This week’s respondents are Matt Habel, Steve Mancuso, Jim Walker, Tom Mitsoff, and Chad Dotson.

Our Daily Reds Obsession: Which Reds player who played before you were born do you wish you had been able to watch?

Matt: The player that comes to mind first is Joe Morgan. Looking at the WAR numbers make it almost impossible not to pick him, with the three most valuable seasons in Reds history, according to Fangraphs. It’s hard to imagine a player that good on a team as good as the Big Red Machine, especially since the Reds teams that I have followed have never had that much talent. Frank Robinson is another player that intrigues me and would probably be next on my list, partially because I know much less about that era of baseball and would be very interested in seeing how the game has developed throughout the years.

Steve: Frank Robinson. Robinson accumulated 63.8 WAR in his ten years for the Reds; that’s a Hall of Fame career. He was NL Rookie of the Year as a 20-year-old, an All-Star in 1956 and the NL MVP in 1961. Robinson could also play defense. He won the Gold Glove award in 1958. Three times when he played for the Reds he led the league in OPS. He hit at least 20 homers in all ten seasons Robinson played for the Reds, and 30 homers seven times. Robinson was a complete player. I saw him play later in his career for the Orioles, particularly in the 1970 World Series, but I would have loved to see him play in his prime when with the Reds.

Jim: The Reds player I heard the most about from my dad and uncles when I was growing up was catcher Ernie Lombardi who played for the Reds from 1932-41. “The Schnozz” as he was affectionately known is my choice here. Lombardi’s Reds tenure included back to back National League pennants in 1939-40, (’40 World Champs). Lombardi, a 5 time all star and NL MVP (1938) as a Red, was an exceptional hitter (126 career OPS+; 48.3 career oWAR) and also a more than competent catcher. However, despite being a member of both the Reds and National Baseball Hall of Fame, Lombardi is more renowned for being possibly the slowest man afoot ever to be a significant position player in major league baseball. For a slow afoot kid catcher like myself, Schnozz would have been a natural idol.

Tom: The Reds player I would have liked to have had the chance to watch was Frank Robinson. My sense is that he is largely overlooked in the listing of all-time players who have played for the Reds, largely because he was traded before his prime, and because he did not play on any illustrious Reds teams. He did play on a National League championship team in 1961, a year he was NL MVP. His lowest WAR during the 10 years with the Reds was 4.3, and the highest was 8.7. He was NL Rookie of the Year in 1956. From all the second-hand and anecdotal accounts I have heard, he was a fantastic player both offensively and defensively in the outfield.

Chad: So many good names to choose from here: Edd Roush, Ted Kluszewski, Vada Pinson, Ernie Lombardi, Dolf Luque, Bucky Walters, Eppa Rixey. I wish I had seen Joe Morgan play in a Reds uniform (I did see him play in a Phillies uniform, however). The obvious answer is Frank Robinson, who may be the most underrated player in the history of baseball.

In the interest of picking a name that no one else chose, I’m going to go with Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell. Blackwell was an All-Star during each of his six full seasons with the Reds, depending on his blazing fastball, high leg kick, and intimidating sidearm delivery. He was a singular character in the history of this franchise — enough so that he earned his own chapter in an upcoming book about the Reds that I hope you’ll go preorder.

[Here’s an excerpt from that chapter that was left on the cutting room floor.] Even in 2016, people around baseball still marveled at Blackwell’s gifts. Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully waxed poetic about The Whip in a random mid-September game:

“There was a remarkable pitcher years ago with the Cincinnati Reds named Ewell Blackwell…Blackwell was terrifying at times for a right-hand batter.

“How do I know that? Pee Wee Reese once told me about Ewell Blackwell, and he said, ‘He’s the only pitcher I ever saw whom I feared.’ So if Pee Wee feared him, it was pretty terrifying.”

24 Responses

  1. TR

    Ernie Lombardi. Growing up I heard a lot about ‘the schnozz’ from my family. In the days before social media when Cincinnati had three daily newspapers and Dayton had two, Lombardi was a true fan favorite. I saw Ewell Blackwell pitch. Anyone whoever played the game knew how frightening it must have been to try and hit against ‘the whip.’

    • TR

      Time stops for no one as long as we’re alive, and I look forward to another Red’s season at age 81. It’s amazing that Ewell Blackwell lasted ten years, eight of those with the Reds, considering his pitching style and plus he spent three of his young years in military service during WWII.

  2. Scott Carter

    Man, you guys are making me feel old, but also privileged that I have seen most of the guys mentioned play, My three would be Ewell Blackwell, Johnny Vander Meer and the Big Klu ( I just missed him)

  3. Matt Esberger

    Ryan Madson maybe but it would have interesting to go back in time and see if those stories about Ernie Lombardi being thrown out at first by the left fielder were true and not urban legend.

  4. gusnwally

    Well Big Klu was my favorite when I was a boy. ( still is). But he was gone by the time I was 10 or 11. So I would have liked to see a lot more of him.

    • Bill

      My memory of Klu was a game I was at with my dad when Klu hit 1 over the centerfield wall bounced off the factory across the street onto the top of a semi & back onto the field. That’s power.

  5. cfd3000

    I’ll say Ted Kluszewski with Frank Robinson a close second. But this question also reminds me how lucky I’ve been to be a Reds fan starting with the Big Red Machine. So many great players have worn the wishbone C in the last 45 years or so. Bench, Larkin and Votto top my list but there are dozens more who’ve been a joy to watch. I’m sure fans of the Padres and Brewers and White Sox and Rangers all love their teams, but I still feel fortunate to have discovered the Reds and so many terrific players.

