July 27, 1930–Reds pitcher Ken Ash records three outs in one of the most unusual ways in big league history and picks up the win with only one pitch in a 6-5 Reds victory over the Chicago Cubs.
From “Redleg Journal” (written by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder):
Ash took the mound in relief of Larry Benton with none out in the sixth inning, Cubs baserunners Hack Wilson on third and Danny Taylor on first, and the Reds trailing, 3-2. On Ash’s first pitch, Charlie Grimm hit a routine grounder to second baseman Hod Ford. Wilson broke for the plate, but Ford caught Wilson breaking for home and the Cub baserunner was retired in a rundown between third baseman Tony Cuccinello and catcher Clyde Sukeforth. Grimm tried to reach second during the rundown, only to find his teammate Taylor still on the bag. Grimm quickly retreated to first base, and was out on a toss from Sukeforth to first baseman Joe Stripp. Taylor tried to advance to third during the Grimm putout, but was retired on a Stripp-to-Cuccinello throw to complete the unusual 4-5-2-3-5 triple play. Ash was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth, as the Reds scored four times and held on for a 6-5 win.
Ash was pretty much the ninth pitcher on a Reds ten-man pitching staff that preferred to use eight pitchers. He had joined the Reds in 1929 and appeared in 29 games (seven starts), going 1-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 82 innings. His workload was cut back in 1930 and he finished the season 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 games (1 start) and 39 innings. He was the mop up guy out of the bullpen, finishing 12 of the 16 games he pitched in 1930, and 17 of the 29 in 1929. His one pitch winning performance came in only his seventh appearance of the year in the Reds’ 93rd game of the 1930 season. Ash’s career mark was 6-8 with a 4.96 ERA. Ash had a substantial minor league career. In his 14 minor league seasons, Ash was 176-153. He had 13 double digit victory seasons, winning 18 twice.
1930 was not a good year for Cincinnati Reds baseball. The Reds finished the year 59-95 in seventh place, 33 games behind the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals. It was Dan Howley’s first year of managing after leading the St. Louis Browns for the previous three seasons. His first season with the Browns produced a 59-94 season before turning the Browns around with two consecutive winning seasons (82-72 and 79-73) when hired by the Reds. Those two winning seasons for the Browns were their only two winning seasons between 1926 and 1942. He unfortunately did not turn the Reds around as they finished the next two seasons 58-96 and 60-94. Howley’s three seasons produced three of the eight worst Reds won-loss records since their inception in 1882 through today.
The Reds weren’t without some quality players. Hall of Famer Harry Heilman, purchased from the Detroit Tigers after the 1929 season, played extremely well and batted .333 while setting a Reds home run record with 19. He became the first player ever to hit a home run in every major league park used during his career. His OPS for the season was .993, which translated to an OPS+ of 142. The 1930 season was possibly the greatest hitter year in modern times and many players put up great numbers. 3b-2b Tony Cuccinello batted .312 with 10 homers in his rookie season on his way to a very good career, albeit with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves. Underappreciated Reds outfielder Curt Walker played his final season, batting .307 and former Yankees slugger Bob Meusel played his final season, batting .289.
In demonstating that sheer numbers out of context are pretty much meaningless, the Reds had four Hall of Famers on their 1930 roster. Heilman was a Hall of Famer, as were first baseman George “High Pockets” Kelly and pitcher Eppa Rixey, as well as shortstop Leo Durocher (elected for his manager exploits). All but Durocher were nearing the end of their playing careers. Heilman had to sit out the 1931 season due to arthritis in his wrists and he retired part way through the 1932 sesaons. Kelly is considered one of the more dubious choices for the Hall of Fame, but he was still a very good player with a career .297 batting average, who twice led the league in RBI and once in home runs while with the New York Giants. Rixey, really the only “Reds” Hall of Fame pitcher, was 39 years old and would never win more than nine games again in a season. Durocher was just getting started. He was a slick fielding no-hit shortstop who would play into the 1940’s with the Cardinals and Dodgers. He was the key player traded to the Cardinals in the deal that netted Paul Derringer for the Reds.
However, the 1930 Reds were an old team. Their hitter’s averaged 29.6 years of age and their pitchers averaged 30.4 Both groups were the 14th oldest groups in 128 years of Reds’ recordkeeping. Team ownership would take on former stars hoping for a last bit of glory, and to maintain attendance, while younger teams like the St. Louis Cardinals (led by Branch Rickey) were building farm systems to replenish their talent. The Reds would become a dominant force by the end of the decade, but the major portion of the 1930’s was a dismal period for Cincinnati Reds baseball. From 1929-37, the Reds finished eighth of eight teams five times, seventh twice, sixth once, and fifth once.