Whether you celebrate the Reds from a starting date of 1869 (first full professional team), 1882 (first year in the American Association), or 1890 (first year in the National League), you have to be somewhat amazed by the longevity of the Cincinnati team. A 2019 version of a uniform from the past is great but knowing what was happening when those uniforms debuted is history, and knowing your history is a big part of being a baseball fan, so we’ll try to cover the key events of the year. There was a scheduling snafu – the Reds will wear these jerseys on Sunday.
This year marks the demise of the pinstripe-look and the beginning of the clean white classic-look that would become so entwined with the Big Red Machine and Riverfront Coliseum.
Team’s Record that Season
89-73, 3rd in NL West, 4 games back
The 1969 team was expected to win their division with their superior hitting. The pitching, however, was a larger question. The team spent a total of 15 days in first place, with their first showing on the 3rd of August. The Reds were in the hunt until Mid-September when a 4-7 road trip to the coast punched them in the stomach and they limped back home 4 games out of first. They would never get above 3rd and would finish behind San Francisco and Atlanta in the first ever NL West Pennant Race.
987,991 (8th of 12)
“DeWitt was a very good baseball man, but he didn’t spend money.”
~ Bob Howsam
1967 saw a new ownership group take over and, in Cincinnati, that meant improvements to Crosley Field—new paint, improved bathrooms, new concession counters and, with this group, a heightened marketing presence. Signage around town increased, including a large sign facing the new highway to inform the locals. The 1968 season saw only four crowds topping 20,000, while 1969 saw 13 such games. Meanwhile, the team worked harder than ever to secure season ticket holders, using the lure of the new stadium in 1970 as the carrot.
The Reds signed Bristol to a two-year contract after Bob Howsam’s first year as the team GM. Howsam was a man who valued loyalty and firm decision-making processes; independent thinkers were not part of his plan. “Bristol liked to do things on his own”, claimed Reds scout Ray Shore. One week after the 1969 season ended, Bristol was let go by Howsam, who felt the Reds should have won the division. As for Bristol, Howsam said, “I respected him as a baseball man. He could work for me. But I came to the conclusion that Dave Bristol wasn’t going to take me where I wanted to go.”
In 1969, the Reds had a top-heavy roster—the starters had four players with 665 or more PA’s and seven above 550. Most of the bench players would see limited time in-between the lines. On the pitching side, only three hurlers had more than 25 starts, seven others would divide the remaining starts. No one from that group would impress enough to stick and, because of this, the bullpen would see a historical contribution by Wayne Granger from April to October. Dave Bristol rode Granger all year. He would appear in a team-record 90 games and throw 144 innings. Granger would pitch more than one inning 50 times, including an eight-inning relief appearance during game two of a double header during the pennant race. Even more impressive, he got his 20th save of the season in game one of that doubleheader. In the end, the Reds fell short on the pitching side, a theme that the club would see from time to time throughout the next decade.
Best Red Batter
Pete Rose, .940 OPS
“You gonna write a story about me?”
~ Pete Rose to baseball writer Earl Lawson, 1962
Pete Rose had a great year in 1968. The following season would be his best to date with a 158 OPS+ and he hit a career high .348, with an OB% of .428. He exceeded 300 total bases for the only time in his career. He led the league in runs with 120, and hit a career high 16 HR’s, finishing 4th in voting for the MVP. Rose had 731 trips to the plate in 1969 and would top 700 in each of his remaining years as a Red, compiling 7397 plate appearances (more than Dick Allen had in his 14-year career). Rose reached base 3413 times in that 10-year span, and made 5640 outs—the equivalent of every out in 208 Reds games, roughly 20 a season. Pete won the Gold Glove in 1969, the first of two he would win.
Following the 1968 season, longtime CF Vada Pinson was dealt to the Cardinals, leaving the Reds with a hole in in the middle of the outfield. Their initial reaction was to hand it to Pete, who ended up playing CF in 56 contests. He would only play the position seven more times in his long career. After moving to the outfield, Pete winning a GG was not a likely scenario. The other winners, Curt Flood and Roberto Clemente, were sure-things in a three-player competition, but the other spot was up for grabs and the most likely winners from the past were aging-out. The next wave of glove men, like Bobby Bonds and Bobby Tolan, were just beginning to step it up, but neither had the bat Rose had that year, nor the press, and often the Gold Glove is about more than ones’ glove.
“I Love the Media.”
