Just when you thought that the Reds ordeal with Aroldis Chapman was over, it isn’t.
The best arm on the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff was destined for a trade a week ago for much-needed prospects. No longer would Reds fans be frustrated at the lack of use of Aroldis Chapman out of the bullpen (an average of 67 innings pitched per year) or of his not being used in high leverage situations regardless of the inning of the game, which is more on the shoulders of his two Reds managers (Dusty Baker and Bryan Price) than him.
It seems like just yesterday when Matt Latos was facing Buster Posey with the bases loaded in Game 5 of the 2012 playoffs. I begged and pleaded for Chapman to come in. I didn’t care if it was the 5th inning of a scoreless game. And then a tiring Latos gave up a grand slam home run to Posey, part of a 6-run inning. The Reds lost 6-4. Chapman finally did get into the game, pitching a scoreless 9th inning. Sound familiar?
Game, set and match. The Giants won the playoffs and also a World Series championship.
And now, thanks to an incident that happened on October 30 at Chapman’s home in Florida, the trade of the Cuban Missile to the Dodgers never materialized. No trade and no movement. Allegedly, Chapman fired a revolver eight times in his garage and there were allegations of domestic abuse to a woman as well. The sordid event is being sorted out.
Painful as it is to recount this sad situation, it’s also not the first time a Reds player has been involved in an incident involving a gun. Twice in the modern era of Reds history (after 1956) incidents happened during the off-season that affected baseball in Cincinnati.
The first one involved Frank Robinson on February 9, 1961. After a pickup basketball game, Robinson and two of his friends went to a sandwich shop on Reading Road in Cincinnati to pick up some cheeseburgers. Three youths inside sitting in a booth became involved in a verbal altercation with Robinson and his friends who were sitting at the lunch counter. The cook on duty was alarmed and he contacted the police. They weren’t far away; a Cincinnati police cruiser was in the parking lot outside with two police officers.
As the two cops entered the shop, the three youths slipped away outside. But Sonny Webb, one of Robinson’s friends got into an altercation with the cops. He was arrested for disorderly conduct. Robinson paid Webb’s $100 bail after the arrest and they went back to the sandwich shop.
As fate would have it, the cops were still there. Webb started a conversation with the police officers, joking about what had happened. Meanwhile, Robinson and the cook were exchanging glares and words. According to Robinson, the cook brandished a knife and made a throat cutting gesture towards Robinson.
At that point, Robinson pulled out a concealed gun. The Reds right fielder claimed he carried it for personal protection as he would carry large sums of money on him at times. And on this night, he stated he wanted to show the cook that he had something more dangerous than a knife.
Robinson was arrested and taken to the District 7 police headquarters and charged with carrying a concealed weapon. One of the detectives called Earl Lawson, a sportswriter that covered the Reds, and tipped him Robby had been arrested.
Lawson went to District 7 and visited Robinson in a dingy holding cell at 3 am. He then called Reds President Bill DeWitt and told him his star player was being held and that the bond was $1000. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, I guess one of his friends will bail him out,Ã¢â‚¬Â DeWitt told a stunned Lawson.
Lawson called a bond attorney for Robby and he was out early in the morning. The police didn’t take a mug shot or fingerprint Robinson. Three weeks later, Robinson paid a $250 fine for the offense and the matter was settled.
The arrest, though, was big news. Robinson was a major star in baseball at that time and the best player on the Reds. Opposing players were merciless on Frank Robinson during that spring training in Florida, performing mock ‘searches’ on him for a weapon and calling him ‘John Dillinger.’ But in the end, Robinson had the last laugh and a huge season, winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award and leading the Reds to the 1961 pennant.
The second incident was far more serious. On March 9, 1967, matrimonial problems between Thomas Eugene Davidson and his wife reached the point where Mary Ruth Davidson shot the Reds left handed reliever in the abdomen and in the shoulder. Mary Ruth shot Ted Davidson (he was called ‘Ted’ after the three initials of his name) outside of a cocktail lounge in Tampa, Florida with a .22 caliber pistol.
Davidson wasn’t a Ã¢â‚¬Å“can’t missÃ¢â‚¬Â prospect but he had showed some promise early in his career. He made his debut on July 24, 1965 and in his first full season (1966) he finished with a 5-4 record and a 3.90 ERA in 85 innings of work.
Teammate Tony Perez and Manager Dave Bristol were among the first Reds to visit Davidson in the hospital. Perez at that time spoke little English but was a good teammate. Seeing his wounds, Bristol passed out onto the floor. After undergoing surgery, Davidson was moved to a hospital in California to further recuperate. He eventually rejoined the Reds that season in June but was never as effective as he once was.
After shooting her husband, Mary Ruth was released on a $2500 bond. She was charged with assault to commit murder but the charges were dropped after Davidson failed twice to show up in court,
Ted Davidson was traded to the Braves in June 1968. He and Milt Pappas were sent to Atlanta for Clay Carroll, Woody Woodward and Tony Cloninger. The 1968 season was the last one for Ted Davidson. He eventually moved to Arizona, where he passed away in 2006.
Aroldis Chapman has not been charged with any criminal offense. If Chapman committed the acts of abuse that he was accused of by his girlfriend, his behavior was abhorrent and morally reprehensible.
While he may not be charged with a crime, his behavior may have more significant consequences for the Reds than either the Robinson or Davidson incidents. His trade value has plummeted and the Reds seem to be stuck with a high voltage closer on a bad team in dire need of some young prospects that can hit. The Reds are stuck in neutral; a bad situation, given their current roster makeup.