It is difficult sifting through the record books and shaking it all out and creating an All-Star team for any franchise and/or for any time period. I thought it would be good to handpick a Cincinnati Reds’ All-Decade team for the last half of the twentieth century. Since I have lived through that space in time I thought it was appropriate if I took on that daunting task.
This is not to be confused with a series that has Parts 1 through whatever. I will start it for the 1950s and see how it goes after that. This decade will include the seasons from 1950-1959 inclusive. Most living fans (of whom I hope my readership is made of) are not aware of too many players prior to that.
My father, God rest his soul, was a Cardinal fan through and through. He thought you had to pass through Stan Musial to get into Heaven. At any rate, I don’t remember him ever missing a Reds game on TV or the radio, even though he supposedly hated them intensely. We use to listen to Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt announcing the games as he became drunker and drunker by the inning, via Hudepohl, Burger or Falls City, whichever one he drank.
It was not a particularly good time to be a fan of the Reds. They suffered through the decade winning only 741 while losing 798 times. Of course they didn’t win any pennants during that time. In fact, they only finished in the top of the division three times. Prior to the 70’s there were only two leagues, National and American. That’s it. No Eastern Division, nothing else. You won the pennant or you stayed home for the World Series. That was the way they talked back then. If you finished 1-4 you were in the top of the division. If you were anything else, you were in the bottom.
Only statistics compiled for a player while he was with the Reds from ’50-’59 will be admissible. You may look at the table at the end of the article to see what the numbers for each player was.
Let us start behind the plate. There were actually two good catchers during that decade, Ed Bailey and Smoky Burgess. Bailey had more time with the Reds during that decade and therefore he also put up larger numbers. Winner is Bailey. During the fifties with the Reds. Bailey was named to two All-Star teams
Now we look at the first basemen of the fifties. George Crowe came in late in the decade but had a very good year in 1957, smacking 31 HR. He was only on the job for three years and he will have to concede the trophy to “Big Klu”. That is correct sir. Ted Kluszewski was with the Reds eight years that decade. In 1954 he finished runner-up in the MVP voting with 49 HR, 141 RBI and a very good .326 average. Klu is best remembered unfortunately for the fact that he cut the sleeves out of his shirts making him look like a Greek God. My how times have changed.
Back in those dark ages the middle infielders were not known so much for their big bats as their flashy leather. The Reds own Johnny Temple certainly fit that mold. He was in the Queen City for eight of the 10 years. He was named to the All-Star team four times and he lead the National League in walks in 1957 with 94.
At the hot corner I had a difficult choice. Nobody was on the job consistently enough to make me proud of them. I looked at a few different faces: Don Hoak, Alex Grammas and I finally landed on Bobby Adams.
After this decade concluded there were very few shortstops who played for the Reds, because they were that good. But this was before Chico Cardenas. The man’s name who turned up more than any other SS during the fifties is Roy McMillan. He was on two All-Star squads and won three Gold Gloves during the fifties.
I had to choose three outfielders as it was difficult extracting which position a player played at a certain time, tougher than you would think. Some that I passed on because of skinny minutes were Vada Pinson (the most underrated Reds player in history), Curt Flood and Jim Greengrass. The ones I did pick were Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson, Gus Bell and Wally Post. I will be writing more about Pinson as time permits. Most fans know Flood only as the martyr who started all the free agency and reserve clause, and on and on and on. He was a good center fielder.
Bell is the patriarch of the infamous Bell family, he was a good ballplayer who appeared on four All-Star teams for the Reds in this decade. In a four year period from ’53 to ’56 Bell slashed .300/.353/.500 and averaged 28 HR and 105 RBI.
Post was a power-hitting outfielder who never made an All-Star team despite putting up some good numbers. Funny story, in 1955 he posted MVP-type stats with 40 HR, 109 RBI, batted .309 and scored 116 runs. The only thing he lead the league in that year was strikeouts. Get this now. 102 strikeouts lead the league in 1955. It wasn’t a strike-shortened seasons kids, he had 668 PA. Look how far we have come in our ability to swing and miss.
I am only going to be selecting one pitcher for each decade. For this particular decade I had to overlook Don Newcombe, Bob Purkey, Jim O’Toole and Jay Hook. The one I picked was the Ol’ Left-hander, rounding third and heading home.
God Bless you Joe Nuxhall, RIP. Nuxy was the youngest “kid” to ever play professional baseball. He pitched 2/3 of an inning in 1944 when he was only 15. Imagine that if you will. What did you do when you were 15? Or perhaps what will you do, to some younger members of the readership? Anyway during the fifties he was on two All-Star teams.
Nuxhall’s legacy lives on. After a 15 year career with the Reds, Nuxhall joined with Marty Brennaman to form one of the best radio teams of all times.
There you have it Reds’ fans, the best of the fifties. If you like it we can keep going, if not we can stop. Your call.