September 6, 1877: From “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder:
“In a game filled with three historic ‘firsts,’ the Reds shutout Louisville, 1-0. Reds pitcher Bobby Mitchell becomes the first left-hander to start a game in major league history and his delivery baffled the Louisville hitters. This was also the first shutout in Reds history. And, Lip Pike hit the first-ever over-the-fence home run for the Reds, over the right field fence.”
The 1877 National League Cincinnati Red Stockings were a mess. The worst team in the league, the team ran out of cash part-way through the season and shut down operations during June. According to “The Great Encyclopedia of 19th-Century Baseball” by David Nemec:
(Cincinnati’s) “games were thrown out of the standings (they were later restored and thrown out again). In the few days Cincinnati was out of business, (Chicago White Stockings owner) William Hulbert pilfered three of its players–Charley Jones, Jimmy Hallinan, and Harry Smith–for his Chicago White Stockings. The outcry from the other league cities against the piracy forced Hulbert to remember that he was also loop president. He returned Jones, the best of the three, but kept the other two even after the ‘Chicago Tribune’ vowed to stop running the scores of the White Stockings’ games on its sports page.”
The 1877 Red Stockings team finished 15-42, 25 1/2 games behind the league champion Boston Red Caps. The Red Caps apparently won the league because several members of the league’s best team, the Louisville Grays, were found to have thrown the second half of the season. The gambling scandal led to the expulsion of four Louisville players including possibly the league’s best pitcher and player, Jim Devlin. (Devlin’s scandal and biography can be found here–it’s a fascinating story). The White Stockings, who had taken some of the Red Stockings’ players apparently really needed them. Even with the additions, they finished next-to-last with a 26-33 record.
Pike ended up leading the National League with four home runs. Jones, the best player and a legend (another great read and story) at the time, batted .310 with 25 extra base hits in only 55 games (OPS+ of 168). Hallinan was batting .370 at the time of his “pilferage.” Shortstop Jack Manning had an exceptional year, batting .317, also with 23 extra base hits (OPS+ of 151).
Unfortunately, the Red Stockings had no pitching, despite the presence of the lefthanded Mitchell. The Red Stockings’ “ace” was Hall of Famer Candy Cummings, who is said to have invented the curveball. However, at age 28, Cummings was in his last year as a “major leaguer” and went 5-14 with a 4.34 ERA (61 ERA+). Cummings had won 140 games over his previous five seasons.
This version of the Red Stockings did bounce back to have an outstanding 1878, finishing in second place with a 37-23 record, only four games behind the Boston Red Caps; but they did it by adding a whole bunch of talent, many by virtue of free agency. For the 1878 season, they added 3B Cal McVey, Hall of Fame catcher-outfielder King Kelly, pitcher Will White, and his brother, catcher Deacon White.
September 6, 1943: Little known Reds second baseman Woody Williams completes a National League record-tying ten consecutive hits in ten at bats. Williams had gone 4-4 versus the St. Louis Cardinals on September 5th and went 5-5 in the first game of a double header on September 6 versus the Chicago Cubs. In the second game, he singled in his first at bat and finished that game 2-4 in a ten inning win as the Reds swept the doubleheader.
Williams was a 30-year-old rookie who had only played 20 games before with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938, hitting .333 in 20 games. He joined the Reds in August of 1943 and batted .377 in 30 games (72 plate appearances). He became the Reds regular second baseman the following year when star second baseman Lonnie Frey entered the army for World War II in December of 1943. As the fulltime second baseman, Williams led the league in 1944 in plate appearances with 707 and at bats with 653 in 155 games. He batted .240 (.580 OPS, 66 OPS+). He spent a second year as Reds second baseman in 1945, batting .237 (58 OPS+) in 133 games before losing his job to Frey (home from the war) and youngster Bobby Adams the following year.