Pete Rose was playing winter baseball in Puerto Rico in November of 1964. After being named Rookie of the Year in 1963, his batting average slipped to .269 in 1964 and Rose was determined to become a better hitter. So on November 12, 1964, Rose was on a bus with his teammates traveling to another game. An announcement came over the radio in Spanish. Rose didn’t understand it. But then he saw some of his teammates start to cry.

Fred Hutchinson, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, had died of cancer.

Known as “Hutch,” Fred Hutchinson was the most beloved manager in the history of the Reds. “He showed us how to live,” said Phillies Manager Gene Mauch during the 1964 season as cancer was devastating Hutchinson’s body, “now, he’s showing us how to die.”

The 1964 pennant race and Hutchinson’s battle against cancer are forever connected. 1964 reminds Cincinnati baseball fans of some of their favorite players — Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Jim O’Toole, Pete Rose and Jim Maloney. 1964 was the perfect combination of a tragic story combined with a thrilling baseball race. And 1964 is also the year Reds fans lost Hutch.

And it also reminds them about Chico Ruiz’ Mad Dash. About a late Reds 9-game winning streak that put them in a photo finish with Philadelphia and St. Louis. About a pitcher named John Tsitouris who was to start one of the biggest games of the season on the final day of the regular season and showed up at Crosley Field with his car packed for the trip home — not a Game 1 date with the New York Yankees.

But most of all, Reds fans remember Hutch. His uniform number (1) is retired by the Reds for a reason. A very good reason.

As the late, great Cincinnati Post sportswriter Earl Lawson wrote, “He was out of the John Wayne mold. Women were attracted by his rugged good looks and masculinity. Men admired and respected him.”

Not even Sparky Anderson had the loyalty and dedication that Hutch held with his players. Hutch was tough, but fair. The Reds players of 1964 wanted to win the pennant, but mostly it was for Hutch. They ultimately failed. Some of that may have been because of the emotions they felt those last two weeks of the season. They were pressing. Maybe they tried to do too much.

Hutch wasn’t with them in the dugout. He was dying. And they all knew it.

Top 5 Movies of 1964 (according to me)

Fail-Safe

Goldfinger

A Hard Day’s Night

Seven Days in May

Fate is the Hunter

Best Sports Movie of 1964

Bikini Beach

Top 5 Albums of 1964 (according to me again)

A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles)

All Summer Long (The Beach Boys)

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan)

Folk Singer (Muddy Waters)

The Animals (The Animals)

Reds Managers

Fred Hutchinson and Dick Sisler

Going into the Season

Cincinnati still had their core players from the 1961 NL champ Ragamuffin Reds, led by Robinson (rightfield) and Pinson (centerfield). The Reds could have played Tuffy Rhodes in left with those two and still had one of the best outfields in baseball. As it was, the Reds played several players in left field, most notably Tommy Harper. Leo Cardenas and Rose were at shortstop and second and Deron Johnson eventually took over first base. Steve Boros opened the season at third base. Boros was impeccable with his glove (he went the first two months of the season without an error) but wasn’t much of a hitter. Johnny Edwards was the catcher.

The pitching staff was built around Jim Maloney, Joey Jay, Jim O’Toole and Bob Purkey. Hutch had two young hurlers he brought north with the team — Sammy Ellis and 19-year old Billy McCool. He put them in bullpen and it was baptism under fire, especially for McCool, who was dubbed “Cool Billy” by the sportswriters. McCool, for his young age, seemed to be fearless on the mound regardless of who he was facing and what the situation was.

The Start

Injuries and hitting slumps plagued the Reds early on. Pinson hit .366 in April, then went into the worst offensive slump in his career and he battled a torn thigh muscle as well. At one point, Vada went 2 for 33. Robinson heated up in June and Johnson took over for struggling Gordy Coleman at first base. With a 23-21 record, the Reds started to play better baseball, winning eight in a row. This put them in striking distance of the Phillies and Giants. Needing a bat off the bench, the Reds called up Tony Perez from their Triple A team in San Diego.

In the meantime, Hutch’s condition deteriorated. At Crosley Field on his birthday, the Reds presented Hutch a birthday cake on the field before the game. Hutch was thin and gaunt, his right eye swollen shut. It was August 12. Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers beat the Reds that night by a 4-1 score. Cincinnati was 60-49 and Hutch stepped down as the manager. Coach Dick Sisler was appointed to take over as the Reds skipper. Hutch had told Sisler earlier that his cancer was “terminal.”

Ruiz’ Mad Dash

Trailing the Phillies by 6 ½ games, the Reds flew to Philadelphia for a three-game weekend Series on September 21. The Cardinals were also 6 ½ back, the Giants 7. There were only 12 games left in the season. It was a do or die series. The night before at Crosley, the Reds stormed back after St. Louis took a 6-0 lead and won 9-6.

