Sam Miller of ESPN ranked every World Series in Major League Baseball history on Monday. The Cincinnati Reds have won five of them, and they’ve lost another four. Where do those nine series rank on the all-time list put together by Miller with the help of things like the game leverage index, how significant the win was, how memorable it was, and of course – his opinion?
The 1919 World Series
Well, at the very bottom of the list is the 1919 World Series that saw the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago White Sox in what ultimately became one of the most famous World Series ever. The best-of-nine series is famous for all of the wrong reasons – the White Sox had players on the team that were purposefully throwing the games. It changed the course of baseball history.
The Reds won the series in eight games, taking things with a 5-3 advantage. Greasy Neale picked up 10 hits in the series, hitting .357/.400/.464 to lead the Reds offense. Dutch Ruether came up big time, going 4-6 with a double, walk, two triples, and four RBI despite coming to the plate just seven times. He only had 92 at-bats during the regular season. Did I forget to mention he was a pitcher? He started two games and allowed just four earned runs in 14.0 innings (2.57 ERA). He was, by ERA standards, the worst pitcher of the series for the Reds, who had a 1.63 ERA in their eight games to go with a 1.03 WHIP.
Still, the fact that it was thrown led Miller to rank it dead last, 115th out of 115.
1939 World Series
The second World Series appearance for the Reds resulted in a beat down thanks to the New York Yankees. The first game was close, with the Yankees scoring a run in the bottom of the 9th inning to take a 2-1 victory. In games two and three the Reds lost by four runs in each game. But it was game four that was the real heart breaker. At home the Reds were leading 4-2 heading into the 9th inning. The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the inning, and after holding the Cincinnati hitters scoreless in the bottom half, scored three more in the 10th to seal the victory and championship.
Cincinnati hit .203/.243/.241 for the series. Ival Goodman, Frank McCormick, and Billy Myers went 15-42. The rest of the team went 12-91. That’s a .132 average for those keeping score at home. The pitching was good, mostly. Gene Thompson, however, struggled. He allowed seven of the 17 earned runs for the Reds in their four games – and those seven runs all came in game 3 as he didn’t get out of the 5th inning.
This one came in at 110 on the list out of the 115 World Series.
The 1940 World Series
After a loss in the World Series the previous year the Reds returned as National League Champions. This time they faced off against the sign stealing Detroit Tigers and it was a seven game affair that saw the Reds grab the championship by scoring two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning and win 2-1 at home to cap off a 100-win regular season. That game, though, was the only one in the series that was close. Only game 2 was within two runs when the final out was recorded – though game 3 was 1-1 when the bottom of the 7th started, but the Tigers scored four runs in that inning and put the game away with two more in the next inning.
At the plate the big bats in the series came from the hands of Billy Werber and Jimmy Ripple. Werber hit .370 with four doubles and four walks, while Rippler hit .333 with four walks, two doubles, and a homer. Paul Derringer and Bucky Walters carried the pitching staff. Unheard of today, they started five of the seven games and combined for 37.1 innings pitched with a 2.17 ERA between them.
A solid series, it rated out as the 57th rated out of 115.
The 1961 World Series
Well, the 1961 World Series didn’t end a sweep. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Reds lost the series in five games to the Yankees. Cincinnati won game 2 by a score of 6-2. But that was all they could get, losing game 1 by a 2-0 score, watching the Yankees score a run in each of the final three innings to take a 3-2 win in game 3, and then getting blown out 7-0 and 13-5 in games 4 and 5.
Wally Post, Frank Robinson, and Johnny Edwards all posted an OPS over .900 in the series, but the team as a whole hit just .206/.254/.306 as the Yankees pitching staff had their way with the 93-win Reds offense. Jim O’Toole and Bob Purkey held up their end of the bargain, allowing just six earned runs in 23.0 innings (2.35 ERA), but the rest of the team struggled on the mound – combining for 7.71 ERA in their 21.0 innings pitched.
Not too competitive against the M&M boys in ’61, leading to a ranking of just 101st out of 115 World Series.