  6. IndyRedMan

    Johnny VM and Maloney…definitely. I also would add pitcher Bucky Walters. We used to goof around with this baseball video game in the late 80s that had all the All-Stars from the different teams and you could make a pitch from Walters do literally anything! Unhittable until he got tired. I’m guessing that he had some kind of curveball?

  7. Ernie Howerton

    I’m 61yrs.old and do remember listening to Maloneys no-hitter against Houston.I may have seen him in person but don’t remember.He would have been the one for me.

  8. Ethan L

    Big Red Machine: Rose, Morgan, and Bench specifically.
    Long shot: Dummy Hoy. I long for the original days of baseball, and his story at the Reds’ HOF is quite intriguing.

  9. scottya

    The whole big red machine, I didn’t get to watch the big red machine in person.

    I would have been interesting to be at the 1919 world series to watch the black sox vs the reds.

  10. GW

    I’ll also go with Bench. One thing that isn’t often mentioned about his defense, (I believe) was his ability to block the plate/hold off the runner on throws home from the OF. I’ve never seen anyone better at this. Short anecdote – I remember Cesar Cedeno trying to run over Bench at home plate when he (Cedeno) was with the Astros. As I recall, Cedeno bounced off Bench and ended up about 6 feet away in a heap on the ground while Bench didn’t move an inch.

  11. Daytonian

    Frank Robinson and Big Klu — and Jim Maloney on a day when he’s throwing a no-hitter.

  12. kmartin

    My Mother started going to Crosley Field in 1927 and speaks fondly of Paul Derringer (Oom Paul — great nickname) and Bucky Walters. I would love to have seen them pitch.

  13. Brock

    Probably Johnny and Joe. The best ever at their positions.

    I’d also add Big Klu, my Dad’s favorite player growing up (just for a tug on the heartstrings).

  14. Scott Carter

    If I remember correctly, there were a lot of fans that were really upset when the Reds traded Frank Robinson., To many of us, he was the best player on the team, and who ever heard of an old 30.

  15. Spaceman Red

    Dark horse pick completely but I’ll say Bucky Walters in 1939. He was the MVP and led the league that year in Wins Above Replacement. No doubt Cy Young Award Winner had it existed at the time. Led the Reds to the pennant that year and no Reds pitcher in the 20th century has eclipsed his record of 27 wins. Walters still the eleventh best player to ever wear the wishbone according to BBREF war rankings. Honorable mention seeing Vada Pinson mash during his late 50s and early 60s prime.

  16. thekidredblog

    I also have a dark horse. I pick Johnny Vander Meer in 1938. Only man who threw two consecutive no hitters, and he played for the Reds. Look it up, its pretty interesting.

  17. Bill

    Jim do you remember Clemente going in to second base standing up attempting to break-up a double play, & Johnny Temple fired the ball at his head, it hit off his helmet. Clemente never tried that again against Temple.

  18. Rick Feltes

    Mario Soto was actually my choice. I grew up in Chicago & could only watch the Reds on tv when they played the Cubs or the Braves. I studied his box scores & read everything I could about him, but one of the first times I actually got to see him on tv was the game at Wrigley in ’84 when he bowled over Don Zimmer trying to get the ump & was suspended. my next opportunity was the game in which he threw at Claudell Washington, sparked a brawl & got suspended again. haha. LOVED that guy

  19. David

    Frank Robinson was hardly passionless, He had a hot temper at times, and I think that was part of management’s desire to get him off the team. He was a great player, period.
    Robinson, Aaron and Mays were all contemporaries of each other, and although were different in their strengths, were all great players.
    Mays was blazingly fast and had tremendous bat speed at his peak. Aaron was the most complete hitter, combining power and average. Robinson was a tremendous hitter too, and very intimidating figure on the field. Hit for power, average (most of the time) and was a tremendously aggressive player. Clemente fits in there somewhere too, as a great outfielder and a very stylish ballplayer. Had a GREAT throwing arm.

    I saw Joe Morgan play a lot, and though he was a truly great player in his years with the Reds, I think Brandon Phillips was actually a better defensive 2nd baseman. Joe had great range and hands, but Brandon had a much stronger arm. Joe was quick, but had a weak arm. He also had the advantage of playing a lot of years with Concepcion, who was a better shortstop than all of the SS that Brandon played with. Cozart is very good, but not quite as good as Davey at his peak. Cozart has great hands and has a very accurate arm, but did not have quite the range that Concepcion did.
    Joe Morgan could almost will the pitcher to walk him. When the Reds needed a run, Joe could always find a way to reach base, steal second and get into scoring position. The great thing about Joe, was that most of his stolen bases meant something. He stole second in a lot of crucial situations, when the Reds needed a man in scoring position. His ability and concentration to do something valuable in a close game, again and again, was what made him great. It was more than just his numbers.

  20. Chuck_in_VA

    I had the privilege of seeing the 5th game of the 61 World Series against the Yankees. We were blown away, but it was simply magical for the 8 yr old kid that I was.

    I now live in Culpeper, Virginia, the hometown of Eppa Rixey. He is still legendary here. I would have loved seeing him pitch. It would have been fantastic to see some of the other great Reds pitchers of long ago, such as Bucky Walters, Paul Derringer, Ewell Blackwell, and Noodles Hahn.

  21. Cary

    I was at that 1984 game where Soto went crazy ! Sitting behind visitors dugout I could clearly see a Cubs flyball pass the foul side of the left field foul poul! Yet the 3 b ump called it fair. Soto went crazy. And some how Zimmer ( from Cincinnati) intervened. It was wild. And Soto was awesome