Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On this day in Reds history: Lost sheep, fights with Cubs, and the coining of 'Big Red Machine'

Happy Fourth of July everyone! Today marks exactly 236 years since our great nation declared its independence from Great Britain with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

In honor of this glorious occasion, let's fire up the grill, gather around some family and friends, and pay tribute to FREEDOM! Oh, and how about making time for an ole' NL West rivalry bout between the Dodgers and Reds tonight at 9:10et? It's bound to be epic. And since we're on the topic of extraordinary events, let's turn back the clock and take a look at some memorable Fourth of July's in Reds past, shall we?

July 4, 1882 - A day of baseball in the Queen City kicks off at 9 am with an exhibition game between the Reds and the Philadelphia Athletics. The teams played to a 9-9 tie, called after 10 innings, and then enjoyed a large lunch before reconvening for the regularly-scheduled game at 3 o'clock. Despite a special holiday premium on prices (50 cents a ticket), the largest crowd of the season, 5,890, jammed the Bank Street Grounds and watch the Reds lose 6-1 to Philadelphia. Perhaps the big audience made the Reds nervous; the team committed 12 errors. Cincinnati native and National League star, Buck Ewing, umpired the game.

July 4, 1894 - Arlie Latham hits a second-inning grand slam off Brickyard Kennedy in the Reds 14-7 win in the first game of a double header against Brooklyn at League Park. The Reds also won the second game, 13-8.

During the 19th century, the Reds utilized a herd of sheep to keep the grass at the ballpark trim and neat. The day before the July 4 double header in 1894, someone left the gate open to the sheep pen, and the herd disappeared. Like Little Bo Peep, groundskeeper Matty Schwab had lost his sheep, and he scurried all over town trying to find them. After two day search, the animals were found in a lot near the base of Mt. Adams.

July 4, 1929 - The Reds split a double header with the Cubs at Redland Field highlighted by a fight between Reds pitcher Ray Kolp and Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson. The Reds won the first game of the holding twinbill, 9-8, and lost the second, 10-5.

In the first game, Kolp, whose nickname was Jockey for his ability to insult opponents, had been heckling Wilson mercilessly, and the Chicago slugger could take no more. After hitting a single in th eighth inning, Wilson turned and headed toward the Reds dugout, planting a right hook to Kolp's jaw. Wilson neglected to call time out and was tagged out by third basemen Chuck Dressen during the fight. Later that evening, Wilson battled Pete Donogue at the train station after the Reds pitcher made some unkind remarks about Wilson's behavior at the ball park.

July 4, 1969 - The famous nickname "The Big Red Machine" is used for the first time, as the Reds defeat the Dodgers, 4-1, in Los Angeles. The name was placed in print by Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reporter Bob Hunter, who in his account of the game which appeared in the July 5 edition, wrote, "...Bristol, the boy manager of the Big Red Machine, took (Tony Cloninger) out with two on and one down in the ninth." Previously, Hunter had called the Reds "The Big Red Team" in articles printed in the paper on April 8 and April 24.

It seems appropriate that the Big Red Machine was invented on the Fourth of July during the 100th anniversary season of 1869 Red Stockings. The first Cincinnati writer to use the nickname was Bob Hertzel of The Cincinnati Enquirer, in his front page story on the Reds on August 3, after the 19-17 win over the Phillies: "The Big Red Machine is what they call it and today they are calling it something else: the No. 1 team in the Western Division of the National League." The nickname received national recognition when the passage, "Dave Bristol calls his team the Big Red Machine..." appeared in the August 18, 1969 edition of Sports Illustrated.

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