May 22 1913–Acquired 3b Heinie Groh, OF Josh Devore, RHP Red Ames, and $20,000 from the New York Giants for P Art Fromme and INF Eddie Grant.

This was a huge deal for the Reds, but not for the reasons first expected in the trade. The Reds were looking to get a front line pitcher in Ames, and Devore was considered a huge outfield talent. Groh had about 60 big league plate appearances. Fromme was in his fifth year in the starting rotation for the Reds, and had a great 1909, going 19-13 with a 1.90 ERA, but had faded a bit since that time. Grant was a third baseman lead-off type hitter and a Harvard graduate.

Meanwhile, Red Ames was a well-established ten-year rotation starting pitcher for the Giants, Josh Devore was an up and coming outfielder for the Giants, and Heinie Groh was sitting the bench. Ames was a perennial top-ten ERA finisher and Devore is listed as the biggest “flameout” player of the 1910’s by sports analyst/writer/executive Bill James. Halfway through May, Groh had played in four games, batting twice.

As time unfolded, the deal was all about Groh, who became the first member of the 1919 Reds World Championship team to play for Cincinnati. Ames led the league in losses in 1914 with 23 (despite a 2.64 ERA) and was sold to the Cardinals midway through 1915. Ames had only two more seasons of double digit wins. Devore brought nothing more than speed to the Reds outfield who decided the Phillies needed Devore more and sold him to the Phillies the same season. He was out of baseball after the 1914 season.

Fromme won 11 for the Giants during 1913, but only won 9 in 1914 and that was it. He was out of baseball by 1915. Grant was a utility infielder for two plus years for the Giants before becoming a World War I casualty in the Argonne Forest in 1918. (some sources have him being sold to the Giants in June rather than included in this trade).

Groh became a star. At first he played 2B for the Reds, when 2B was an offensive position, but his defense was so good, he was moved to 3B when 3B was considered a defensive position (lots of small ball, lots of bunts). Bill James has Groh listed as the 21st best third baseman of all time due to his offensive and defensive prowess (from James’s book “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.”) He used a “bottle bat” designed to make contact. He had an OPS+ of greater than 120 for eight straight seasons with the Reds, leading the league in OBP and doubles in 1917 and 1918. He led the league in OPS during the Reds World Championship season. He led the league in fielding percentage five times. It’s my opinion that he’s the greatest third baseman in Reds’ history, and it’s not that close of a race. Stats, Inc., in their books, says Groh was the de facto MVP for the 1919 season, and he’s considered to be one of the top five players in baseball from 1916-1919 in the “Total Baseball” books.

To put Groh’s 1917 season in context, this coming from Bill James: “In the book, Heinie’s 1917 season looks like nothing special—a .304 average, 1 home run, 53 rbi, 71 walks, 94 runs scored. In context, those modest numbers are more than equal to Chipper Jones’ MVP season in 1999 (.319 with 45 homers, 119 rbi), and are far better than any season by Edgar Martinez, Ken Boyer, Freddy Lindstrom, Paul Molitor, Graig Nettles, or Pie Traynor.” James also says….”One of the more amazing records in the books is that Heinie Groh still holds to this day the record for the highest fielding percentage by a National League third baseman (.983 in 1924) and fewest errors by a National League third baseman, 140 or more games (7 in 1924). (James article written in 2001).