Mathis “Matty” Schwab was on the Cincinnati Reds’ grounds crews as long ago as the 19th century.
Schwab was the Reds’ superintendent for their ballparks from 1903-1963. That means that he was in charge of both Palace of the Fans and Crosley Field. He also worked on the crew at League Park. He was the groundskeeper when the Reds wore the original Red C uniforms.
Schwab began working for the Reds at League Park under his father, John. League Park was the home of the Reds from 1884-1901. In 1902 following a massive fire, the grandstand was rebuilt and the park was renamed Palace of the Fans.
Four generations of Schwab family members have been MLB superintendents. John Schwab was the Reds’s superintendent at League Park, followed by Matty. Matty’s grandson, Mike Dolan, succeeded Matty as the superintendent at Crosley Field. Matty’s son and Mike’s father, was the superintendent at Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and Candlestick Park.
Schwab was in charge of the installation of the field at Crosley. He also pioneered the use of sprinklers on an MLB field, having seen their application at golf courses. That also lead to innovations of the use of advanced field drainage designs.
Matty Schwab was not just a superintendent, but a piece of history for both the Cincinnati Reds and MLB.
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Beyond working on the turf, Schwab’s skills extended to other areas. In addition to designing the scoreboards at League Park and Crosley Field, he also designed scoreboards for the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field where his son was the superintendent. He also designed scoreboards for Yankee Stadium in New York and ballparks in Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
There was an award ceremony the last weekend of January in Clearwater, Florida, naming Schwab the 2017 recipient of the Gary Vanden Berg Award. This ceremony is held annually during the winter meetings for the superintendents of all 30 MLB teams.
Stephen Lord is the current head groundskeeper for the Reds.
Lord is the latest in a proud tradition of people who have taken care of the turf of baseball’s first professional team. He has been with the Reds since beginning of the 2015 season. Prior to that he worked at the Ballpark at Arlington.
The Reds have repeatedly been on the cutting edge of professional baseball. Much of the credit to the innovations of the on field presentation belongs to Matty Schwab. He led the innovation of irrigation, scoreboards, and drainage during his long tenure with the Reds. His induction into the MLB Groundskeeper Hall of Fame was long overdue.