When the ’73 season opened the Reds had some concerns. Johnny Bench was coming back from lung surgery; Bobby Tolan from a leg injury he suffered while playing hoops for the Reds off-season team; anticipated right fielder George Foster was headed to Triple A; and the starting pitching was a bit thin. Then in his second start of the season, Gary Nolan, probably the team’s best starter, went down with an injury that took him out of action for two years. Still, they were defending NL champs and with Jack Billingham pitching his butt off they opened the season on a 100-victory pace and were hanging pretty well with the red-hot Giants and Dodgers. Then came a 13-20 June swoon that pulled them down to fourth place that highlighted their need for another starter and some offensive gaps. The Reds filled the former hole by picking up Fred Norman from the Padres and the latter – mainly at third base and right field – by delving into their farm system, with the most notable pull-up being Dan Driessen. From there they went 91-27 – stoked at least in part by Hal King’s three-run homer to beat LA July 1 - and a nice early September run took them past the Dodgers and into first for good. They never looked back and were sure to steamroll over the Mets to return to the Series. Oops.
Again, since these posts take so long I am splitting up the bios to two posts. This time there’s only one offensive record-holder not profiled (Ted Kluszewski was highlighted on the Reds coaches card and Sam Crawford on the Tigers team card) so I am including a few of the pitchers on the first post.
Before there was Babe Ruth there was Cy Seymour, who sounds more like an NYC retailer than a baseball player, but Cy was the real deal. He grew up outside Albany, NY, and at some point after high school he began playing semi-pro ball upstate for some pretty fat paychecks. He was signed by the Giants in 1896 when he was 23 and in a short season of A ball went 4-6 with a 1.47 ERA and hit .290 before debuting later that year in NY. In ’97 he won 18 while leading the NL in strikeouts and walks and then in ’98 had his big season on the mound, winning 25 with a 3.18 ERA and again doing that double leader thing. He also hit .276 while playing 35 games in the outfield. In ’99 his record fell to 14-18 as the team slid pretty hard but he raised his average to .327. In 1900 it seems a combination of fallout with management, injury, and poor performance led to an extreme contraction in playing time and after the season he jumped to the Baltimore Orioles of the new American League. There Cy hit .303 as a full-time outfielder and after starting the ’02 season with a .268 average was distributed to Cincinnati as part of the Baltimore diaspora after that club had financial problems. He hit .340 the rest of the way and followed that up with a .342 in ’03 and .313 in ’04. In ’05 he had his big year, hitting .377 with a .429 OBA. Aside from leading the NL in hitting, he also led it in hits (219), doubles (40), triples (21), RBI’s (121), and slugging (.559) and missed a Triple Crown by one homer. In ’06 after his average dipped to .257 the first half of the year he was sold to NY to be reunited with John McGraw for a then–record $12,000. He hit .320 the rest of the way and finished the year with 80 RBI’s. In ’07 he hit .294 with 75 RBI’s despite an injury and in ’08 .267 with 92 RBI’s. In ’09 at 36 he started about half the games in the outfield but hit .311 and after hitting .265 two-thirds of the way through the following year he was sold to Baltimore, now a minor league team. For them he averaged a bit over .300 the next two seasons in A and Double A. He then signed with the Boston Braves before the ’13 season but after hitting only .178 in a few games was done in the majors. He finished with a .303 average with 1,724 hits, 96 triples, 52 homers, and 799 RBI’s in about ten full-time seasons as a hitter and on the mound was 61-56 with a 3.73 ERA and 105 complete games in what amounted to about three seasons as a pitcher. From ’14 to ’18 Cy stuck around the NY area, returning to semi-pro ball and working various industrial jobs. In ’18 he began working in the shipyards of Brooklyn for the WW I effort and early the next year contracted tuberculosis while he was already in less than excellent health. He passed away from the disease later that year at age 46.
Frank “Noodles” Hahn was from the same era as Cy Seymour but was a pitcher all the way. Born in Nashville, he was playing semi-pro ball by the time he was 15 and two years later in 1896 was signed by Mobile, a Class B Southern Association team. For them he went 7-4 with a 1.44 ERA and in ’97 was flipped to Detroit, then a Class A team. In two seasons there he went a combined 29-36 in nearly 600 innings with strikeout totals near the top of his league. Prior to the ’99 season he was bought by the Reds and he made an immediate impact, going 23-8 his rookie year with a 2.68 ERA and an NL-leading 145 strikeouts. In 1900 his record fell to 16-20 but he threw a no-hitter. Then in ’01 he went 22-19 while leading the league in innings (375), complete games (41!), and strikeouts (239) for his third season in a row on the final stat. In ’02 he had what may have been his best season ex-strikeouts as he went 23-12 with a 1.77 ERA, followed up by an ’03 in which he was 22-12 with a 2.52 ERA. While Frank went 107-71 those five seasons the Reds as a team went 341-366. In ’04 he put up a 2.06 ERA but only went 16-18 and couldn’t break triple figures in K’s. Those six seasons in which he averaged over 300 innings took their toll and in ’05 he went only 5-3 in a season shortened by injury. In ’06 he hooked up with the Highlanders but was done after only six games at age 27. He went 130-94 with a 2.55 ERA with 212 complete games and 25 shutouts. He then returned to Cincinnati where he became an inspector for the federal government which he did until he retired. He also pitched batting practice for the Reds until ’46 when he was 68. Shortly thereafter he retired to North Carolina where he passed away in 1960 at age 80.
