Red Owners - A History
New owners always cause a ripple in the fans world, especially if that ownership is tied to a larger wagon of cash or a swifter team of businessmen. Replacing the 86 year old Lindner and perhaps the long running Allen (who is without a 2006 contract) could be the starting point to an era of Reds baseball that is free of the taste of Schott-Allen-Lindner triple dip we’ve been licking off the floor for the past 9 years, giving the Reds one good run in 1999 and ending up with the worst pitching in team history.
Chances Dan O’Brien has probably been making a few feeler calls the past couple weeks that had as much to do with him as the Reds. In the next 30 days the sale should be approved by MLB, leaving the early December owners meetings at the launching point for the new regime.
Of course the new guys aren’t really that new, they have Cincinnati roots and the treasured “local connections” a term that is as old and evidently as important as the teams name being the Reds. There already is lots of talk about that fact on the chat boards and the streets, fresh blood gives the illusion of change and change is needed to this franchise as much as any other in the sport.
One thing of note is the Reds have had local ownership for over 100 years, and aside from a 10-year window in the 19th century they have been locally owned since their inception. So in honor of the new ownership group and the sliver of hope that change is indeed on the horizon I’m going to try and run down the list of the Reds owners and some of their accomplishments and failures.
Instead of starting out with Champion and the 1869 team we’ll jump to 1882 and even forget the 5 or so guys that owned the Reds when they entered the National League the first time around (1876-1880) we’ll leap directly to the Gibson Hotel in downtown Cincinnati and into a room where Enquirer columnist O.P. Caylor’s held a meeting to form a new professional league to give the ousted Red Stockings a formal setting to show off their skills, as well as generate a little coin for the principals.
The principals in the early years were a group of men like Caylor, local businessmen with a sporting interest.
In the years from 1882-1886 the ownership group was not the most stable of animals. In that time period the group had 4 owners (Stern, Caylor, Thorner, Herancourt) sold the team to a fifth (John Hauk) who in turn sold it back to Aaron Stern who led the team in 2 of their most important moves in the 19th century.
In 1884 a St. Louis businessman decided he would form a competing baseball league, one that didn’t depend on the reserve clause. The Union Association was a disaster in many ways, lasting only a year before fading into the crowded history of failed leagues. However the UA did affect the Reds. The 1880 Reds owner (and brief owner of the AA Reds) Justus Thorner became interested in the UA and decided to run the Cincinnati entry. The importance of this lies in the fact that Thorner locked down the Reds playing field on Bank Street as the venue that his team would call home, leaving the Reds homeless.
Lucky for the Reds Aaron Stern found a site a mile or so south of the Unions on the corner of Findlay and Western, in an abandoned brick yard. Securing the lease on the land by the spring there stood a new park, which was the Reds home for the next 87 years.
Stern's next move might have been the best of his career. In 1890 another new league created the opportunity as it had before when the Reds lost their ballfield. The Brotherhood League helped weaken the AA leaving the weaker teams to wallow in a pool of lesser talent and the stronger teams to look for more robust opponents. In search of better business opportunities Stern reapplied to the National League. In November of 1889 the Reds were restructured to take care of the departed Brotherhood players and along with Brooklyn they were readmitted to the National League, where they’ve been ever since.
Sterns and company had a tenure that was marked by the Reds 1st League championship in 1882 and was highlighted by players such as Bid McPhee and Tony Mullane. One note is that the Enquirer did not like the Reds too much back in the 1880’s and showered them with a torrent of bad press. This mostly is due to an acrimonious relationship with Caylor, who jumped to the rival Commercial Gazette about the time he became involved with the Reds and the AA.
Brush was an owner in the era of “Syndicate Ball” and had an interest in the Giants as well. His tenure will always be marked by the Christy Mathewson incident, but he also presided over a few changes that were for the better, if not innovative. Among his accomplishments was hiring former Providence manager Frank Bancroft, Banny was an institution with the Reds until his death in 1921. Together he and Brush can take responsibility for genesis of Opening Day and the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event as well as instituting the first use of a farm team with the Reds deal with Indianapolis in the mid 1890’s. It was also underneath the Brush administration that the field dimensions were changed in 1894, when the diamond was moved, with the former spot for home plate becoming right field. Perhaps Brush’s greatest achievement as a Reds owner was the installation of the Palace of the Fans and the famous rooters row in League Park in 1902. Based on the architecture exhibited at the 1892 Worlds Fair the park took on an air that was not found at any other ball field in America.
Some of the players for the Reds in that era were.
Buck Ewing, Arlie Laham, Charles Comiskey, Jake Beckley, Dummy Hoy, Bug Holliday, Bid McPhee to name a few of the popular players who wore red.
