Season-long tribute planned to pioneering 1869 Red Stockings
By DAN SEWELL
Monday, February 11
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Reds are fashionably celebrating the 150th anniversary of the professional baseball-pioneering Red Stockings team.
Joey Votto and crew will play games in 15 sets of throwback uniforms, including a navy blue and a red-pants “Palm Beach” version, during a season-long celebration of the city’s baseball heritage highlighted by the undefeated 1869 Cincinnati team that barnstormed coast-to-coast in post-Civil War America. Baseball’s first openly all-salaried club, the Red Stockings popularized eye-catching uniforms with knicker-style pants and bright red socks while elevating the sports with a variety of innovations.
“From a historical point of view and in the evolution of baseball as the national pastime, the 1869 Red Stockings were the cornerstone,” said Greg Rhodes, the Reds team historian and co-author of “The First Boys of Summer.” ”It’s hard to imagine the modern game of baseball without the Red Stockings.”
Six questions and answers about the anniversary:
WHO WERE THE RED STOCKINGS?
The powerhouse team grew out of the goal of a couple Cincinnati attorneys to build their local baseball club into one that could beat the best teams in the East. Baseball’s postwar popularity had swelled and paying players, often under the table, became more common in what had begun as a gentlemen’s game.
The Red Stockings became the first openly all-salaried team after a quest for talent Major League Baseball historian John Thorn compares to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner’s free spending more than a century later.
“This is a team comprised of the very best players that could be found and induced to come to Cincinnati,” Thorn said.
The biggest coup was signing player-manager Harry Wright’s younger brother George, a star who had been team-hopping.
That first payroll totaled around $10,000 for 10 players.
HOW GOOD WERE THEY?
Thorn considers the 1869 squad among the best all-time teams. They averaged more than 40 runs a game and remain professional baseball’s only undefeated team after going 57-0.
Thorn says 19 wins came against teams also classified as “professional.” Rhodes says Harry Wright didn’t count in the win total more than a dozen other victories against teams that weren’t recognized by baseball’s national association.
His older brother’s records show George Wright batted about .630 with 49 home runs while averaging nearly six runs scored per game. Thorn compares George in all-around ability for his time to Alex Rodriguez at his peak; a feared hitter who was also a superb fielder (in the pre-glove era) with a powerful arm that allowed him to play unusually deep at shortstop.
With players under contract, Harry, an England-born cricket star, worked them hard on baseball technique and physical training. The Red Stockings developed calling fly balls, using relay throws, making defensive shifts, and intentionally dropping pop-ups to turn double plays (not allowed under today’s infield fly rule). They ran the bases more aggressively than opponents, and Harry Wright was a relief pitching innovator, coming in with his slow “dew drop” to disrupt batters’ timing after fast-throwing regular pitcher Asa Brainard.
HOW BIG A DEAL WERE THEY?
The Red Stockings took the nation by storm, playing coast-to-coast with swings through the East and a transcontinental railroad trip to California.
Wearing knickers with bright stockings instead of long pants gave the young (seven of the 10 were age 22 or younger), muscular players an eye-catching look that, the Chronicle of San Francisco observed, “shows their calves in all their magnitude and rotundity.”
Author Darryl Brock, who retraced their travels for his historical novel, “If I Never Get Back,” describes women greeting the players by lifting their skirts to show their own red stockings. The team arrived at games singing a ditty that concluded: “Red Stockings all will toss the ball, and shout our loud Hurrah!” They showed off their skills in crowd-pleasing warmup drills.
Before mass media, they became a national sensation through telegraph reports, newspapers and national weeklies.
“The nation had been so badly divided (by war),” said Brock. “They were kind of a bonding influence … the enormous excitement they generated.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TEAM?
The players got $50 bonuses and returned for 1870. They ran their streak to 81, traveled south to play in New Orleans, and compiled a 124-6-1 two-season total.
Then they folded.
“They were a terrific success on the field,” Rhodes said. “They could never quite figure out how to make it work financially.”
Home attendance tumbled in 1870 after the first losses tarnished their mystique. With stepped-up spending by other teams, the club’s management saw salaries rising beyond feasibility.
“Like today, there was this tension between the bigger markets and the smaller markets,” Rhodes said.