~ Pete Rose, March 1989
Best MLB Batter
Willie McCovey, 1.108 OPS
“A group of terrorized pitchers stood around the batting cage watching Willie McCovey belt some tremendous line drives over the right-field fence,” Bouton wrote. “Every time a ball bounced into the seats; we’d make little whimpering animal sounds. ‘Hey, Willie,’ I said. ‘Can you do that whenever you want to?’
“He didn’t crack a smile. ‘Just about,’ he said, and he hit another one. More animal sounds.”
~ Jim Bouton, Ball Four
During the 1960’s, The National League’s top hitters were very right-handed. Mays, Aaron, Robinson and Banks all swung from the right side and also happened to be the most accomplished hitters in compiling power numbers. From the other side of the dish, we see a slight down-tick in performance, but nonetheless some quality bats lurk there. Leading the pack with 300 HRs and a .546 SLG% would be the big man, Willie McCovey, who also had 115 intentional walks during that span. Born in Mobile, as were Mays and Aaron, McCovey was larger than both and less of an all-around threat on the diamond–first and foremost he made his salary by swinging the bat.
1969 was McCovey’s finest year, with 121 walks to 66 strike outs, and he hit a HR every 7.73 trips to the plate. His RC/27 of 11.43 was easily the best of career, nabbing him the NL MVP. He put an explanation mark on the season when he crushed two HR’s in the All-Star Game leading the NL to their 7th straight win. McCovey had come up the year after Orlando Cepede and together they shared first base and LF, a position neither could master. Eventually, the Giants had to make a choice and the choice was McCovey. It’s quite likely that McCovey was loved more in the Bay than Mays, simply because he was their guy and Mays had a history in New York. In 1969, McCovey was intentionally walked 45 times, destroying the prior NL record by 16. Simply put, he was the most dangerous hitter in the game that year.
Best Red Pitcher
Jim Maloney, 16 RSAA
“That fellow could throw as hard as anybody.”
~ Roberto Clement on Maloney
“I had a very good curve. Everybody remembers my throwing hard. But my curve was a good pitch, too.”
~ Jim Maloney
Jim Maloney came into the big leagues in 1960, discovered by Reds super scout Bobby Mattick in Fresno. Maloney was a shortstop and was being scouted by all 16 MLB teams. Mattick, however, felt he had the arm to pitch in the big leagues. Also on Jim’s high school squad was future Cubs pitcher Dick Ellsworth and future Red Pat Corrales. Ellsworth was the team’s pitching star, thus Maloney didn’t man the hill very often, though he once stuck out 25 men in a nine-inning contest. It took a couple of years for him to get a foothold in Cincinnati, but he eventually became the team’s most dominating pitcher.
Despite a dominating fastball, success for Maloney wasn’t easily attained; he experienced bouts of wildness early in his career and would battle shoulder issues throughout his years in Cincinnati. Due to his chronic shoulder problems, logging innings was not Jim’s forte. Of the top 100 performances in innings pitched in the National League from 1960-1969, Maloney only appears once–in 1965 when he completed 255 innings. The other aces in the league showed up almost yearly, while Maloney was prone to gaps in starts and time on the disabled list.
National League’s top 100 seasons in innings pitched in the 1960’s:
- Larry Jackson – 8
- Juan Marichal – 7
- Don Drysdale – 7
- Bob Gibson – 6
- Kofax, Osteen, Bunning – 4
Even Dick Ellsworth appears 3 times in the list
As the 1969 season started, Maloney was losing his hold on the top slot in the rotation and his constant arm battles were beginning to be questioned by players as well as the front office. On a cool night at the end of April, Maloney would throw his second no-hitter against the Astros. Not to be outdone, the Astros Don Wilson would return the favor the following evening. In the first contest, Maloney injured his groin running the bases, and he would not win another game until mid-July, nor complete a game until the end of August. Despite this injury and its severity, Maloney would lead the Reds in ERA + and RSAA in 1969. The team would go 20-10 in the games he started, and Maloney would finish the season with a 2.77 ERA. Essentially, 1969 would be the end of Jim’s career, and the lasting impression he would leave on Reds fans was that of a power pitcher who could safely live in the top of the zone, an area many tried their best to avoid.
My favorite thing about Maloney’s 1969 season has nothing to do with his pitching, but instead his bat.
Always pretty handy with the bat for a pitcher, Maloney’s 1969 was especially impressive
In 68 Plate Appearances, Jim would hit .200/.290/.436/.727 with 6 EBH, including 3 HR’s; his OPS+ would come in at 98. Exceptional for a pitcher when you compare those numbers against the team’s backup catcher Pat Corrales, who in 81 Plate Appearances hit .264/.346/.375/.721 for an OPS+ of 98 as well.
