August 16, 1961: Behind the shut out pitching of Bob Purkey and Jim O’Toole, the Reds retake first place for good as they sweep a doubleheader from the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles.

The Reds entered the contests one game behind the Dodgers for first place. The first game of the doubleheader matched up Reds knuckleballer Bob Purkey against righthander Larry Sherry. The Reds jumped on Sherry for four runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back. Eddie Kasko led off with a single and Don Blasingame tripled him home. Vada Pinson singled home Blasingame and Frank Robinson was hit by a pitch. Pinson advanced to third base on a flyball by Gordy Coleman and later scored on Dodgers catcher John Roseboro’s throwing error as Robinson stole second base. Robinson advanced to third on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch, giving the Reds a 4-0 lead. The Reds added two more in the third on a Robinson home run to give them a 6-0 lead to round out the scoring.

Meanwhile, Purkey was superb. He allowed only four hits, walked no one, and struck out seven in improving his record to 14-7 (finished the year 16-12). The Dodgers had only one runner reach third base and that came in the second inning on two Dodger singles.

The second game was a whole lot tighter for Reds star lefty O’Toole. O’Toole, 11-9 entering the game, was matched up against another star lefty, the Dodgers Johnny Podres, who entered the game 15-3 on his way to an 18-5 season.

Reds third baseman Gene Freese got the Reds on the board first with a fourth inning solo home run, but that was the only run of the game through the first six innings of play. Through six innings, the Reds had only three hits off Podres, and the Dodgers had only two singles off O’Toole.

The Reds made it 2-0 in the seventh when seldom-used catcher Darrell Johnson hit the only Reds home run of his 22-game Reds career (Johnson later managed the Boston Red Sox against the Reds in the 1975 World Series). The solo shot was one of only two home runs Johnson hit in his career covering six seasons (134 games). Later, the Reds chased Podres in the seventh when Freese hit his second homer of the day, this one a three-run shot to give the Reds a 5-0 lead. The Reds added three insurance runs in the eighth when Pinson singled home a run and Robinson singled home two more off Dodger reliever Turk Farrell to finalize the margin.

Winning pitcher O’Toole went the distance, allowing only two hits and four walks, striking out seven. No Dodger reached third base in the game (only one Dodger reached third base in both games combined). No Dodger had a hit after Charlie Neal led off the fifth inning with a single. Only two batters reached base against O’Toole after the fifth, both on walks, but both were erased by double plays. O’Toole finished the season with eight consecutive victories to finish the year 19-9.

The shutout wins pushed the Reds into first place, a lead they didn’t relinquish the rest of the year. According to “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder, the Reds played before the largest crowd in their history (72,140) during this doubleheader sweep.

“The Reds were never out of first place for the rest of the season. It is also the last time in club history that the Reds swept a doubleheader with a pair of shutouts. Memorial Coliseum–which was not built for baseball–was a host site for the 1932 and 1984 Olympics and was a temporary home for the Dodgers until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. Although the attendance of 72,140 was immense, there were still some 30,000 empty seats. The evening’s attendance set a record (which still stands) for the largest crowd to see a doubleheader in the NL. The single game record is 80,227 set at Mile High Stadium for the first game in Colorado Rockie history (April 9, 1993).”