Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Ernie Lombardi v. Gus Bell

Feb 18, 2016; Goodyear, AZ, USA; View of baseballs in a bucket during workouts at Cincinnati Reds Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2016; Goodyear, AZ, USA; View of baseballs in a bucket during workouts at Cincinnati Reds Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

First Round Matchup No. 8 Ernie Lombardi v. No. 9 Gus Bell


The 17-year veteran backstop spent a decade with the Cincinnati Reds. Known for his scorching line drives and polar opposite running speed, Lombardi is one of the purest hitters to ever grace a Reds uniform. A five-time all-star with the club, he won the batting title with a .342 AVG in 1938. That same season he was named the National League Most Valuable Player.

Two years later Lombardi won just the second World Series in franchise history at that time. The career .311 hitter with the Reds, was proclaimed by some — at that time — to be the best hitter the game had ever seen. One of those people was New York Times writer Arthur Daley:

"“When you look back on him and his 17 years in the majors, you almost come to the conclusion that he was the greatest hitter of all time. Every hit he made … was an honest one. Where a Ty Cobb would scratch out hundreds of infield singles … Lumbering Lom did all his running in the same spot.”"

Lombardi won a second batting title with the Braves in 1942, and was the first catcher to the title multiple times. He is now one of two to do so, the other being Joe Mauer.

Lombardi was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986, not via a vote from the baseball writers, but by the Veteran’s Committee. He also gained notoriety as being the catcher to call Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters in 1938 — his MVP season. And, despite his laughable speed, garnered rave reviews for his arm behind the plate throwing out 47 percent of would-be base stealers during his career. 

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As great as he was, he was unorthodox, too. In an excerpt from his Hall of Fame profile, Lombardi “held the baseball bat like a golf club, interlocking his hands.” Not only did he hit, he hit without being able to run. And not only did he hit without being able to run, he did so while holding the bat — by and large — incorrectly. His career .306 AVG ranks behind only Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey for Hall of Fame catchers.

Lombardi was a part of the first class to be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1958. The Reds have since dedicated a bronze statue of Lombardi outside of Great American Ball Park.


After three seasons in Pittsburgh to begin his career, Gus Bell got a turn with Cincinnati in 1953. He did not disappoint, making the All-Star team and hitting .300 with 30 HR and 105 RBI. Bell was an all-star and knocked in 100+ runs in three additional seasons. He finished as a .288 hitter and hit 160 of his 206 career home runs with the Redlegs.

Bell carried a batting average of .292 or better in six of his first seven seasons with Cincinnati while averaging better than 20 home runs per season. He was, and still is, one of the better center fielders the Reds have ever had. And Reds historian eluded as such in a 2015 article by the Cincinnati Enquirer:

"“At his peak in the mid-1950s he was a very good hitter, and in many categories ranks in the top 20 all-time in Reds history. He was the best center fielder for the Reds since the days of Edd Roush in the 1920s.”"

Joe Nuxhall referred to Bell, in 1995, as “one of the most underrated players who ever played the game.”

Bell was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1964.

Next: Find the full bracket here!

This may be the most lopsided 8-9 matchup in the tournament, but we want to know what each of you think. Both Lombradi and Bell certainly made a long-lasting impact on Cincinnati.

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