Best National League Pitcher
Juan Marichal 51 RSAA
“I’m going to be a baseball player,” Juan Marichal would tell his mother.
“You can’t get through life just playing baseball,” she would reply.
Marichal was discovered when he was pitching in the Air Force in the late 1950’s. He had a side arm motion and nice movement on his pitches. When he first tried to throw overhanded from the mound, his motion threw his leg towards the sky. For the rest of his career, Juan would be known for three things—his pitching motion, quality, and his fight with John Roseboro. Marichal quickly mastered his motion and, after two years in the minors, he made his debut for the Giants in 1960 (the third year the Giants would have a HOF player make a debut). Marichal’s main pitch was the Slider, and his Fastball was the secondary pitch. He threw a lot of off-speed pitches. “I think my slider was my best pitch against righthanders, against lefthanders my best pitch was the screwball. Candlestick was a lefthanded hitters park, and I always faced lefthanded lineups, so I had to come up with that pitch. About that time, we had Ruben Gomez. He threw one of the best screwballs I ever saw. I learned from him how to throw the pitch and by 1962 I had a pretty good one.”
Marichal threw 295 or more innings in a season, five times. Only Robin Roberts, Jim Palmer and Gaylord Perry did it more in the live ball era. In 1963, Marichal topped 300 innings pitched, and he would do it 4 more times in the next seven years. From 1963 to 1969 he would have a record of 154-65, 164 CG, 2020 IP, a 2.34 ERA and 235 RSAA. During this time, he also gained infamy for his battle at Dodger Stadium where his violent bat wielding attached his name to one of the darker moments in the game. Lost in the epilogue of that incident is Marichal and Roseboro’s reconciliation, an ensuing friendship which ends with Marichal serving as a pallbearer at Roseboro’s funeral.
Making their MLB Debut
- Darrell Evans
- Carlton Fisk
- Pedro Borbon
- Steve Garvey
- George Foster
Making their MLB Exit
- Ken Boyer
- Bill White
- Roy Face
- Sammy Ellis
- Gary Bell
The 1970 census placed Cincinnati as the 29th largest city in the nation; the city lost fifty thousand from the 1960 count. This census was the first to record a city in the geographic south to have a population over one million (Houston). It also was the first census since 1800 in which New York was not the most populous state – California overtook it in 1962. Baseball expanded to four new cities in 1969, each with a greater population than Cincinnati.
- Montreal – 2,684,000
- San Diego – 696,769
- Seattle – 530,831
- Kansas City – 507,087
Team Media Sources
The new ownership group was expanding the Reds regional network deeper into Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Following the 1968 season, Frank McCormick left the Reds broadcasting team and Pee Wee Reese stepped in as the team’s color man. The Reds broadcast 40 games in 1969, 35 of them from the road. An even larger impact was made when long time Cincinnati radio station WLW won the Reds broadcasting contract–a relationship that continues to this day. In the world of print, Dayton scribe Si Burick won his seventh straight Ohio Sportswriter of the Year award.
1969, the year of the massive music festivals. It started out great and ended badly.
Atlanta International Pop Festival, July 4–5, 1969. Some of the performers:
- The Dave Brubeck Trio w/ Gerry Mulligan
- Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
- Janis Joplin
- Led Zeppelin
- Johnny Winter
Woodstock Music Festival, August 15–18, 1969. Some of the performers:
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
- Grateful Dead
- Jefferson Airplane
- Jimi Hendrix
- The Who
Isle of Wight Festival, August 30–31, 1969. Some of the performers:
- Bob Dylan
- The Band
- The Pretty Things
- The Who
- Joe Cocker
Altamont Speedway Free Festival, December 6, 1969. Some of the performers:
- Jefferson Airplane
- The Flying Burrito Brothers
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
- The Rolling Stones
November 3, 1969, The Public Broadcasting System is formed. One-week later, Sesame Street airs its first episode. Funded by an eight million grant from the Carnegie and Ford Foundations, both endeavors would prove to be wildly popular.
In the food world 1969 is a banner year for deep fried fish in the middle of the country. In Tennessee we see the opening of Captain D’s, In Lexington Long John Silvers and in Columbus Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips.
In 1969, ARPANET was released—the precursor of our Internet today. In New Jersey, UNIX is developed by a group at Bell Labs, enabling thousands of programmers to impact the business world in ways never before imagined. Meanwhile in Europe, the first Concorde test flight is conducted in France.
All great accomplishments, and yet none have the impact of the Apollo Project.
- Launch date: March 3, 1969
- Mission duration: 10 days, 1 hour, 54 seconds
- 151 Orbits
The mission was flown to qualify the lunar module for lunar orbit operations.
