August 5, 1894: The Reds lose to the Chicago Colts, 8-1, in Chicago, in a game stopped in the seventh inning when a fire breaks out in the stands of West Side Grounds in Chicago. No fatalities are reported, but a stampede of around 10,000 people begins as fans rush for the exits. Hundreds were reported to be injured.
Ballpark fires or structural failures were not uncommon at the time as most structures were wooden in nature. Reds owner John Brush built a new ballpark in 1894 with “fireproof” wood and iron, but an amphitheater portion of the park burned in 1900. In 1884, a platform leading from the ballpark seats to an entrance gate collapsed causing some of the spectators to fall from 8-20 feet, depending on the source.
As for the effect of home-field advantage, the 1894 Reds were 38-28 at home, but only 17-47 on the road, finishing the season with a 55-75 record in 10th place among 12 teams, and 35 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles in the National League (team now defunct).
1894 was the second season of the new 60’6″ pitching distance (formerly 50′) and offenses exploded. The Reds scored a team record 936 runs that year in only 134 games played, but unfortunately allowed a team record 1108 runs that same season. The 1108 runs are 201 runs more than the second highest total allowed which occurred in 2004 (907 runs allowed in 162 games). The 1895 Reds have the second highest runs scored total with 903. The modern team runs scored leader is the 1999 Reds who tallied 865.
National League teams averaged 7.4 runs per game in 1894. The pennant winning Orioles averaged 9.1 runs per game that season. The National League Orioles franchise from 1894-98 is one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history and was managed by future Reds manager and Hall of Famer, Ned Hanlon (Reds, 1906-07). For perspective, the 1927 New York Yankees averaged 6.3 runs per game; the 1976 Reds averaged 5.3 runs per game; the 2010 Reds are averaging 4.9 runs per game.
Putting the stats into the proper perspective, though, is important. Reds pitcher Tom Parrott went 17-19 with a 5.60 ERA in 1894, but his ERA+ was 99, or almost exactly league average. His career ERA (from 1893-96) is 5.33, which is one of the highest ERAs all-time for pitchers with more than 500 innings pitched, but his career ERA+ is 96. He was pretty much of an average pitcher who happened to pitch during the greatest offensive explosion in major league history.
However, giving up all those runs could still be frustrating. On August 22, Parrott, Chauncey Fisher, and Bill Whitrock allowed a major league record 43 runs when the Reds lost double header games, 25-8 and 18-3, to the Boston Beaneaters. The second game was stopped after only six innings because of darkness. Boston only needed 14 innings to score the 43 runs. The next day Parrott was suspended for “indifferent play.”
Parrott was reinstated, but, according to “Redleg Journal“, didn’t necessarily have an “attitude adjustment.” The Reds were playing a doubleheader on September 23rd and Parrott, scheduled to start the first game, didn’t arrive until the fifth inning. He started the second game, but walked off the mound in the second inning after being confronted by teammate Arlie Latham’s critcism of his lack of effort. Parrott may have been a better hitter than pitcher. He OPS+ with the Reds as a hitter was 102 as a parttime outfielder, batting .343 in 1895 and .323 in 1893. Parrott hit for the cycle for the Reds on September 28, 1894.
Keeping those hitting stats in perspective, though, can be a challenge. Parrott’s OPS+ those two seasons were 102 in 1894 and 127 in 1895. Bug Holliday is one of the most prolific hitters in Reds’ history with a lifetime OPS of .826, 19th on the Reds’ all-time list (Joey Votto is first at .949). Holliday batted .376 in 1894, the second highest Reds total of all time, behind Cy Seymour’s .377 in 1905. Holliday’s OPS for 1894 was .952, good for the 24th highest season total in Reds’ history. However, his adjusted OPS (OPS+) which takes into account baseball’s environment at the time, was 125 which doesn’t qualify in the top 50 in Reds’ season history. In fact, Holliday’s .376 1894 season, when adjusted for the change in baseball’s rules and offensive explosion, wasn’t as good as his seasons in 1891 or 1892, when he batted .319 and .294 in a much tougher pitching environment.
Nevertheless, .376 is .376 and Holliday finished ninth in the league in batting average (Hugh Duffy was the league league with a record .440), and his 123 runs batted in also placed ninth in the league. His 13 home runs placed him fifth; he was the league home run leader in 1892 when he also totaled 13. Holliday also led the American Association in home runs with 19 in 1889. Hall of Famer Bid McPhee also starred on the team, batting .313 with 93 rbi. The Reds best pitcher was Frank Dwyer who finished the season 19-21 with a 5.07 ERA. For perspective, his ERA+ was 109.
A couple of interesting notes about Holliday. Holliday appeared in the 1885 “World Series” between the National League champion Chicago White Stockings and the American Association champion St. Louis Browns, going 0-4 in one game for the White Stockings. (The “Series” was an exhibition series which finished in a 3-3-1 tie). Baseball-reference.com’s bullpen quotes “The Baseball Rookies Encyclopedia” as saying the White Stockings were short an outfielder and asked Holliday to play as an 18-year-old. Holliday didn’t make his first regular season appearance until the 1889 season when he led the AA in home runs as a rookie with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Holliday nearly died from an appendectomy in 1895 and wasn’t the same player he was before, playing as a part-timer from 1895-98.