That Friday night at Connie Mack Stadium, Cincinnati’s John Tsitouris and the Phillies Art Mahaffey locked up in a pitchers duel. In the 6th after Pete Rose grounded out, Chico Ruiz singled. Vada Pinson then singled to rightfield advancing Ruiz to third. Pinson gambled and tried to stretch the hit into a double but Johnny Callison gunned him down at second base.

With two outs, Frank Robinson came to the plate. Ruiz was on third. In the minor leagues, Chico Ruiz was a prolific base stealer. Four years  in a row in the minors, Ruiz had led the league he played in with stolen bases. Third Base Coach Reggie Otero, a Cuban like Ruiz, watched  Mahaffey go into his wind up, launching a fastball that Robinson took a viscous cut at but missed. Sisler gave no sign from the Reds bench. But Ruiz must have noticed that Mahaffey was too focused on Robinson and not paying attention to him.

Mahaffey went into his windup again and Ruiz took off for home plate. Otero was stunned. Sisler yelled, “No! No!” from the bench. Mahaffey’s peripheral vision must have caught Ruiz running. The Phillies righthander rushed and altered his delivery. Robinson, clearly just as surprised, squared around to bunt. Mahaffey’s pitch sailed outside and high. Phillies catcher Clay Darymple reached for a backhanded catch and Ruiz scored what turned out to be the only run of the game. Robinson then grounded out,. Tsitouris got into a jam in the 9th inning by giving up a leadoff double and a two-out walk but he somehow got out of it. Cincinnati won 1-0.

The 9-game Winning Streak

After Ruiz’ heroics on Friday night, Phillies Manager Gene Mauch was livid. “Chico F—ing Ruiz beat us last night,” Mauch roared in the dugout. “Chico F—ing Ruiz.” In Game 2 of the weekend series, Jim O’Toole threw a complete game 9-2 victory as the Reds stole three more bases (one by Ruiz) and Robinson homered. Ruiz’ stolen base happened late in the game. Ruiz was hit by a pitch from Phillies relief pitcher Ed Roebuck with the Reds leading 8-2 and promptly stole second. “I told him he was a gutless so and so,” said Ruiz of Roebuck after the game.

Cincinnati completed the three game sweep on Sunday behind Cool Billy and Ellis. Pinson smacked two home runs, bunted for a hit and knocked in four runs in the Reds 6-4 win. Ruiz, of course, also hit a home run. The Reds flew to New York City and battered the Mets, sweeping the Series. Maloney fired a one-hit shutout, O’Toole won his 17th game, Joey Jay had a complete game win and Cool Billy pitched 2 and 2/3 innings of relief and struck out five in a 6-1 Reds victory. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Braves swept four in a row from Philadelphia.

The Cincinnati Reds were in first place. The Phillies collapse and the Reds hot streak was a perfect storm. It couldn’t have come at a better time. A photo of a grinning Dick Sisler was in Sports Illustrated.

Jim Maloney and Bob Veale

The Reds had five games left in the season — three against Pittsburgh and two against the Phillies and all of them were at Crosley Field. The homestand got off to a bad start when Pirate hurler Bob Friend shutout Cincinnati 2-0.

It got worse the next night when Pirate hurler Bob Veale and Jim Maloney squared off. Veale, a tall (6’6”) lefthander and the strikeout leader in the NL that season, fanned 16  Red hitters in 12 1/3 innings of work, walking six and allowing seven hits. Maloney struck out 12 and allowed just two hits in his 11 innings pitched. Neither pitcher allowed a run. Incredibly, the Reds stranded 18 runners in the 16-inning 1-0 loss including leaving the bases loaded in the 10th, 12th and 13th innings. Deron Johnson struck out five times, once with the bases loaded and just one out. Reserve catcher Don Pavletich struck out twice with the bases loaded when just a fly ball would have won the game for Cincinnati. Ellis came on in relief in the 12th inning and struck out four Pirates in two innings pitched. The Pirates scored off Tsitouris in the 16th to win the game.

Joe Nuxhall salvaged a win for the Reds the next night in a 6-4 victory. But the Cardinals had swept Philadelphia three games and the Phillies came into town on a 10-game losing streak that was started by Chico Ruiz.

The Final Weekend

Hutch was at Crosley Field for the final homestand although he was in great physical discomfort, watching from DeWitt’s box. He spoke to players individually. He didn’t want to talk to them as a team, fearing it would impose on Sisler. On the night of September 30th, Hutch wore his Reds uniform for the last time, to take a team photo at Crosley Field.

Philadelphia broke their losing streak by defeating the Reds in the first game. Leo Cardenas and O’Toole got into a fight in the clubhouse after the game. O’Toole and the Reds blew a 3-0 7th inning lead, triggered on a pop up that fell for a hit. Many felt that Cardenas was pouting after being hit by a pitch earlier and the Reds didn’t retaliate. Sisler was outraged.