The Wrights headed to Boston, using the Red Stockings name, and helped form the club in 1871 that today calls itself baseball’s oldest continuously operating team. Surprise: it’s not the Boston Red Sox, but the Braves, who became the Braves while in Boston, moved to Milwaukee, and settled in Atlanta.
WHAT’S PLANNED FOR TRIBUTES?
All Major League Baseball teams will wear uniform patches marking 150 years throughout this season, and there will be special patches for caps for their opening day games, said Barbara McHugh, MLB senior vice president for marketing. There will also be season-long special content on MLB’s social media channels, and McHugh said Commissioner Rob Manfred will be in Cincinnati for the March 28 Opening Day festivities and will take part in the annual pregame parade through the city.
The Reds, meanwhile, will have their own commemorative patches, with different versions for home and away uniforms.
And that’s just for starters.
“You don’t do it in one day or in one homestead or even in a month, so we’re really taking the entire season to celebrate that and tell you about the history a little piece at a time,” said Phil Castellini, the Reds’ chief operating officer.
Some 20 benches will be placed around the Cincinnati region depicting handlebar-mustached mascot Mr. Redlegs, ready for fan selfies. The club’s Hall of Fame and Museum will re-open in March after a sweeping renovation. On May 4, the Reds will open “The 1869 Pavilion” outdoors in tribute to the Red Stockings who played their first official game that date.
On July 5, an off day, the Reds plan an “open house” allowing fans to visit Great American Ball Park for free, mingle with the team, and finish with an on-field concert and a fireworks show.
The uniforms will represent historic events, such as baseball’s first night game in 1935, and the best Reds teams such as the 1976 “Big Red Machine” team that swept the postseason. The 1911 blue road uniforms and 1930s lightweight “Palm Beach” style with red pants are examples of unusual styles. There will be no 1869 throwbacks, because that early, bulky style could hinder players, Castellini said.
New Reds manager David Bell is looking forward to the throwbacks, particularly a 1956 version. That’s the year his grandfather Gus Bell helped the Reds tie the then-MLB record for home runs with 221.
“Wearing a uniform like that is an honor,” said Bell, whose father Buddy also played for the Reds. “You think about all the great players, the great people who wore those uniforms. It really means a lot.”
WHAT ABOUT THE CURRENT REDS?
After four straight last-place finishes, the Reds have overhauled their pitching and added past All-Star outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp for 2019.
“It’s critical because our job on the business side of this franchise is to wrap the show around the game on the field,” Castellini said. “We were already throwing a great party … It’s important that you have that performance on the field, because that good time can only go so far.”
Lifelong fan Steve Pohlman, 47, and son Tyler, 18, turned out for the team’s recent winter caravan tour and will be at 150th anniversary events.
“It’s something I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about,” Tyler said. As for the Reds’ recent struggles: “We’ve just got to stick with it. This is Cincinnati baseball.”
Follow Dan Sewell at https://twitter.com/dansewell
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AL Central teams at the start of spring training
By The Associated Press
Friday, February 8
A team-by-team look at the American League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:
Manager: Terry Francona (seventh season).
2018: 91-71, first place, lost to Houston in Division Series.
Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.
Park: Goodyear Ballpark.
First Workout: Feb. 14/18.
He’s Here: 1B-DH Carlos Santana, 1B Jake Bauers, C Kevin Plawecki, OF Jordan Luplow, RHP Chih-Wei Hu, RHP Nick Wittgren, LHP Oliver Perez, INF Ryan Flaherty, C Dioner Navarro.
He’s Outta Here: OF Michael Brantley, DH Edwin Encarnacion, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Cody Allen, C Yan Gomes, 1B Yonder Alonso, 3B Yandy Diaz, 2B Erik Gonzalez.
Going campin’: The Indians followed up a third straight AL Central title with another postseason disappointment, getting swept in the Division Series by Houston. The offseason goal was to reduce payroll, and the Indians went at their roster with a wrecking ball. They wiped roughly $20 million off the books with several significant trades, dealing away slugger Encarnacion, All-Star catcher Gomes and Alonso. In addition, All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor will miss spring training with a strained right calf, a worrisome soft tissue injury that could keep the team’s best player off the field into the season’s first month. Cleveland also took a big hit in free agency, choosing not to re-sign closer Allen or lefty reliever Miller, two bullpen mainstays of the past, as well as Brantley. The club didn’t pull the trigger on offers for ace Corey Kluber or All-Star right-hander Trevor Bauer, but those conversations could continue into this season. Despite the makeover, the Indians remain the team to beat in their division, but this club has much higher goals after getting to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The outfield is a major concern heading into the spring, but the returns of Bradley Zimmer and Leonys Martin from injuries should help. Francona’s other objective will be rebuilding the back end of what was once one of the AL’s best bullpens.
