December 11, 1912: The Cincinnati Reds trade star outfielder Mike Mitchell, utility players Peter Knisely, Red Corriden, and Art Phelan, and pitcher Bert Humphries to the Chicago Cubs for Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Tinker, catcher Harry Chapman, and pitcher Grover Lowdermilk. Tinker is named player-manager of the Reds.
From 1906-16, the Reds were a miserable lot, with the Reds finishing below .500 in every season but one. The Reds went through a series of four managers with no success, even hiring former umpire Hank O’Day as manager for the 1912 season (75-78). Reds owner Garry Herrmann had pursued Cubs shortstop Tinker to no avail in 1912, but was able to land him with an eight-player deal in 1912. The trade was the largest personnel transaction for the Reds until the 1971 Reds trade with the Houston Astros that netted the Reds Joe Morgan.
To get Tinker, the Reds had to give up outfielder Mitchell. Mitchell had been with the Reds for six seasons, setting the outfield record for assists with 39 as a rookie in 1907, and leading the league in triples in both 1909-10. At age 32, he had begun his decline phase. While the other position players were utility in nature, pitcher Humphries had a big 1913 with the Cubs, going 16-4 with a 2.69 ERA in his best major league season. Catcher Chapman had two plate appearances for the Reds and pitcher Lowdermilk never pitched for the Cincinnati team. Tinker did play and had a good year at the plate, hitting a career high .317 with 13 triples. However, Tinker had issues with Reds ownership (see below) and they sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Tinker refused to report and jumped to the third major league at the time, the Federal League.
The Reds then needed a new manager and decided to go after the Giants’ Herzog, who was known to be one of the better students of the game. The cost for Herzog was speedy outfielder Bescher, who had led the league in steals for four consecutive seasons, including setting the Reds record with 81 in 1911. Bescher had three more productive full-time seasons while Hartley jumped to the Federal League and never played for the Reds. Herzog played 2 1/2 average seasons for the Reds, mainly at shortstop, but the Reds didn’t win. Under Tinker and Herzog the Reds never finished better than seventh place before trading Herzog back to the Giants for Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson to take over as manager of the team. Bu 1919, the Reds had won a World Series (under manager Pat Moran).
The book “Ball Clubs” by Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella gives a little more of the back story:
Herrmann had never disguised his disappointment at not having been able to get Joe Tinker ot manage the club in 1912–or his intention to keep pursuing the Cubs shortstop for the job. In December 1912, Herrmann achieved his quest, and ended up wishing he hadn’t.
….no sooner had the infielder taken over as player-manager than he began to echo the laments of (former manager Ned) Hanlon that he wasn’t accustomed to associating with losers. After Herrmann vetoed a couple of trade suggestions, Tinker turned his tongue on the team president, charging that the executive was more interested in saving money for his extravagant parties than in buying players who would make the team a winner. When the feud hit the newspapers, the general reaction among Cincinnati fans who had suffered through year of mediocre play was to support Tinker.
Tinker later reached a boiling point when he found out that Herrmann had hired a “spy” to travel with the team and get reports back on the players. Tinker objected to this and he refused to sign a contract with the Reds. He was dealt to the Brooklyn Dodgers a few days later. Instead of going to the Dodgers, Tinker jumped to the Federal League and the Reds went on to obtain Herzog. About Herzog (more from “The Ball Clubs”:
Herzog became so frantic in his search for a winning formula that none of the club’s outfielders logged 100 games….with only (Hal) Chase doing any conspicuous hitting and the club mired near the bottom of the standings again, it was only a matter of time when Herrmann pulled the plug on Herzog.