The season that was recaptured was now being lost. It came down to the final day. There was bad blood with the Phillies, the players were watching Hutch die and they felt enormous pressure.

Who would Sisler start for Game 162? Most felt Sisler would turn to Jim Maloney, but it would have been with just three days rest after pitching 11 innings against Pittsburgh. (Maloney’s record that year on three days rest (four times) was 3-1 with an ERA of 3.00 and 27 strikeouts in 27 innings.) O’Toole pitched the night before, Nuxhall the night before that. Reds players wanted Maloney to pitch against the Phillies ace, Jim Bunning. But Sisler decided on Tsitouris, based on his last start against Philadelphia and he had the most rest. Bunning was sharp, Tsitouris was knocked out in the 4th, Cool Billy gave up a home run and then the Phillies blew the game open against Jay in relief. They won 10-0.

The Cardinals beat the Mets 11-5, bringing in Bob Gibson from the bullpen to nail down the win and the pennant.

And just like that, the season was over.

Whatever happened to . . .

Dick Sisler guided the Reds to an 89-73 record in 1965 but he was still fired by Reds GM Bill DeWitt. According to Rose, the ’65 Reds were the best hitting team he was ever on. But aside from Maloney and Ellis, the Reds were pitching-starved. Sisler was fired and never managed in the big leagues again.

The Reds traded Chico Ruiz after the 1969 season along with moody outfielder Alex Johnson to the California Angels for Jim McGlothlin. He never stole home again. The friendship between Ruiz and Johnson soured. It was reported that Ruiz drew a gun on Johnson at some point. Chico Ruiz was killed when his car slammed into a light pole on Interstate 15 in California on August 3, 1971. Alex Johnson went to the funeral.

In 1965, Billy McCool was one of the best relievers in the National League. He was named to the All-Star team in 1966. But then fate moved its huge hand. McCool tore a cartilage in his knee during a pitching delivery. It altered his mechanics and he hurt his arm. He was out of baseball in 1970 at the age of 25.

Reggie Otero, the Reds third base coach, was fired along with Sisler. Otero coached with the Reds from 1959-1965. He got into a fight with Reds second baseman Johnny Temple at one point and broke up a scuffle between Vada Pinson and writer Earl Lawson. He coached for Cleveland in 1966 and then became a scout for the Indians and the Dodgers into the 1980s. He died of a heart attack in 1988.

Summary

In 1965, the Hutch Award was created and given annually to the baseball player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of Fred Hutchinson on and off the baseball field. In 1999, Fred Hutchinson was named Seattle’s Athlete of the Century, beating out Ken Griffey Junior. When Safeco Filod opened in Seattle in 1999, Hutchinson’s image was imprinted on the end of every row of seats to honor his contribution to Seattle baseball. The Reds retired Hutch’s #1 in 1965, the first number retired in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. Patsy Hutchinson, Hutch’s wife, was picked to throw out the ceremonial first ball of a game in the 1970 World Series in Cincinnati. She was the second female to do so, the first being Babe Ruth’s daughter.

Up Next: The 1975 Reds. Sparky makes The Big Switch.

14 Responses

  1. ohiojimw

    An excellent account of the last week of the season. I was 15 years old at the time. I remember lying in bed listening to that 16 inning affair versus the Pirates. My parents had allowed me to stay up (or at least uncovertly have a radio on in my bedroom) until they retired for the night themselves. Fortunately for me, my dad “forgot” to close their bedroom door and must have inadvertently turned the volume a little louder than usual on his bedside radio because I could hear every twist and turn to the end as the the broadcast wafted out into the hall in and into my bedroom.

    • pinson343

      I was 13 and also listened to that 16 inning game, surreptitously, on the radio. I lived in Connecticut and could hear the Pittsburgh broadcast. I heard the most heartbreaking losses of Jim Maloney’s career on the radio, that was among them.

  2. ohiojimw

    As I have recounted here before I was there in person at the Friday night game and from the leftfield field boxes behind the Reds bullpen I had a pretty good view of the two big plays of the game.

    Unmentioned by John was the triple (yes triple) play pulled by the Phillies against the Reds in the bottom of the 4th. Ironically given the trade which was to transpire in the near future, Alex Johnson playing LF for the Phillies, not known for his defense, raced across and up the terrace to snag a liner off the bat of Deron Johnson. The ball must have turned over and come back to him because it had looked like he didn’t have a ghost of a chance at it; then, suddenly it was in the tip of his glove. The runners, Vada and Robbie, had been running on the pitch and had no chance to recover. I’ve always thought this play which was made by the Phillies was really more important than the one that didn’t get made by the Reds in the 8th because if Johnson doesn’t get to that ball, there is a good chance the Reds break the game wide open right there.