- Launch date: May 18, 1969
- Mission duration: 8 days, 3 minutes, 23 seconds
- 31 Orbits
The mission was a “dress rehearsal” for the first Moon landing, testing all components and procedures, just short of actually landing the lunar module on the surface of the moon.
- Launch date: July 16, 1969
- Mission duration: 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds
- 30 Orbits
The mission’s goal was to be the first spaceflight to land humans on the Moon. They spent a little over 2 hours outside the spacecraft on the moon’s surface.
- Launch date: November 14, 1969
- Mission duration: 10 days, 4 hours, 36 minutes, 24 seconds
- 45 Orbits
The mission was to be the second spaceflight to land on the Moon. This time, the astronauts executed approximately one day and seven hours of activity on the moon.
- Peter Dinklage, American actor
- Ice Cube, American rapper and actor
- Bill Simmons, American sports columnist
- Ken Griffey Jr., American baseball player
- Samantha Bee, Canadian comedian
- Boris Karloff, British actor (b. 1887)
- Judy Garland, American actress and singer (b. 1922)
- John Lester, American cricketer (b. 1871)
- Sharon Tate, American actress (b. 1943)
- Jack Kerouac, American author (b. 1922)
1969 is a milestone year in the game for many reasons, most notably the 100th anniversary of the game’s foray into professionalism, and the introduction of the Baseball Encyclopedia.
Two other notable events were covered in the press, one rather extensively and the other less-so. Both would have a great impact on the game in subsequent years and change the fabric extensively.
The first was barely touched on until Jim Bouton’s Ball Four was published in 1970 — drugs in sports, back then mostly stimulants (greenies, red juice) or pain killers. The flippant attitude in the game regarding usage was chronicled in the book, with asides that reveal an acceptance and humorous take on the subject.
“We’ve been running short on greenies. We don’t get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So, we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies.”
“We were kidding in the bullpen about how many greenies the Reds must have been taking during this pennant race and just then there was ball hit into short right that Pete Rose made a great diving run and caught on a short-hop. ‘Five more milligrams and he’d have had it, ‘ Tom Griffin said.”
In late June, Sports Illustrated did a cover story on the use of drugs in sports, covering many Olympic events, and also usage in major league baseball.
“A few pills – I take all kinds – and the pain is gone.” Says Dennis McLain
McLain also took a shot of cortisone and Xylocaine in his throwing shoulder in game six of the 1968 Worlds Series, the only game he won in three tries. In the same series Bob Gibson was gobbling muscle relaxing pills.”
“We occasionally use Dexamyl and Dexadrine. We also use barbituates, Seconal, Tuinai, Nemutal…but I don’t think the use of drugs is as prevalent in the Midwest as it is on the East and West Coasts.”
St. Louis Team Doctor
“Are anabolic steroids widely used by Olympic weight men?”, rhetorically asks Dave Maggard the University of California’s Track Coach. “Let me put it this way, if they had come into the village the day before competition and said we have just found a new test that will catch anyone who has used steroids, you would have had a lot of people dropping out of events because of instant muscle pulls.”
The second change that creeped up as the decade came to a close was the increasingly volatile labor situation in the wake of expansion and increase in television money. Newly minted Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was no stranger to the game; he had spent the previous 19 years in the law firm that managed the National Leagues affairs. In early February, over 125 players met in New York, the largest gathering of players at a labor event. The subject was the pending contract between the union and the game’s owners, and the terms that many on the player’s-side felt were more than unfair. As with most labor discussions, unity was preached and the meeting adjourned with a petition drawn-up to circulate—requiring players to opt into a planned refusal to sign any contract for the upcoming season.
Among those signing, we find journeymen, rookies and starts, like Cincinnati’s Pete Rose. The biggest player to defect was Ron Santo, who felt indebted to Phil Wrigley and the Cubs organization. On the other side of the fence were the owners, men who didn’t take “no” very lightly—included in this group was the Reds Chairman Francis Dale who had declared that he welcomed a strike as a good test of owner’s strength versus the players’ strength. Former players who now were in the front offices of clubs leaned towards the business side of the game and none were more adamant in their opinions than Paul Richards who trotted out weak tripe like this, “Let ‘em strike. Then maybe if they do it we’ll get the guys that don’t want to play out of the game and get the ones who appreciate the major leagues in.” Richards did battle daily with union leader Marvin Miller and his own teams’ player representative Joe Torre (who was dealt that spring). The players would eventually prevail procuring more revenue, as well as concessions that enhanced all the available pension assets. More importantly the win gave the players strength and that would help pave their path to a better future.