Have the Reds ever had pitching? 1960-1966 – The Hutchinson/DeWitt Years

“You know how much stuff he had? He had a nickel curve, a nickel fast ball, a purpose pitch and a million dollars worth of heart, that’s what he had.”

Gene Mauch On Fred Hutchinson.

Do you know your team?

Do you know the patterns that they drag you through, the whims that the men who run the team lean on? Every team has their quirks, repeat performances, twists; they all go through moments that define them, moments that cause future moves, or future patterns for the fans to fret over or boast about.

Want a goofy pattern?

For the Reds it was pitching, plain and simple, pitching was and has always been the problem since Lucy and Rickey took the country by storm. As we delved into the fifties we found the Reds awash in rumors of moving to New York City, and signing pitchers.

The success of the 1956 team was similar to the success of the 1999 team, it threw the team that was not expected to compete into a competing phase, this led to a couple of seasons of success and then a crash and burn a year after the Reds manager made the cover of Time Magazine for his calm demeanor. After hiring Mayo Smith the Reds pitching spiraled to the bottom of the league, despite leading the league in almost all the offensive categories. It was then that Gabe Paul made perhaps his best executive decision as a the Reds General Manager, when in 1959 Paul fired Smith and threw the keys of the franchise to former pitcher Fred Hutchinson, it was Hutchinson’s 3rd job managing in the majors, and he was determined to make the best of it.

After struggling to form a cohesive staff throughout the 50’s it was up to Hutchinson to turn the team around, and to Hutch that meant the pitching, and to Hutchinson pitching was not just throwing the ball, it was a war between the batter and the hurler and that meant anything goes, which in this case applied to the Reds who were a team that was looking for pitching.

During Hutches first season, the Reds (In the eight team National League) came in next to last in allowing runs. In his second season they allowed the fewest in the league as the Reds surprised all of baseball by taking the NL Pennant.

Despite the fact that the 60’s were the pitching era, the era wasn’t really an era the Reds franchise can look back at fondly for that particular aspect of the game. If they do it’s mostly because of Hutchinson’s influence.

When he took the helm there wasn’t much to work with, some bonus babies and some guys that probably reminded Hutch a lot of the older Hutch who had to abandon his fastball and go to his slider and change. This aspect of the game stuck throughout his tenure and by the time he left the team in 1964 almost half of the Reds starts had been manned by men who depended more on breaking balls and guile, then on speed and overpowering movement and during the Hutch era 46% of the starts were by pitchers who used a curve as their money pitch.

CINCINNATI REDS
1960-1964
GAMES STARTED                   GS
1    Jim O'Toole                 162
2    Bob Purkey                  150
3    Joey Jay                    116
4    Jim Maloney                 102
5    Joe Nuxhall                  66
6    John Tsitouris               47
7    Jay Hook                     38
8    Ken Hunt                     22
9    Cal McLish                   21
10   Don Newcombe                 15

This approach worked great for a couple of seasons during the Hutch era, garnering first rate staffs in 1961 and 1964 and a couple of 4th place finishes in 62 and 63, but it was a crapshoot to lean on so many touch pitchers, everything has to go right for those types of pitchers as evidenced by the 2006 version of Bronson Arroyo, and when half your innings are coming from those types cross your fingers and make a wish.

A tough pitcher and a tough man, Hutchinson was the last Reds manager (aside from the brief 1966 appearance by Don Hefner) who was a throwback player and had played before the players union changed the game forever. Hutch (the former pitcher) hated walks. This was perhaps the reason behind the slow emergence of Jim Maloney, who took several years to get his k/bb ratio to an acceptable level before he was slotted in to the rotation. In the early part of the decade when the Reds were the surprise team the anchors of the staff were curveballer Joey Jay and preeminent junkballer Bob Purkey, added to that mix were one of Gabe Paul’s bonus signings Ken Hunt who sported a curveball as his primary pitch, in what would be his only season in the big leagues, spot starter and reliever Jay Hook also was a curveball artist and when Hunt went south late in 1961 DeWitt went out and got curveballer Ken Johnson to take his starts. Enriching the staff with even more junk.