The 1970 World Series
For a five game series, this one was close for much of it. Three games were decided by just one run, with the Orioles taking games 1, and 2 with the Reds taking game 4 by a single digit. But blowouts in games 3 and 5 for Baltimore kept Cincinnati from their first trophy in three decades.
Lee May hit .389/.450/.833 with two homers in the series. Hal McRae only played in three games, but made them count, going 5-11 with two doubles and he drove in three runs. The offense as a whole, however, struggled. Part of that was due to the incredible defense by MVP Brooks Robinson. For as bad as the offense was, though, the pitching was terrible. Clay Carroll was nails out of the bullpen, pitching in four games and throwing 9.0 shutout innings. Don Gullett gave up just one earned run in his three relief appearances that covered 6.2 innings. The rest of the pitching staff? Ew. They put up an ERA of 10.21 across the five games.
This series was a little competitive, but not too much. It was rated as the 95th best World Series out of 115.
The 1972 World Series
This one had to hurt to watch unfold. And it probably took a few months off of your life in the end due to the stress endured, too. Seven games, with six of the games being decided by one run. The Reds fell behind 2-0 after two games at home to start the series. After taking game 3 by a score of 1-0, they fell in Oakland in game 4 to watch the series go to 3-1 in favor of the Athletics. But a 5-4 win followed, and a blowout 8-1 win at home sent the series to a winner-takes-all game 7. After tying the game up at 1-1 in the bottom of the 5th, the Reds coughed up the lead the next inning when Oakland scored twice and held on for a 3-2 win.
Tony Perez hit .435/.500/.522 in the series, while both Dave Concepcion and Johnny Bench put up an OPS over .800 – but the Reds offense struggled, hitting just .209/.295/.295 in the seven games. The pitching was outstanding for Cincinnati, as the staff had a 2.17 ERA – led by Jack Billingham’s 0.00 ERA in 13.2 innings spread out over two starts and a relief appearance.
A bad outcome for the Reds, but a fantastic series saw it come in 14th on the list out of 115 World Series.
The 1975 World Series
Some may say it’s the greatest World Series every played. Others are wrong. The most memorable moment in World Series history took place in a non-clinching game as Carlton Fisk seemed to will and wave a ball fair for a walk-off home run to send the series to a 7th and final game of a back-and-forth World Series. Each team won a game that wasn’t close, with Boston taking the opener 6-0 and the Reds taking game 5 by a score of 6-2. But games 2 and 4 were 1-run games with each team taking one of them. And games 3 and 6 were 1-run games won by the home team in walk-off fashion at their home ballparks in extra-innings.
Game 7 got out to a good start for Boston, who grabbed a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning. But the Reds stormed back with two runs in the 6th on a Tony Perez homer and tied the game up in the 7th. The game remained tied until the top of the 9th when Ken Griffey scored on a Joe Morgan single to center that put the Reds up 4-3. Will McEnaney came out of the bullpen for the bottom of the 9th and retired Juan Beniquez, Bob Montgomery, and Carl Yastrzemski in order to bring home the Cincinnati Reds 3rd World Series trophy.
Pete Rose would hit .370/.485/.481 in the series, picking up 10 hits along with five walks. Cesar Geronimo went 7-25 (.280) and slugged .600 thanks to a triple and two homers. Tony Perez homered three times and drove in seven runs despite hitting just .179.
As he should have, Miller rated this as the best World Series ever. And the Reds have the trophy to prove it.
The 1976 World Series
The fourth World Series Championship for the Cincinnati Reds came in 1976 as The Big Red Machine steamrolled the New York Yankees in a 4-game sweep. Only game two was close. The Reds won 5-1, 4-3, 6-2, and 7-2 as they hoisted the World Series trophy for the second consecutive season. Johnny Bench went off, hitting .533 with a double, triple, and two home runs in the series. Dan Driessen, Joe Morgan, and George Foster all OPS’d at least 1.000 in the series. Dave Concepcion, Ceser Geronimo, and Tony Perez all hit over .300, too. As a team the Reds hit .313 in the four games, pummeling the sad-sack Yankee pitching over the six days that made up the 1976 World Series.
