June 4, 1911 found the Reds on a downward slide. Having finished above .500 in 1909, they would proceed to have losing seasons through 1917 before turning things around and winning the 1919 World Series. On the way to victory, however, they would even have two seasons with winning percentages under .400 (1914 and 1916).

1911 was a season of extremes. On August 11, Mike Mitchell became one of only eight Reds to hit for the cycle. Bob Bescher set the Reds single season stolen base record with 81. Both outfielders finished in the top 17 in MVP voting for the year, and Bescher finished fifth in MVP voting in 1912 when he batted .281 and led the league with 120 runs scored. Bescher’s 81 steals set the National League stolen base record that lasted for more than 50 years until Maury Wills stole 104 in 1962 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1911 was also the season the Reds set a team record for runs scored when they defeated the Boston Rustlers, 26-3. 1911 was the only season the Boston squad was nicknamed the Rustlers. Now the Atlanta Braves, in their early Boston days they went by many monikers: the Red Caps, the Beaneaters, the Doves, the Rustlers, the Braves, the Bees, and finally back to the Braves…before moving on to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta. The one year they were the Rustlers was the second worst season in their history, finishing 44-107 for a .291 winning percentage. Their worst season was 1935 when they finished 38-115 (.248) as the Braves. They became the Bees immediately thereafter for 1936 and changed back to the Braves for good in 1941.

Anyway, 1911 wasn’t a good Reds team either. On their way to a 6th place finish (out of eight teams), they went 17-4 that season against the Rustlers. They had losing records to every other team in the league except for playing .500 ball (11-11) with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers were taking a two year break from being the Brooklyn Superbas, on the way to becoming the Brooklyn Robins through 1931. They became the Dodgers for good in 1932. Other former Brooklyn nicknames from their inception in 1884 included the Atlantics, the Grays, the Bridegrooms, and the Grooms.

I don’t have a boxscore the 1911 game, but the book “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder says that the Reds also set a major league record (since tied) for having the most players to score in a game (13). The Reds scored seven in the first inning, five in the third, three in the fourth, one in the sixth, one in the seventh, and finished up with eight in the ninth. Having beaten the Rustlers the day before, 15-4, the Reds 41 runs scored in two days, which is also a modern club record.

Mitchell had five hits on the day, including a double in his six at bats. Third baseman Eddie Grant slugged an eighth inning grand slam home run, his only home run of the year. Grant played two seasons for the Reds, but was later killed during World War I in the Argonne Forest on October 5, 1918, the only major leaguer to die in active combat during the first world war.

1911 (July 4) also saw the first two Cuban born players in major league history, Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, who were light-skinned enough to pass baseball’s color line. According to “Redleg Journal”, the Reds “issued a press release claiming that the two players were of aristrocratic Spanish or Portuguese heritage, and didn’t contain a drop of ‘African blood.’ In fact, Marsans was half-black, but was light enough to cross the color line that was not broken until 1947.”

Almeida was a third baseman who played three seasons (102 games) for the Reds, Marsans was an outfielder three seasons for the Reds who received MVP consideration for both 1912 and 1913 before jumping to the newly formed Federal League in 1914. He finished his career with the Yankees in 1918.