Also factoring in to the Reds surge on the pitching side of the ledger was the departure of Ed Bailey, this plus the emergence of Johnny Edwards and a trade for Darrell Johnson might have solidified the younger Reds pitchers state of mind on the mound. Bailey was said to be a hard man to reason with on the field of play and according to Jim O’Toole he intimidated the young Claude Osteen (who was traded in 1961) and attempted to do it to O’Toole as well. O’Toole also credited Darrell Johnson with helping him take the leap to the next level as a starter. Part of this is evidenced by O’Toole’s, 2.03 August ERA and 2.53 September ERA, all after Darrell Johnson was acquired in mid August.

As with most Reds teams that we have come to know the early 60’s teams had strength in the bullpen. With Bill Henry on left side throwing heat and Jim Brosnan coming from the right side the National League was getting a different look at the Reds late inning pitchers, a completely different look than the starting staff junkballers were giving them.

Several years of these combinations buoyed the Reds up in the early part of the decade, but in a decade of power pitching almost every team had a hurler that was known for unhittable stuff, and the Reds were one of those teams, unfortunately his emergence coincided with the demise of the Reds bullpen mojo.

This of course is Jim Maloney and it’s in Maloney that we can see a bit of the magic of the pitching era on the west end.

Fact:

Jim Maloney is the only other Red aside from Mario Soto to have consecutive 200 strikeout seasons. Maloney did it four straight seasons.

Jim Maloney pitched 3 no hitters in the 60’s and won 15 games or more 6 straight seasons.

In short if the Reds have had a long running ACE in the course of my lifetime it was Jim Maloney.

The year Maloney arrived as a player to be reckoned with Bill Henry and Jim Brosnan departed as the stalwarts of the Reds vaunted BP, Henry became mediocre and Brosnan the writer became replaceable. Even then the strength of staff could only be lifted as high as the bullpen could reach. The Reds won 184 games in 1962 and 1963, unfortunately the Dodgers won 201 games and the Giants won 191 games.

It was a hard time to win in a league that was fast over taking the American League as the premier league in professional baseball.

In 1964 the Cincinnati Reds were close enough to print ticket to the World Series, close enough to taste the flavor of 1961 again. The 64 team a team ERA of almost half a run better than the league average, and in the end it hinged on one game on the last day of the season against the Phillies, a team throwing their ace Jim Bunning. Maloney who had thrown eleven innings three days prior had begged off the responsibility of the start, he was ready to go if a playoff occurred, but not that day.

So the starters flipped a coin and John Tsitouris was chosen.

Tsitouris who had been obtained from Kansas City prior to the 1961 season for Joe Nuxhall (who was now his teammate) was a short right-hander with one good pitch.

A curveball.

On that October day the Reds lost 10-0 and the pitchers who got in the game represented a laundry list of the type of pitchers Fred Hutchinson preferred (or was stuck with) starters who threw junk and relievers who threw smoke.

Tsitouris
Nuxhall
McCool
Jay
Henry
Purkey
Ellis

But Hutch wasn’t there to make Maloney pitch, Hutch wasn’t there to make the last week better so that the last game of the season wasn’t falling in the lap of John Tsitouris.

He was dieing and a month later would succumb to cancer.

After Hutch died the Reds traded Purkey and from the list above by 1966 only Sammy Ellis and Billy McCool were major contributors to the Reds, a team that had finished 7th in runs allowed in 1965, but rode a magnificent offense to a 89 win season. By 1966 it was worse and the team would fall to 8th in runs allowed, even with the inclusion of fastballer Milt Pappas, an arm obtained to compliment the fast rising Maloney, plus the magnificent offense waned and the Reds fell to .475 winning percentage and were put up for sale by Bill Dewitt, whose deals with the city (and Baltimore) had led to an impasse that couldn’t be repaired. Entering the 1967 season under new ownership and with a new General Manager (Bob Howsam) the Reds could claim only Jim Maloney as being a pitcher who could be called a Hutchinson product. Perhaps that says more about what the Reds were giving Hutchinson to work with then it does about Hutchinson.

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