It wasn’t just the hitting, though. The seven pitchers in the series for Cincinnati posted a 2.00 ERA to go along with a 1.17 WHIP. Don Gullett came through with the best start of the series for the Reds in game 1, allowing just one run in 7.1 innings. The bullpen of Jack Billingham, Pedro Borbon, and Will McEnaney didn’t allow a single run, and gave up just two combined hits in 9.0 innings of relief.
While Reds fans were certainly excited about this one, it wasn’t all that exciting from the standpoint of competitiveness and ranked 108th out of 115 World Series.
The 1990 World Series
The most recent World Series trip for the Cincinnati Reds was another sweeping victory that extended the city’s winning streak to nine games in World Series appearances that dates back to 1975. The underdog Reds made their presence known with authority in the first inning when Eric Davis absolutely crushed a ball over the center field wall against Dave Stewart to set the one for the whole series. Not to be outdone in the game, though, Jose Rijo tossed 7.0 shutout innings before turning it over to The Nasty Boys who completed the shutout. Game two would go into extra innings with the Reds walking the game off on a Joe Oliver single to score Billy Bates. The Reds would win game three in Oakland easily, 8-3. In game four it was another close one that saw Jose Rijo allow one run in 8.1 innings – but trailed most of the game until Cincinnati scored two runs in the top of the 8th.
Jose Rijo took home MVP honors after allowing one run in 15.1 innings and outdueling Dave Stewart. But he was hardly along in dominating on the mound. The team as a whole posted a 1.70 ERA – with the bullpen not allowing a single run. You could probably argue that the MVP of the series could have gone to either Chris Sabo or Billy Hatcher, too. Hatcher hit .750! with four doubles, a triple, and two walks. His OPS over the four games was 2.050. Sabo was nearly as good, hitting .563 with a double, two walks, and two home runs. His OPS was 1.611 over the four games.
The series wasn’t too competitive and ranked 104th out of 115 World Series.
“Some may say it’s the greatest ever… Others are wrong.” Truer, funnier words have rarely been posted. Great write up Doug. I have to say though as pleased as I am with this (accurate) selection at #1, I’m disappointed with the ranking of the 1990 World Series. I know sweeps aren’t as compelling as 7 game nail biters, but this one had so many great story lines. Wire-to-wire, the Nasty Boys, Eric Davis and Marge Schott and his kidney and the team plane, Billy Hatcher hitting and hitting, Jose Rijo, and perhaps most of all the fact that the A’s were so heavily favored. It really was a very entertaining series for a shocking sweep. Not that it really matters, but this one should have been rated a lot higher.
On a related note, I understand putting the Black Sox series dead last from a competitive perspective, but its historical importance is WAY higher. Unless you were a long suffering Cubs or Red Sox fan, I’m betting even the serious baseball fan would be hard pressed to describe any specific series from, say, before the Korean War, in any detail other than 1919. The legacy of this series resonates even now with Joe Jackson still part of every Pete Rose conversation, and Kennesaw Mountain Landis still whispering in the ear of every commissioner reviewing steroid allegations or sign stealing interview tapes. Modern baseball is the way it is in no small part because of that 1919 scandal.
Finally, I want to nominate in advance the 2020 World Series for a spot in the next top 10. Remember the upstart Reds pitching staff dominating the Yankees modern murderer’s row? How Joey Votto turned back the clock and walked off that crucial Reds win? How Trevor Bauer backed up his confident prediction and quieted the Bronx Bombers? And all that after the pandemic shortened season when we thought we might never see baseball again but oh boy did we? What a series that was!!
The 1961 Reds WS appearance, the first of my lifetime, came as a bolt from the blue in my final preteen year. It was the Reds first winning season in 4 years as they jumped from 67-87 in 1960 to 93-61 in ’61.
One of my strongest memories was that the ’61 season seemed so short in comparison to my recollections of prior seasons. Yet the spring and summer seemed like all Reds all the time in the small town where I lived some 50 miles northeast of Crosley Field.
No doubt part of the Reds surging popularity was that a new fangled invention, the handheld size transistor radio had made it to our town in a big way the prior Christmas season. The Reds run and the radios were made for each other. Everyone was toting one of these new devices around; and, they all seemed tuned into the Reds games or craziness about the Reds enveloping Cincinnati between games.
