Even the greats need a nap sometime. June 8, 1920, was the day Reds’ Hall of Famer Edd Roush was ejected from a game for napping in centerfield.
The Reds were defending World Champions, victors of the tainted 1919 World Series when some of the Chicago White Sox players were found to have tried to throw the World Series to the Reds.
In defense of the Reds, the Reds easily had baseball’s best record in 1919. In fact, at 96-44 with a .686 percent, their won-loss record is the best in Reds’ modern day history. (All-time best was 55-25, .688 in 1882). The team finished nine games ahead of the second place Giants whose .621 percentage was the near equal of the American League champion White Sox (.629).
The Giants had just begun a streak of nine consecutive first or second place finishes and were becoming the dominant team in the National League. The Reds also had just begun a nine-year streak of first, second, or third place finishes themselves and were yearly contenders.
However, the Giants had gotten to a poor start in 1920. While the Reds were in second place, 1 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Robins, the Giants were in seventh, just 2 1/2 games ahead of the last place Philadelphia Phillies. The Reds had been in first or second for every day of the season except for two days in April.
Edd Roush and Heinie Groh were the stars of the 1920 Cincinnati Reds. Centerfielder Roush was a perennial batting champion contender and a Gold Glove quality fielder and had entered the game batting .335. Roush wasn’t on his own with this team; Heinie Groh is one of the best third basemen not inducted into the Hall and was batting .356 at the time. Veteran first baseman Jake Daubert was hitting .344 and young outfielder Pat Duncan was hitting .323 as the game began.
The Giants carried a 4-2 lead into the eighth inning. I don’t have the play by play for this game, but the Reds scored twice in the top half of the eighth to tie the game at 4-4. From looking at the boxscore it appears that pinch hitter Charlie See, who batted .305 in a parttime role in 1920, stroked a two-run pinch single to score Larry Kopf and Greasy Neale to knot the game.
However, the Reds lost it in the bottom of the eighth when the Giants scored an unearned run off Reds reliever Dolf Luque. Something else happened on the field however. “Redleg Journal” (by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder) says this:
“In the eighth inning, several Reds players and (manager) Pat Moran became involved in a protracted argument with the umpires. Roush became bored with the proceedings, put his glove and cap on the grass, and soon fell into a deep sleep. Calls by his teammates could not awaken him. After Heinie Groh went to the outfield to jostle Roush awake, the umpires pitched the outfielder out of the game for holding up play.”
The ejection most definitely hurt the Reds. Roush (.832 OPS) was replaced by Sam Crane, a utility infielder with a .534 OPS who was put out in his ninth inning plate appearance.
From this day forward, the Giants played the best baseball in the National League, putting up a 67-43 record the rest of the way to move into first. The Reds went 57-53 the rest of they way, finishing with a 82-71 record, good for third behind the Robins and Giants.