July 15, 1969: Lee May has one of the best days of his career, homering four times and driving in ten runs as the Reds split a doubleheader with the Atlanta. May homers twice and drives in five runs in both games. May hits two more homers over the next few days to enter the all-star break with 29 home runs to his credit.
The Braves won the first game, 9-8, scoring four times in the top of the ninth to overcome an 7-5 deficit. The Reds scored four times in the bottom of the first on a May grand slam home run off Braves starter Jim Britton, and the Reds added a run in the second inning on a Jimmy Stewart single, and took a 6-0 lead in the third when May connected for his second home run of the game. The Braves scored four times in the ninth off Reds closer Wayne Granger. The first run came on a run scoring single by Bob Tillman and Bob Aspromonte followed with a three run homer to give them a 9-7 lead. Stewart tripled home Woody Woodward with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Braves closer Claude Raymond, but Bobby Tolan flied out to centerfield to end the game. The loss was the Reds’ fourth in a row.
The Reds stopped the losing streak in the second game of the doubleheader. The Braves scored twice in the top of the second off Reds starter Jim Maloney when Orlando Cepeda singled, Felix Millan tripled, and Gil Garrido singled. The Reds made it 2-1 in the bottom of the second when Tommy Helms singled home Tony Perez. The Reds scored four times in the third to take a 5-2 lead when Pete Rose reached on a one-out triple and Stewart singled him home. Bobby Tolan singled to centerfield and one-out later May connected for a three-run homer, his first of this game and third of the day. Rose smacked a two-run homer in the fourth and May connected for a two-run homer in the fifth to give the Reds a 9-2 lead. Jack Fisher pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the win.
The Braves went on to win the division, but lost to the Miracle Mets in the 1969 National League championship series. The Reds finished third in the National League Western Division, four games behind the Braves and one game behind the second place San Francisco Giants. After July 5th, the Reds were never more than four games out of first place until the next-to-last day of the season. In fact, they made it to first place on August 8th and remained there through August 19. From August 20 through September 18 they were no more than three games out of first, sometimes rising all the way back to first in a tight Western Division race.
1969 was one of Rose’s best seasons. Rose led the league with a .348 batting average, homered 16 times and collected 82 rbi. He led the league with 120 runs and earned a Gold Glove for outfield defensive play. May was third in home runs with 38, fourth in rbi with 110, and sixth in slugging percentage. Tony Perez was fourth in homers with 37 and third in rbi with 122. Granger set a major league record at the time with 90 games pitched. In those 90 games, he pitched 144 2/3 relief innings, going 9-6, with a 2.80 ERA and 27 saves.
Dave Bristol‘s last year as Reds manager was 1969. He had served 3 1/2 seasons as Reds manager and never had a losing record (overall record 298-265). He later managed the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, and San Francisco Giants but never had another winning record.