I recall being disappointed but not crushed when the Series went the way it did. I’d been raised well rooted in baseball and understood the Reds odds were very long against the Yankees. As a kid I hoped against hope; but, when the Yanks stole that 3-2 win in game 3, the rational me knew it was almost certainly game over.
These were the the Yankees in that opposition dugout; the summer had faded to fall, the magic was gone. At least I would only have to wait 9 years for another Reds World Series title, not 21 like the generation of my parents.
Thank you Baseball Reference for providing the exact details for my memory:
oops make that wait 9 years for another Reds World Series APPEARANCE, the next title wouldn’t be till 75, 35 years from the previous.
I can really identify with Jim Walker’s comments aside was a 10 year old reds fan in 1961.
The year before I had built my own tandy kit radio and had fashioned an antenna wire out side between two hickory trees and ran it in my up stairs window to my radio.there I could get WLW at night ( WLW was a clear channel and was easy to receive after dark ) to listen to reds games. I had become a Reds fan listening to an am station that was part of the Reds radio network,I think It was in Cookeville, Tennessee But the signal was only good in the daytime. I lived on Monterey mtn. Tennessee on a tobacco farm. Like Mr. Walker I lived out of market only by about 200 more miles,but that didn’t matter to this kid I was a Reds fan.as a new fan you could imagine my joy that in 61 my team was going to the WS . I hung on every play by that radio. My pop even let me slide on my chores to hear the games, if I caught them up later. My Grandpop Elmer (who had been a minor league umpire in the twenties an early thirties ) of course helped me. I also remember the letdown of game three and the disappointment of the series loss later. My grandpop Elmer had prepared me for for the series loss as he could see it from experience, but It didn’t deter me from becoming a life long Reds fan. I feel fortunate having been a fan in the times that I have been, getting to see the teams of the Big Red Machine go to the WS 4 times and win two of them. And let’s not forget that 1990 WS win. If my Grandpop Elmer wre still with us he would have let us know quickly that in the 1919 WS the White Sox plan to throw the series fell apart after the second game and that the Reds did actually out play them in the end.
Thanks for the fun and memorable look back at our reds past.
Great stuff Doug. My father was born in 1920 so was very familiar with every world series tea except the 1919 reds.
He always contended that the 1940 team would give the brm everything they could handle. His favorite world series team was by far the 1990 club
ESPN can place the 1919 World Series in last place but it is probably the most famous and significant of all the Series. There have been many books written about that Series but the most comprehensive, considering all sides, is probably ‘Burying the Black Sox’ by Gene Carney. Gambling on baseball, in those days, was replete in all the ML cities. Both teams, of course, were outstanding, but the White Sox were regarded as super talented and were heavy favorites. Charles Comiskey, the founder and longtime owner of the White Sox, is regarded throughout the book with some suspicion as perhaps being somehow involved with gamblers and the scandal. Questions about Comiskey’s actions were never put to rest do to a long standing feud with Ban Johnson, the former Cincinnati sportswriter and longtime president of the American league. Garry Herrmann, the Red’s owner, was the chairman of the National Commission which consisted of all the ML team owners and he was in charge of the World Series. Garry Hermann was a popular guy and known as a party animal around town and at Cincinnati’s leading hostelry, the Hotel Sinton. Federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who was chosen to bring baseball out of the Scandal as the first commissioner of baseball, was a native of Milford, Ohio. The court case with testimony from Joe Jackson and other players went on into 1924.
As a 28-year-old Reds fan born in 1991, this pandemic is especially frustrating. Not only have the Reds never been to the World Series in my lifetime, but I have never witnessed a home playoff win (0-2 in 2012 at the games I attended). The Reds have literally won ONE postseason home game in my lifetime. Pathetic. Even if there is baseball this year and if the Reds make the postseason, what are the odds that fans will be able to attend games? Especially considering the idea that games may be played in a warm weather site. Then there’s the fact that the Reds have the best team they’ve had since 2013 and it’s currently all for nothing. I am beginning to think the Reds are cursed…
The Reds and this city are cursed.