Manager: Rocco Baldelli (first season).
2018: 78-84, second place.
Training Town: Fort Myers, Florida.
Park: Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
First Workout: Feb. 14/18.
He’s Here: DH-OF Nelson Cruz, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Blake Parker, 1B C.J. Cron, LHP Martin Perez, INF Ronald Torreyes, LHP Tim Collins.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Paul Molitor, 1B Joe Mauer, OF-DH Robbie Grossman, 1B-DH Logan Morrison, 2B Logan Forsythe, RHP Ervin Santana, RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Alan Busenitz.
Going campin’: Baldelli, who at 37 is the youngest manager in the majors, spent the last eight seasons either on the coaching staff or working in the front office with Tampa Bay. He has brought a fresh source of energy and ideas that the Twins are banking on to help bring out the best in some of their underperforming young players, with center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano at the top of that list following a rough 2018 season for both of them. Other players who will be closely watched throughout spring training are RHP Michael Pineda (elbow) and C Jason Castro (knee), with each coming off a major injury. Pineda didn’t pitch in 2018, and Castro’s season was over after 19 games. After adding RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Lance Lynn and Morrison last year, acquisitions made after spring training started, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine have said they underestimated the challenge of such late integrations after seeing them struggle through 2018. Lynn was among several key players traded last summer before the deadline. Falvey and Levine expressed caution about February or March moves this year despite the abundance of high-profile free agents remaining on the market. Baldelli has so far kept quiet about his preferred closer candidates, with Parker the only offseason addition to the bullpen. Returning relievers Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Addison Reed and Taylor Rogers will all hold late-inning roles, if they’re not in the mix with Parker for the ninth.
Manager: Ron Gardenhire (second season).
2018: 64-98, third place.
Training Town: Lakeland, Florida.
Park: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 13/18.
He’s Here: LHP Matt Moore, RHP Tyson Ross, SS Jordy Mercer, 2B Gordon Beckham, 2B Brandon Dixon, 3B-RHP Kaleb Cowart.
He’s Outta Here: DH Victor Martinez, SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Francisco Liriano, C James McCann, RHP Alex Wilson, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, RHP Artie Lewicki.
Going campin’: The Tigers have lost 98 games in each of the past two seasons, and the big question is how soon some of the team’s top prospects might be ready to contribute in the big leagues. Right-hander Casey Mize, the top pick in last year’s draft, was invited to major league camp, and while his debut in Detroit may still be way off, he’ll be a player to watch in spring training. The Tigers are hoping for a bounce-back performance from slugger Miguel Cabrera, who played only 38 games last year before having season-ending biceps surgery.
Chicago White Sox
Manager: Rick Renteria (third season).
2018: 62-100, fourth place.
Training Town: Glendale, Arizona.
Park: Camelback Ranch.
First Workout: Feb. 13/18.
He’s Here: RHP Ivan Nova, 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, RHP Kelvin Herrera, RHP Alex Colome, OF Jon Jay, C James McCann, OF Brandon Guyer.
He’s Outta Here: OF Avisail Garcia, DH-INF Matt Davidson, RHP James Shields.
Going campin’: The White Sox would love to jumpstart their rebuild by signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Even if they don’t land one of the prized free agents, they believe they are setting themselves up to start climbing. They have six straight losing seasons and are coming off their highest loss total since the 1970 team dropped a franchise-record 106 games. They also struck out more times than any other team in major league history. But they have promising players on the roster and in the farm system. Touted infielder Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech — who will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery — have shown potential in the majors. Eloy Jimenez, one of baseball’s top hitting prospects, could debut early this season. Dylan Cease might also get called up and join the rotation at some point.
Kansas City Royals
Manager: Ned Yost (10th season).
2018: 58-104, fifth place.
Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.
Park: Surprise Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 13/18.
He’s Here: OF Billy Hamilton, RHP Brad Boxberger, INF-OF Chris Owings, RHP Chris Ellis.
He’s Outta Here: INF Cheslor Cuthbert, RHP Brandon Maurer, RHP Nate Karns, RHP Jason Hammel.
