.
In 2016, the Reds broke the record for home runs allowed during a single season. The previous record holder was the 1996 Detroit Tigers with 241 longballs yielded to opposing teams. The Reds went 68-94, and again were one of the worst teams in the MLB. The Reds traded outfielder Jay Bruce to the Mets just before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for two prospects, infielder Dilson Herrera and pitcher Max Wotell. During the offseason, the Reds traded Brandon Phillips to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for two minor league pitchers.