Most Cincinnati fans who remember Crosley Field fondly recall it’s intimacy, a cozy little ballpark which spectators and hitters appreciated. At the time it was abandoned in 1970, its dimensions were among the shortest in baseball. But in the 1920s and 30s, when an offensive explosion rocked baseball, Crosley was an extraordinarily difficult park for home runs. Much like Houston’s Astrodome, which was renowned as a pitcher’s park, Crosley Field was death on the long ball.

From 1920 through 1937 – the club shortened the fences in 1938 – a fan who attended several games a year would have been fortunate to ever see a Red hit a HR at Crosley. In those years, the Reds averaged 9 hrs a year at home or about one every 8 games. Whle the league as a whole was going through an era when home runs per team doubled, then tripled from totals in the 1910s, Cincinnati fans missed the revolution.

In part this was due to a weak hitting club, but during the 1920s and 30s, the Reds always hit far more home runs on the road, and their opponents did not fare any better at Crosley. From 1920 through 1937, the Reds and their opponents combined for 299 home runs at Redland/Crosley and 1067 in road games. In 1927, the Reds first shortened the dimensions by some 20 feet, but that had little impact on home runs. Finally, in 1938, the club moved home plate out another 20 feet to create dimensions of 328 to LF, 383 to deep DF, and 366 to RF.The effect was immediate.

The Reds had led the NL in home runs hit on the road in 35, 36,and 37, but the club’s power was wasted at home. Now with the fences shortened, the Reds clubbed 50 at Crosley, almost as many as the three previous seasons combined, and finished second in the NL. The 1938 Reds also topped the century mark in HRs for the first time in club history.

Ival Goodman hit 30 HRs in ’38 and became the first Reds team leader during the live ball era to hit more home runs at home than on the road. Goodmans’s 30 HRs in ’38 mut have seemed like 75 would to a Reds fan today.

The decision to shorten the fences is an overlooked factor in the rise of the Redlegs in the late 1930s. The club finally found power hitters in Lombardi, Goodman, and McCormick and the cozier confines gave the big boppers a chance to produce some runs.

All “Reds trivia” posts come from Greg Rhodes and John Snyder’s fabulous book, “Redleg Journal” (see link for purchasing) and are used with Greg’s permission.

Thanks again to Greg Rhodes for permission to use his material.