Going Campin’: The Royals knew they’d go through growing pains as they jettisoned veterans and began a rebuild in earnest last season, and that was reflected in 100-plus losses just three years after a World Series championship. SS Adalberto Mondesi was a breakout star the last couple months of the season, and 3B Hunter Dozier and 1B Ryan O’Hearn showed promise. The Royals need more from starting LHP Danny Duffy and RHP Ian Kennedy, especially after RHPs Brad Keller and Jakob Junis flashed late in the season. The bullpen is the biggest question mark with only RHPs Wily Peralta and Kevin McCarthy safe bets to make the 25-man roster. Also of note this spring: former top prospect Kyle Zimmer says he is healthy and ready to attempt a comeback after injuries derailed his promising career.
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Harper, Machado, Kimbrel, Keuchel on market as camps open
By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
Monday, February 11
Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel won’t be around when the bat and ball bags are opened at spring training throughout Florida and Arizona this week.
They are among the dozens of free agents still looking for jobs, joined by Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez and Gio Gonzalez.
For the second straight winter, camps are opening with many rosters in exceptional flux.
“The market will sort itself out,” St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said at last week’s owners’ meetings. “There is a long time between the end of the season and spring training, and there’s maybe not so much a sense of urgency on whichever side it happens to be.”
Among the 164 players who exercised free agency rights at the end of last year’s World Series, 84 had announced agreements on the eve of spring training. That is up from 65 of 166 at roughly the same point last season but down from 105 of 158 two years ago.
Boston added J.D. Martinez last Feb. 26 and Philadelphia brought in Jake Arrieta on March 12. All but 26 of the free agents last offseason eventually reached deals, but some with big-money contracts flopped after late starts: Yu Darvish joined the Chicago Cubs on Feb. 13, went 1-3 and didn’t pitch after May 20 because of arm problems. Eric Hosmer finalized his agreement with San Diego on Feb. 19 and hit a career-worst .253 with 69 RBIs. Alex Cobb signed with Baltimore on March 26 and went 5-16.
A drawn-out negotiating process means clubs have lost time in marketing new acquisitions, which seems especially significant to a sport coming off three straight years of attendance declines. Average attendance dropped below 30,000 last year for the first time since 2003.
“We want players signed, particularly star players. I wish they were signed and ready to go,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday. “We got another week before they have to report. I’m really hopeful that it’s going to get resolved during that period of time.”
Oakland takes the field first, starting workouts Monday in Mesa, Arizona. Seattle follows Tuesday in Peoria, Arizona, with both teams getting early starts because they open the season in Tokyo on March 20-21, a week before other teams get underway. Every other club launches practice Wednesday or Thursday except for Atlanta, which waits until Saturday.
Six new managers are in charge for the second straight spring training and five of them are big league rookie skippers for the second straight year. Rocco Baldelli (Minnesota), David Bell (Cincinnati), Brandon Hyde (Baltimore), Charlie Montoyo (Toronto) and Chris Woodward (Texas) are first-timers running a big league dugout, joined by the Los Angeles Angels’ Brad Ausmus, Detroit’s manager from 2014-17.
One of last year’s rookie managers was Alex Cora, who led Boston to its fourth World Series title in 15 seasons. The Red Sox hope to become the first team to win consecutive titles since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees.
“Repeating is tough,” Cora said. “It starts with the players. People are going to talk about hangovers and all that and the banquet circuit. It’s part of it. But they’ve been disciplined enough.”
New baseball operations heads are in charge of three teams: Mike Elias (Baltimore), Farhan Zaidi (San Francisco) and Brodie Van Wagenen (New York Mets).
Among the major trades of the offseason, Philadelphia obtained catcher J.T. Realmuto from Miami, St. Louis got first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona and the New York Mets got second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from Seattle. In the free-agent market thus far, Washington added left-hander Patrick Corbin and the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock, Atlanta got third baseman Josh Donaldson and Colorado picked up second baseman Daniel Murphy.
By March 28, when most teams open, many rosters will look significantly different. The Mets and Phillies have noticeably bolstered theirs. Others chose rebuilding and appear to have little chance to reach the postseason: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kanas City, Miami, Seattle and Toronto.
“There’s always been players available in February or March,” Van Wagenen said. “I think there’s been a higher volume of more-recognizable names than in the past.”
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