(c) Cliff Eastham.

MLB: Does Size Matter? Comparing the 1961 and 2012 Cincinnati Reds

Does size make a difference? An age-old question, but where did it start?

Was it in a cave, and one little cave boy told the other “Mine is bigger than yours”? This is a respectable family site so we will not get into anything such as that. What I do want to talk about is the physical size of baseball players today in comparison with those of 1961.

It makes little difference where the question came from, as it is asked of many different things. A bigger player does not necessarily equal a better player. Many little guys throughout history have been very good at what they do.

Look at Napoleon Bonaparte, little guy but he was very powerful. Bad example, let’s keep it within the realm of sports, more specifically baseball. Several diminutive men have done quite well in MLB.

Vic Davalillo checked in at only 5’7″ and 150 pounds yet he was a Gold Glove winning All-Star player with a career BA of .279.

You want smaller? I can go smaller, Albie Pearson was just 5’5″ and 140 pounds but was a Rookie-of-the-Year in 1958 and an All-Star. I think you are getting my point so I will move on not wishing to digress.

Look at the conditioning regimens the athletes today put themselves through. A decent percentage of them look as though they were chiseled and sculpted. They are not only bigger, they seem to be faster and stronger as well.

This made me want to delve into the past and see how much difference in size the players in 1961 were with the players of today. I chose the ’61 Reds because that is near the time that I began paying close attention to the club and have a good understanding of those players.

If you are thinking there may be 10 or 15 pounds difference, you are in for a serious shock. The table below shows the player at each position along with their height and weight. This information was obtained from Baseball-Reference.com

1961 2012
WT HT PLAYER POS PLAYER HT WT
185 6’2″ J.Zimmerman C R.Hanigan 6’0″ 210
208 6’3″ G.Coleman 1B J.Votto 6’3″ 225
160 5’10” D.Blasingame 2B B.Phillips 6’0″ 200
175 5’11” G.Freese 3B S.Rolen 6’4″ 245
180 6’0″ E.Kasko SS Z.Cozart 6’0″ 195
190 6’1″ W.Post LF R.Ludwick 6’3″ 215
170 5’11” V.Pinson CF D.Stubbs 6’4″ 205
183 6’1″ F.Robinson RF J.Bruce 6″3″ 225
189 6’2″ Avg All Pitchers P Avg All Pitchers 6’3″ 223
182 6’0″ AVG 6’2″ 216
DIFF 0’2″ 34

Probably the biggest eye-raiser is at the hot corner where Scott Rolen appears as if he is Goliath ready to battle little David (Gene Freese). Please keep in mind that although this is just the Reds team, they were typical of all the players around the major leagues. Nobody thought that Freese was so small.

First baseman Gordy Coleman was a big man in his time, seriously. He was by far the largest man on the field for the Reds. Today’s lineup consists of five position players and the average pitcher who weigh more than Coleman.

I recall how big Ted Kluszewski (Big Klu) was and how he ran around with his shirt sleeves cut off, looking like a Greek God or something. Against the ‘cut’ athletes of today he looked more like a refugee from a beer softball league. For your information he was only 6’2″ and 225 pounds, which would make him just a shade above average in size compared to today’s squad.

I bundled all of the pitchers together and used their composite height and weight. Several of those guys look like they could play power forward for an NBA team or a tight end in the NFL.

To get to the point the 1961 team finished 93-61 and won the National League pennant only to lose to the New York Yankees in the World Series.They had a slash line (nobody knew what that was then) of .270/.325/.421. and hit 158 HR.

In comparison, the 2012 Reds were 97-65, won the Central Division title and was defeated in the first round of the playoffs by eventual World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants. The Reds collectively batted .251/.315/.411 and left the yard 172 times. They actually hit 14 more homers however they played in eight more games.

All of the extra conditioning and nutritional awareness doesn’t appear to have helped that much. But my, they sure look better, faster, meaner and stronger don’t you agree?

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