September 4, 1916: Reds manager and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson makes his one and only appearance on the mound for the Reds and, ahem, “fires” a 15 hit-complete game to beat another Hall of Fame pitcher (and former Red) Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and the Cubs, 10-8.

The win is an important one, for the Reds were in last place at the time and remained in sole possession of last place until the last day of the season when a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled them into a tie with the St. Louis Cardinals at 60-93, 33 1/2 games behind the first place Brooklyn Robins.

Mathewson was once property of the Reds, but for only a few days in November of 1900. Mathewson had joined the New York Giants in 1900 and went 0-3 with a 5.08 ERA in six games before being dispatched back to the minor leagues. The Reds drafted him from a minor league team in early November, but Reds owner John T. Brush traded him back to the Giants on November 15 for Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. Rusie had been one of baseball’s biggest pitching stars of the 1890’s, winning more than 20 games every season that he played from 1890-98 and winning more than 30 games in four straight seasons. He sat out 1899 and 1900 in a contract dispute with the Giants, but reported to the Reds after the trade. However, he only pitched three games with the Reds, going 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA in 22 innings and then he retired. Rusie’s final record was 234-163 with a 3.07 ERA. In five separate seasons, he led the major leagues in K/rate per nine innings, hitting a high of 6.01 in 1891.

Mathewson became arguably the greatest pitcher of all time. His overall career record is 373-188 with a 2.13 ERA over 17 seasons. He won 20 or more games 13 times, including 12 seasons in a row. He won 30 or more four times, topping out at 37-11 in 1908 with a 1.28 ERA. He is third in career shutouts with 79, third in wins, and and ninth in ERA. However, with the Reds, he was 1-0, with an 8.00 ERA. He did go 3-5 at the plate with a double which gives him a Reds career batting average of .600 and an OPS of 1.400 (he was a career .215 hitter overall).

Mathewson was traded back to the Reds during the 1916 season in another famous Reds trade, billed the “Hall of Fame” trade. Mathewson was traded to the Reds along with infielder and future Reds World Series champion Hall of Fame manager, Bill McKechnie,and Reds HOF outfielder Edd Roush for infielder/manager Buck Herzog and outfielder Red Killefer.

Many say that the Frank Robinson trade is the worst Reds trade of all time. I don’t think it’s that close; as devastating as the Robinson trade was, we lost Robinson for half of his career. We lost Mathewson for his entire career. I rank the Robinson trade second worst.

September 4, 1971: From “Redleg Journal” (by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder):

Woody Woodward is almost hit by a ten-pound sack of four which drops from an airplane passing over Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The sack hit the ground and exploded just 15 feet from where
Woodward was standing at his shortstop position in the ninth inning of the Reds 2-1 loss to the Dodgers.”

Woodward played in 136 games in 1971, his last season in the majors. Not known for his bat, he retired at age 28 after playing nine major league seasons with a lifetime .236 batting average and one home run. He played 20 more games after this incident. During the 1971 season, Woodward played in 136 games and made 309 plate appearances.

In this game, the Dodgers scored both of their runs in the first inning on a Willie Crawford double. The Reds only run was unearned when Woodward grounded into a force out at second base and Johnny Bench scored on an error on the play. The Dodgers’ Al Downing and the Reds’ Jim McGlothlin both went the distance in the game.

This incident should not be confused with the September 1, 1954, publicity stunt when Reds catchers Hobie Landrith and Dutch Dotterer caught baseballs dropped from a helicopter hovering approximately 575 feet above Crosley Field. From “Redleg Journal”:

(Reds General Manager) “Gabe Paul offered $25 to each Reds and Giants catcher who would attempt to catch the balls dropped from the helicopter; and an additional $100 for each ball caught. Only Landrith and Dotterer–a Reds farm hand on leave from the Navy–volunteered. Dotterer later played for the Reds from 1957-60.”

Dotterer had a career batting average of .247 in 107 career games over five seasons. Landrith spent 14 seasons as a backup catcher for various teams and batted .233 in 772 games. With the Reds, he appeared in 166 games over six seasons, batting .241. It should be noted that regular Reds catchers Andy Seminick and Ed Bailey did not participate. May be they understood the talent factor; Seminick was a fading star and Bailey was a star on the rise.

September 4, 1974: The Houston Astros no-hits the Reds through eight innings, but is removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Reds won the game, 2-1.

Wilson, who had previously pitched two no-hitters including one against the Reds in 1969, did not allow a hit but did allow two Reds runs in the fifth inning. Cesar Geronimo walked to lead off the inning, Dave Concepcion struck out, and George Foster drew a walk placing runners on first and second with one out. Reds pitcher Jack Billingham sacrificed them to second and third. Pete Rose then grounded to Astros shortstop Roger Metzger who threw the ball away for an error allowing both Geronimo and Foster to score. The Astros’ only run was also unearned and came in the bottom of the seventh inning when Dan Driessen misplayed a ground ball for an error and allowed Milt May to score from second base.

Pitcher Wilson, who had walked five and struck out three was due to leadoff the Astros home half of the eighth. To a “torrent of boos” manager Preston Gomez sent up Tommy Helms to pinch hit for Wilson. Mike Cosgrove finished the game for the Astros, but Tony Perez broke up the no-hitter leading off the ninth inning with a single for the only Reds hit.

Billingham went the distance for the victory, improving his record to 18-8 on the way to a 19-11 season with a 3.94 ERA. He finished sixth in the Cy Young Award balloting that season. 1974 was Wilson’s last season, finishing the season 11-13 with a 3.08 ERA. He was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage in January, 1975, due to an apparent suicide at age 29. For his career, Wilson was 104-92 with a 3.15 ERA over nine seasons.

September 4, 1999: The Reds bats go wild as a Major League record eight batters combine to hit a National League record nine home runs in a 22-3 spanking of the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia. Reds reliever Stan Belinda pitches the final three innings to earn a save in protecting the Reds 16-3 lead (the Reds added six runs in the eighth).

The Phillies scored the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the first inning, but the Reds scored three times in the second inning on an Aaron Boone three-run homer to take a 3-2 lead. The Reds went on to score in every inning except for the first and ninth innings. Their biggest inning was the fifth when they scored nine runs on only four hits, four walks, and two home runs. They also scored six times in the eighth on five hits, a hit batsman, and two home runs.

On this day, Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee hit two home runs, and he was joined in the home run parade by Boone, Pokey Reese, Dmitri Young, Greg Vaughn, Mark Lewis, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Brian Johnson. The Reds collected 19 hits off six Phillies pitchers with Taubensee getting four and Young and Reese each gathering three.

The 1999 Reds were third in the league with 209 home runs, a figure that was the second highest team total at the time, but is now fourth behind the 2005 Reds (222), the 1956 Reds (221), and the 2006 Reds (209). The 876 runs scored is still the Reds “modern day” (post-1900) record. The run total is the sixth highest ever in Reds history. The 1999 Reds home run champion was leftfielder Greg Vaughn, who batted .245 with 45 home runs and 118 rbi, finishing fourth in the MVP balloting in his only season playing for the Reds. Ten different Reds collected double figure home run totals or higher.

The 1999 Reds finished second in the National League Central Division with a 96-67 record, 1 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros. The Reds lost to the New York Mets in an extra regular season game to determine the Wild Card winner for that season.