June 18, 1893: The Cincinnati Reds set team records with 30 runs and 55 total bases in routing the Louisville Colonels, 30-12, at League Park at home in Cincinnati.

According to “Redleg Journal” (the book by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder), the Reds scored 14 runs in the first inning, one in the third, four in the fourth, three in the sixth, six in the seventh, and two in eighth inning. Third baseman Arlie Latham and catcher Farmer Vaughn each had five hits. Outfielder Bug Holliday had two home runs, including a grand slam.

The biggest surprise was a record breaking performance from outfielder Piggy Ward who reached base a nine-inning major league record eight times by walking five times, being hit by a pitch, and singling twice. Ward’s renown, however, was short-lived. From “Redleg Journal”:

“Ward’s record-breaking performance came in his first game with the Reds. The next day, in a 13-10 triumph over Louisville at League Park, he was 4-4 with a walk, thereby reaching base in his first 13 plate appearances for Cincinnati. Ward lasted only 42 games with the Reds, however, because his defensive play in the outfield was atrocious.”

That nasty defensive responsibility…amazing what it does to careers. What more, Ward had been acquired from the Baltimore Orioles just two days before for one of the more popular Reds of his day, starting pitcher Tony Mullane. Mullane was 34 years old and to this day ranks third on the all-time Reds list for pitching wins with 163. Mullane was nearly done…he only last one more big league season. Ward was in the process of setting a Major League record that still stands today by reaching base 17 consecutive times, four times with the Orioles on the 16th, followed by the 13 times consecutively with the Reds.

1893 was one of the most pivotal seasons in major league history. This was the first season that the “pitcher’s plate” was moved from 50 feet to 60’6″ from home plate. It was also the first time that pitchers had to pitch with a foot on the rubber, rather than from a “pitcher’s box” that allowed the pitchers the opportunity for all sorts of deception, even throwing from either hand as Mullane could do. But, the biggest difference was the distance which meant the end of the line for some pitchers who could not adjust. Even the successful pitchers struggled. For the Reds, Ice Box Chamberlin’s ERA dropped from 3.39 to 3.73. Frank Dwyer’s ERA dropped from 2.33 to 4.13. Mullane dropped from 2.59 to 4.44. Mike Sullivan dropped from 3.08 to 5.05.

Meanwhile, the hitters teed off. For the Reds, their team offense went from batting .241 with a .322 SLP, to batting .259 with a .341 SLP. The Reds’ run production increased from 4.94 runs per game in 1892 to 5.79 runs per game with virtually the same roster. If anything, their offensive production should have declined as they lost one of the 19th Century’s best hitters, the original Louisville Slugger, Pete Browning, who had batted .303 in 1892. It was one of the best years to be a major league hitter.

Yet the Reds were one of the league’s worst hitting teams. They were 10th of 12 in runs scored, and scored nearly two runs less per game than the first place Boston Beaneaters (7.7 to 5.8). They were fifth in runs allowed per game. The lack of offense doomed the Reds to a 7th place finish in a 12 team league.

Holiday was the Reds’ big hitter, batting .310 with 39 extra base hits and 89 rbi. Bid McPhee batted .281 with 94 walks, and Farmer Vaughn batted .280 and set a Reds record at the time with 108 rbi. Frank Dwyer was the staff pitching ace, finishing the year 18-15 with a 4.13 ERA and 28 complete games. Elton “Ice Box” Chamberlin was 16-12 with a 3.73 ERA, 19 complete games, and led the team with 59 strikeouts.