There are a few players the Reds have dealt away that many of us may never have realized the Reds had during the first half of the 20th Century. These players have somehow flown Ã¢â‚¬Å“under the radarÃ¢â‚¬Â over the years.
The first that comes to mind was the first player to hit .300, hit 30 home runs, and 30 steal bases in baseball history, outfielder Ken Williams.
Williams had two trials with the Reds, in 1915 and 1916 ,at ages 25 and 26, and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do much. He had more than 250 plate appearances his rookie season, but only hit .242 with no homers and four steals. In 1916, he made 29 more plate appearances and batted .111. The Reds released him. He was playing in the Pacific Coast League when he 24 homers in his fifth professional season. The St. Louis Browns signed him in 1919, but he was called off to military duty. He really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make an impression until his age 30 year, when he hit .307 with 10 homers for the Browns.
Williams then went on a tear. He batted .332 and led the AL with 39 homers 155 rbi, and stole 37 bases, yet did not receive one MVP vote (26 other players did). Teammate George Sisler won the MVP on the strength of batting .420 including a 41 game hitting streak. The next player to reach the 30/30 and bat .300 was Willie Mays who accomplished the feat more than 30 years later in 1957 with the New York Giants.
Williams played through age 39 and finished with a .319 career batting average and 196 home runs.
Baseball historian Bill James rates first baseman Hall of Famer Johnny Mize as the 6th best first baseman of all-time. Yet, he did not make the team in Cincinnati, even after the Reds had offered the Cardinals $55,000 for his contract. The Reds needed himÃ¢â‚¬Â¦they were in the midst of nine-year drought of finishing under .500, but he failed his physical exam and was returned to St. Louis.
Mize was a minor league star, but was blocked in St. Louis by slugger Ripper Collins at first base. The Reds came calling, but Mize tore a hip muscle and the Reds retreated, and sent Mize back to the Cardinals. After tearing another hip muscle, Mize recovered and became one of the outstanding sluggers of all time. Mize led the league four times in home runs, slugging 51 in 1947 and four times finished in the top five in MVP voting. He finished his career with a .312 batting average, 359 home runs, and a career OPS of 959.
Mize played 15 seasons in the majors, being named to 10 all-star teams. He played in five different World Series with the New York Yankees.
Vince DiMaggio, whose best years came with the Pirates, was another centerfielder like his younger and better brothers Joe and Dom. The Reds acquired Vince DiMaggio in 1939 from the New York Yankees, who had acquired him from the Boston Bees (now Atlanta Braves) during the previous offseason. DiMaggio had been a two year starter in Boston, but set the league record in strikeouts. Boston decided to trade him to the Yankees and he spent most of 1939 in the minors when the Reds made what seems to be a really incredulous deal for him.
The Yankees sold his contract to the Reds for $40,000 in August of 1939. For the Reds, DiMaggio made 16 plate appearances and getting one hit. In January, 1940, the Reds sent the Yankees two major league players, outfielders Frenchy Bordagaray and Nino Bongiovanni to complete the trade.
Now, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get me wrongÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Bordagaray and Bongiovanni werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t all-stars; in time, Vince DiMaggio earned two all-star appearances (with the Pittsburgh Pirates). But, for what the already 27 year old Vince DiMaggio gave the Reds, why they needed to cough up two major leaguers is beyond me. Bordagaray was a six year veteran, and former .300 hitting outfielder for Brooklyn. He was coming off a down year for him, hitting .197 in a reserve role for the 1939 World Series Reds team He would play five more years in the majors, some starting, some pinch hitting. Bongiovanni had batted .258 as a reserve outfielder for the Reds in 1939 and never made it back to the majors. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give up a lot of major league talent, but they were all similar in age and DiMaggio had not played any better at the plate. However, was a good fielding centerfielder.
DiMaggio only played two more games for the Reds and then was dealt to the Pirates for outfielder Johnny Rizzo during the Reds 1940 World Championship season. Rizzo was with the Reds for a little more than a month, batting .282 with four homers, before he was dealt to the Phillies for another outfielder, Morrie Arnovich. Arnovich had caught lightning in a bottle in 1939 and batted .324 for the Phillies and finished 18th in the MVP vote. With the Reds in 1940, he batted .284 playing 62 games in his half season with the Reds.
Meanwhile, Vince DiMaggio never really learned to cut the strikeouts, but he cut out a nice little major league career. He became a six year starter for the Pirates, playing a great centerfield, and hitting 15-20 homers per year. Vince DiMaggio was involved in quite a volley of deals, with several players changing teams, and I have to think a lot had to do with his name.
One more under the radar deal during this time period has to do with one of the best known relievers before relief pitching became an art, Jim Konstanty. Konstanty is best known for being the first reliever to win the MVP award, which came in 1950 playing for the Philadelphia Phillies Ã¢â‚¬Å“Whiz Kids.Ã¢â‚¬Â Konstanty finished the year 16-7 with 22 saves, and a 2.66 ERA, pitching 152 innings over 74 appearances. At one point, he went 23 consecutive scoreless innings before giving up a homer to Ralph Kiner, then proceeded to have another 15 inning scoreless streak.
Konstanty began his career as a starting pitcher with the Reds. He pitched in Cincinnati during the war year of 1944, going 6-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 112 innings. He went off to war and the Reds dealt him (and cash) to the Boston Braves in 1946 for another World War II veteran, outfielder Max West.
West had been an all-star outfielder for the Braves during the early war years, with batting averages in the .270Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s and 15-20 home run power. Upon his return, though his skills had vanished. In 72 games with the Reds, West batted .212 with 5 home runs. The Reds sent him to the minors where the Pirates drafted him in Rule 5 draft. He was released one year later after a bad season off the bench.
Meanwhile, Konstanty improved and became the best reliever of the 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. Konstanty pitched 11 seasons in the majors, starting only 36 games. His lifetime ERA was 3.46.