One thing about the Reds ownership situation is that it has often been the responsibility of a group of locals as opposed to the singular leader at the top of the food chain. Herrmann was the appointed leader of the Reds for a quarter of a century, presiding over a team that was within 7 games of first only 4 times in that span, winning the league only once in 1919.
Never a rich franchise the Reds employed 12 managers in Herrmann’s tenure, looking constantly for the right fit. Employed were player managers like Tinker, Kelly, Herzog, Ganzel and Clarke and even the umpire from Merkel incident was given a year as manager for the Reds. All and all the franchise wasn’t a pillar of strength and had accomplishments that are faded to light sepia in the glow of the Reds from the second half of the century. Herrmann’s greatest achievement as the owner would be his involvement in helping develop policy in MLB as he served on the governing board prior to Landis’s appointment. He helped cement Cincinnati’s involvement in the National League, making it harder to ever suggest moving the team in the future. He also presided over the opening of Redland Field in 1912, the all concrete and steel stadium ushered in the era of modern parks in the Cincinnati area.
Tainted by the gambling scandal the Reds 1919 championship never fully belonged to the city, in the 20’s they fielded a club that had more stability than ever before and perhaps the best pitching of the franchises history. Alas the hitting was more often absent in the cavernous Redland than present and by the end of the 1927 season the Reds brief window of opportunity was closing fast.
After the 1927 season Herrmann resigned due to increasing deafness and the ownership mantle passed to board member C. J. McDiarmi, who took the business as usual approach until another rustling of a new owner was heard in the late parts of the 1929 season.
Some of the players during the Herrmann era included, Noodles Hahn, Cy Seymour, Mike Donlin, Clark Griffith, Bob Beschler, Miller Huggins, Hans Lobert, Pete Donahue, Edd Roush, Rube Bressler, Dolph Luque, Bubbles Hargrove and Ethan Allen to name a few.
In a show of faith he inked 4 current players to salary increases, obtained Bob Meusel from the Yankees and Harry Heilmann from the Tigers. While Weil was wheeling and dealing his personal worth was taking a large hit from the stock market crash. Like many Weil’s worth was paper in nature and when the nature of the paper changed so did his worth. Thus beginning the worst run of luck the franchise had ever experienced, being highlighted by 3 straight last place finishes and the endless stream of washed up stars like Babe Herman and Chick Hafney.
By the end of the 1934 season Weil could no longer bail the water out of the bottom of the boat and relinquished his control of the club to the Central Trust Bank, who held the paper on the team after Weil’s stock market problems. Leaving a team swashed in bankruptcy, a depleted park and empty seats. Perhaps his greatest legacy will be the treatment he afforded players like Leo Durocher, whom he guided thru a tumultuous transition from the Yankees to the Reds. Weil also could lay claim to obtaining Ernie Lombardi as well as Paul Derringer (who the Reds got for Leo)
In less than 90 days Larry had persuaded local businessman Powell Crosley to buy the Reds. Spending a scant $175,000 dollars for the “controlling” stock Crosley took an option on 80% of the remaining stock (which he eventually obtained) Crosley held the Reds from 1934-1961, the longest continuous ownership reign in Reds history; he also created the basis for the legacy that propelled the Reds into the Big Red Machine era with a semblance of success that was at least better than the Philles and Pirates.
Like an ocean liner turning around a moribund franchise is an easier task spoken than one done. Crosley’s first year as owner also happens to be the year that the Reds had their worst winning percentage of all time, finishing 42 games behind the Cardinals who had finished first 5 times in the nine years since the Reds had last won 80 games. Crosley not only put the Reds on the baseball map, he helped bring night ball to the major leagues, installed WLW as the flagship station in Cincinnati as well as the whole Ohio Valley and made Crosley Field into a pleasant relic that captured the imagination of the locals until the day it was nothing but a parking lot.
Crosley brought in another Cardinal in 1936 when Warren Giles took McPhail’s place and brought a couple of guys with him that would become GM’s in the 50’s, One Frank Lary was known as the premier wheeler dealer in the American League in the 50’s. The other Gabe Paul was an assistant with Giles in the Cardinal’s system and took the GM duties from Giles when Warren became NL president in 1951. He guided the Reds through the 50’s, an era in the minds of many locals that is rich in lore as being the last vestige of the ballplayer as a local community member, not a star, not a demigod, but a man who played ball for a living and drank beer out of the bottle.
Paul resigned in 1960; Crosley was advancing in age and had recently rejected overturns from NYC to move the Reds there. In Paul’s absence he turned to another baseball man with roots that led to St. Louis and the Cardinal organization and hired Bill DeWitt to run the Reds.
IN 1961 The Berlin Wall was constructed, Powell Crosley died and Nuxhall was traded, of course the Reds came out of nowhere and won the National Leagues last title in an eight team league.
Fate is a funny thing, sometimes it leaves out major players.