    On the blooper the Reds did not catch in the 8th, I’ve always felt that Rose got a bit of a free pass, He was “in the area” as they say and coming hard at the ball while Cardenas also went after the ball. It may well have been Leo’s ball to play; but my recollection is there was a flash of indecision/ distraction as the two sensed each other in proximity. For younger folks, think of some of the times when Freel may have seemed to create create a distraction when he cannon balled after pop up that somebody else seemed about to play and trouble ensued and that is what I’ve always felt I saw that night.

  3. redsfan06

    I had just become aware of baseball sometime during the 1963 season. So 1964 was the first full year that I paid attention to the game. The Reds and that baseball bug bit me hard that year and I have been a fan ever since. What a season, with its late up and downs and the sad drama of Hutch, to become introduced to the game.

    Thanks for recounting the story.

    • Jack Kelly

      My memory of the Reds-Phillies series in Philadelphia was that the series was on a Monday-Wednesday schedule. It was not a weekend series. The Reds had just concluded a series against the Cardinals with a comeback win on Sunday, and were scheduled to open in Philadelphia the next evening. The weekend following the sweep of the Phillies, the Reds went to New York for five games against the Mets (two were doubleheaders) and swept them all. The fatal homestand with Pittsburgh and the Phillies began on the Monday after the team arrived from New York in firs place.

      Jack K.
      Fort Thomas

  4. Tom Gray

    I was at the 16 inning game against the Pirates. Dad took my brother and I on a school night. We didn’t get home until after midnight. Mom was mad but we enjoyed it.

    The winning run scored on a squeeze bunt by the Pirates catcher, I think. Bob Veale smoked a cigarette between every inning. Our seats were right above the tunnel from the Pirates dugout.

    One of my favorite Reds games that I attended.

  5. pinson343

    That Friday night October 2 loss to the Phillies was one of the most wild and heartbreaking games in Reds history. I wasn’t able to see or listen to it, but the game account in the NY papers was enough to bring me to tears. Alex Johnson’s catch that started the triple play was called miraculous.

    The NY papers were tough on Cardenas. The Phillies had lost 10 in a row and were comatose, until Cardenas took major offense at being hit by a pitch. No one else thought it was intentional. This reportedly “woke up a sleeping dog” (the Phillies).
    Blame was placed on Cardenas for the popup that fell in, saying that he was apparently still preoccupied by the HBP. Then – it was reported – O’Toole visibly lose his cool and melted down. It was years later that I read about the fight between Cardenas and O’Toole in the clubhouse, which was a nasty one.

  6. pinson343

    Great piece, John. That 1964 season was the most emotional one of all for me as a Reds fan. Partly because I was 13, and partly because of the drama you describe so well. 1981 was the number one screw job, but 1964 was the most heartbreaking.

  7. sultanofswaff

    Amazing read. Well researched. Thanks to all the commenters for their recollections as well.

  8. gosport474

    Thank you, Mr. Ring. I really enjoy these articles. Keep up the good work.

  9. Victor Vollhardt

    A well told remembrance, The “Hutch Era ” was a very exciting time with great games and a lot of success. What is a shame is the fact the Reds organization,beat writers and broadcasters give it no attention or lip service. For example– 2011 was the 50th anniversary of the 1961 National League champions—I called the Reds many times ,but no big event was ever scheduled. This year in April-Bill Henry died and in June Jim Brosnan died as well—Both men were very important members of that 1961 team and in Mr .Brosnan’s case–he was a Cincinnati native and was the author of two ground breaking baseball books. Both of which are important to Reds history and of course the 1961 season—-Again practicality no coverage. I contacted Mike Shannon (Reds Report/Spitball mag) to see if I missed comments or articles (I live in CA). He didn’t see anything either. I did talk to the Reds Hall of Fame and they did know of the deaths ,but only after a week had gone by Both Henry and Brosnan belong in the Reds Hall of Fame..

  10. Bill Phillips

    This was a great read. In 2011 there was a celebration of the raggamuffin reds vs the Yankees. Mr Johnny Edwards played for many great managers including Schoendinst, Harry Walker, Durocher among others but said his favorite was Hutch because Fred said just play, you’ll play your best when you’re having fun. I think Mr Edwards with his 2 Gold Gloves and 3 all star appearances in 7 years with the Reds deserves Reds hall. He was also Gibson’s primary catcher in 69 during his 1.12 era and led the league in put outs and fielding percentage most every year.I used to enjoy visiting with the Edwards daily. I met Sparky at Ray Shore’s house just before the 76 WS but the 67 Reds were always my favorite and no one loved playing baseball more than Chico Ruiz. Side note- Chico was the only player who ever pinch hit for Johnny Bench.