Dolf Luque (pronounced Lu-KAY) was the first prominent Latin MLB player ever. Born in Havana – his nickname was “The Pride of Havana” – he played semi-pro ball down there until 1911 when he put in a couple seasons for the national team and was then brought north by a Cuban businessman who was part owner of a D League team in New Jersey. In ’13 Dolf went 22-5 and also hit .281 in off-days playing third base to pique the curiosity of the Boston Braves for whom he pitched a few innings the next couple years. He spent most of that time in Double A going 2-10 the first year and 15-9 the second before being sold to Louisville, another Double A team with a loose affiliation with the Reds. For that team Dolf went a combined 26-14 with a 2.41 ERA while in ’17 also playing a bunch at third again. In ’18 he came up to Cincinnati and went 6-3 the rest of the way in the rotation. In ’19 he added four wins and three saves mostly working in the pen and added five innings of shutout relief in the Series. He returned to the rotation the next two seasons, going 30-28 and then led the NL in losses in 22 with 23, though his 3.31 ERA was considerably better than league average. In ’23 he had his big season, going 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA and six shutouts, leading the majors in all three categories. The next five seasons he was a more pedestrian 63-71 and in ’25 added another ERA title with a 2.63. In ’29 he had a 5-16 season and the next year was traded to Brooklyn where he went 21-14 in a couple seasons. Prior to the ’32 season when he was 41 he signed with the Giants where he became a relief guy, his best season being ’33 when he went 8-2 with four saves and a 2.69 ERA with another excellent Series outing. He stayed with NY through ’35 and finished with a record of 194-179 with a 3.24 ERA, 206 complete games, 26 shutouts, and 28 saves. He also hit .227 with five homers and 90 RBI’s and in the post-season went 1-0 in nine shutout innings with eleven K’s. He also went 93-62 in Cuba over 22 seasons and won eight titles there as a manager from 1919 through ’54, going 565-471 during that time. In the early to mid-Fifties he also managed in Mexico during the regular season, winning a couple pennants there. He passed away in 1957 back in Havana shortly thereafter at age 66.
Bucky Walters was sort of Cy Seymour in reverse. He grew up in Philadelphia and quit high school his sophomore year to work as an electrician and played semi-pro ball as a shortstop and occasional pitcher. He got signed by a scout in 1929 to a team in Alabama and then was shipped up to North Carolina where he pitched and played third, hitting .296 for the C level team. He then chucked pitching a few seasons, moving to B ball in ’30 as an infielder and to A ball in ’31 where he hit .326 while playing third. That year he was signed by the Boston Braves and moved to their system. After a mediocre season in Double A in ’32 he moved to the Pacific Coast League and hit .376 at that level in ’33 and was then sold to the Red Sox, hitting .256 up top while playing third. Midway through ’34 Bucky got sold to the Phillies, where he hit .260 and pitched his first bit in the majors. He then took on that role full-time the next season but in the next three-plus seasons went 38-53 with an NL-average 4.48 ERA, leading the NL in losses with 21 in ’36. In June of ’38 he was traded to Cincinnati where things immediately turned around. He went 11-6 the rest of the way and lowered his ERA by almost two runs. In ’39 he won the pitching triple crown and an MVP award with 27 wins, a 2.29 ERA, and 137 strikeouts in 319 innings. In ’40 he again led the NL with 22 wins and a 2.48 ERA. In ’41 he won 19 while leading the NL in innings with over 300 for the third season in a row. After winning 15 each of the next two years he went 23-8 in ’44 in his last of five All-Star years. He pitched very well the next two seasons though his workload dropped and finished things up with the Reds in ’48, going a combined 198-160 with a 3.30 ERA, 242 complete games, and 42 shutouts. He made it to the Series in both ’39 and ’40, going 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA with a shutout in four starts. He also hit .243 lifetime. In ’48 and ’49 Bucky managed the Reds after his release as a player and went a combined 81-123. He then moved back to Boston as a Braves coach from ’50 to ’55 except in ’52 when he managed in Triple A for half a season and won a league title. He was then a coach with the Giants (’56-’57) and an administrator with the Phillies (’58-’59) before leaving baseball in ’60 to become a sales rep with the Ferco Machine Screw Company in Philly for a bunch of years until he retired. In ’77 he lost a leg and then suffered kidney failure and eventually passed away from that disease in ’91 when he was 82.
I’ll do the hook-up on the next post also.