After the 1961 series DeWitt purchased the Reds from the Crosley estate for 4.6 million dollars, ending Crosley’s run as the Reds owner, the longest in club history leaving a legacy of 3 NL Titles and a World Championship. Bringing legends to the Reds like Ted Klusiwski, Bucky Walters, Frank McCormick, Ewell Blackwell, Gus Bell, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Roy McMillan, Johnny Temple and Billy Weber.
DeWitt’s failing’s could be found in 3 areas, number one would be the never forgotten trade of Frank Robinson, number two would be the in the hiring of Don Heffner as manager in 1966 (a mistake later repeated by Howsam with Vern Rapp) and number three would be his undoing.
Woefully inadequate in the car driven 60’s Crosley Field was beginning to show its age.
Dewitt’s’ first suggestion to fix the problem was in 1964 when he announced that Crosley should be expanded. Like the idea to expand Riverfront in the late 90’s the idea was deemed to expensive for the final result, soon after other options began to be explored, one idea floating about was a Riverfront location, one that DeWitt was against, preferring on building a new stadium in Blue Ash instead. By mid season 1966 a multi use stadium was approved by the city council. Rather than commit to a long-term lease DeWitt sold the Reds to local interests, led by Frank Dale for 7 million dollars in December 5th.
Among the players DeWitt marked his tenure with were, Tommy Harper, Joey Jay, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Lee May, Deron Johnson, Jim Maloney, Leo Cárdenas and the first draft with Carbo and Bench coming in back to back.
The rest is history, known by all Reds fans and talked about in living rooms all over the tri-state area.
But like an Old Maid card the controlling share moved around during the Big Red Machine era, moving from Dale to Louis Nippert in early 1973 and then to the Williams Brothers in 1981. During Nippert’s reign the Reds achieved their greatest success and in 1978 Howsam moved aside and Dick Wagner stepped in, any mention of his deeds are unnecessary Wagner’s reputation as an executive is only eclipsed by his utter lack of knowledge when it came to judging talent. That said it was known that he could squeeze pennies out of any contract, a part of the Reds organization that is as old as the teams nickname.
It took the Williams brothers and the 1982-1983 seasons to finally rush Wagner out the door in July of 1983, his replacement was his mentor Bob Howsam who brought back Pete Rose and Tony Perez, washing the grey walls of Reds baseball with the paint of the past while he attempted to fix the teams beleaguered infrastructure. In the autumn of 1984 Howsam stepped aside into the background again and the Reds had their 7th General Manager in their history Bill Bergesch, who was not a Cardinal product, the first Reds GM that wasn’t. His prior job was director of baseball operations for the Yankees.
On the first day of winter in 1984 the old maid card found a new holder when it landed in the hands of Marge Schott.
I’d list the players during this era but I think that’s not necessary.
The problem is she eventually got there for all the wrong reasons, too numerous and repeated often enough to be approaching legend status throughout the seven hills and up into the plains of central Ohio and beyond. Rather than bore you with the details, we’ll focus on the accomplishments. Howsam once again built a stronger Reds team, the 85 team was perhaps the oldest Reds team ever, with no regular younger than 28.
The 1987 team held the team’s crown jewels close to the vest in July of 1987… sitting in first late that month the team was 2nd in the league in runs but working on their 3rd straight month of a team era of 4.80.
Rather than part with O’Neil, Larkin or Daniels the Reds GM did his best Pat Gillick in Seattle impression and rode the tight race out with the cards dealt him, the result cost the GM Bergesch his job in the fall and the 8th general manager Murray Cook came aboard, not a Cardinal but another Yankee (Expo GM too) two days after his appointment he traded Kurt Stillwell to the Royals.
After the 1989 season (An experience that still troubles me) Cook was jettisoned by Schott and Bob Quinn another Yankee was brought in to run the show, three years later he was also putting his resume out there in hopes of finding a new position as the Reds dumped him and brought in 31 year old Bowden (another Yankee) to run the show.
Despite the World Championship and the 1995 team the Reds were mostly just completive during Schott’s tenure, never dominating, never a sure thing.
Some of the players that arrived in this ear would be Browning, Dibble, Larkin, Boone, Sanders, Meyers, Oliver, Gant, Mitchell, Jackson, Reese and Taubensee.
Bowden’s replacement is the ying to Jim’s yang, the conservative, and cautious approach of Dan O’Brien (whose daddy was the GM in Texas in the mid 70’s) has led us to where the Reds sit today, hoping that the new owners can right the ship, turn around the ocean liner, spend money, pick better players, market better, be more honest with the fans etc.
Re: Red Owners - A History
I thought this thread was going to be about Communist owners. ;)
Re: Red Owners - A History
Where's Warren Beatty? This was about Reds, right???
Seriously, great work as usual, woy....
Re: Red Owners - A History
Awesome work WOY :)
Re: Red Owners - A History
Great reading as always, WOY. One minor typo:
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