1961 Cincinnati Reds season

The 1961 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. It consisted of the Reds winning the National League pennant with a 93–61 record, four games ahead of the runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers, but losing the World Series in five games to the New York Yankees. The Reds were managed by Fred Hutchinson, and played their home games at Crosley Field. The Reds were also the last team to win the National League in the 154-game schedule era, before going to a 162-game schedule a year later.

1961 Cincinnati Reds
1961 National League Champions
Major League affiliations
Other information
Owner(s)Powel Crosley, Jr.
Bill DeWitt
General manager(s)Bill DeWitt
Manager(s)Fred Hutchinson
Local televisionWKRC
(Ed Kennedy, Frank McCormick)
Local radioWLW
(Waite Hoyt, Jack Moran)
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Cincinnati's road to the World Series was truly a remarkable one, as the Reds went through significant changes in a single season to improve from a team that won just 67 games and finished 28 games behind the eventual World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960. The architect of the turnaround was the Reds' new general manager Bill DeWitt, who left his role as president and general manager of the Detroit Tigers after the end of the 1960 season to replace Gabe Paul as the Reds' GM. Paul was hired as the general manager of the expansion Houston Colt .45s.

DeWitt, who had a short history of successful trades in Detroit including acquiring Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito, went to work at the 1960 Winter Meetings for Cincinnati. DeWitt found trade partners in the Milwaukee Braves and the Chicago White Sox. In essentially a three-team trade, the Reds acquired pitchers Joey Jay and Juan Pizarro for slick-fielding shortstop Roy McMillan on Dec. 15, 1960. On that same day, the Reds then traded Pizzaro and pitcher Cal McLish to the White Sox for third baseman Gene Freese. It was the fourth time Freese had been traded in 18 months. Most recently, the White Sox had acquired Freese from the Philadelphia Phillies for future all star Johnny Callison in December 1959.

Reds owner Powel Crosley, Jr. died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Cincinnati on March 28, 1961, 13 days before the start of the Reds' season. DeWitt would eventually purchase 100% of the team ownership from Crosley's estate by year's end.

The Reds began the season with Freese at third base, sure-handed Eddie Kasko moved from third (where he played in 1960) to shortstop and long-time minor leaguer Jim Baumer at second base. Baumer was one of MLB's "feel good" stories. After playing in nine games with the White Sox in 1949 as an 18 year old rookie, Baumer returned to the minor leagues and didn't make it back to the big league for 11 years. The Reds drafted Baumer during the Rule 5 draft after the Pittsburgh Pirates left him unprotected. After a solid spring training with the Reds, Baumer was named starting second baseman to open the season. As the season began, expectations were low for the Reds among baseball "experts." The Reds won their first three games, but then went into a slump, losing 10 of 12. To the surprise of many, it was the Reds' offense that struggled most. Baumer in particular was hitting just .125. DeWitt then made a bold move on April 27, 1961, trading all-star catcher Ed Bailey to the San Francisco Giants for second baseman Don Blasingame, catcher Bob Schmidt and journeyman pitcher Sherman Jones. Blasingame was inserted as starter at second base, and Baumer was traded to the Detroit Tigers on May 10 for backup first baseman Dick Gernert. Baumer never again played in the majors.

On April 30, the Reds won the second game of a double-header from the Pittsburgh Pirates to begin a 9-game winning streak. Exactly a month after the trade of Bailey, the Reds began another win streak, this time six games, to improve to 26–16. Those streaks were part of a stretch where the Reds won 50 of 70 games to improve to 55–30. Cincinnati led Los Angeles by five games at the All Star break.

After the break, the Dodgers got hot and the Reds floundered. After the games of August 13, Los Angeles was 69-40 and led Cincinnati (70-46) by 2½ games, but six in the loss column as the Dodgers had played seven fewer games than the Reds due to multiple rainouts. On August 15, the Reds went into Los Angeles to begin a three-game, two-day series highlighted by a double-header. In the first game of the series, Reds' righty Joey Jay bested Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 5–2, as Eddie Kasko had four hits and Frank Robinson drove in two for Cincinnati. In the Wednesday double-header, knuckle-baller Bob Purkey threw a four-hit shutout as the Reds won Game 1, 6–0. In Game 2, Freese hit two home runs off Dodgers' lefty Johnny Podres and Jim O'Toole hurled a two-hitter as the Reds completed the sweep with an 8–0 victory. The Reds left Los Angeles with a half-game lead. It was the Dodgers' fourth-straight loss in what would turn out to be a 10-game losing streak to put the Dodgers in a hole, while the Reds stayed in first-place the rest of the season.

The Reds clinched their first pennant in 21 years on Sept. 26 when they beat the Cubs, 6–3, in the afternoon and the Dodgers lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8–0, in the second game of a doubleheader. The Reds earned a chance to face the mighty New York Yankees in the 1961 World Series.

Outfielders Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson led the Reds offense while starting pitchers Bob Purkey, Jim O'Toole and newcomer Joey Jay were the staff standouts. Robinson (37 homers, 124 RBI, 117 runs scored, 22 stolen bases, .323 average) was named National League MVP. Pinson (208 hits, .343 average, 101 runs scored, 23 stolen bases) and a Gold Glove recipient, finished third in MVP voting. Purkey won 16 games, O'Toole won 19 and Jay won an NL-best 21 games. Jay also finished a surprising fifth in NL MVP voting, one spot ahead of future Hall of Famer Willie Mays who hit 40 home runs and drove in 123 for the Giants, such was the respect the Baseball Writers had for Jay's contributions to the Reds' pennant.

At a position (3B) that the Reds had received little offensive production from in the recent years leading up to 1961, Freese provided a major boost, slugging 26 home runs and driving in 87 runs to go with a .277 average.

Hutchinson, a former MLB pitcher, was masterful in his handling of the pitching staff as well as juggling a lineup that included part-timers (and former slugging standouts) Gus Bell, Wally Post (20, 57, .294) as well as Jerry Lynch (13, 50, .315). For the second straight season, Lynch led the National League with 19 pinch hits. Hutchinson was named Manager of the Year.

Player Moves

Season standings

National League W L Pct. GB Home Road
Cincinnati Reds 9361 0.604 47–30 46–31
Los Angeles Dodgers 8965 0.578 4 45–32 44–33
San Francisco Giants 8569 0.552 8 45–32 40–37
Milwaukee Braves 8371 0.539 10 45–32 38–39
St. Louis Cardinals 8074 0.519 13 48–29 32–45
Pittsburgh Pirates 7579 0.487 18 38–39 37–40
Chicago Cubs 6490 0.416 29 40–37 24–53
Philadelphia Phillies 47107 0.305 46 22–55 25–52

Record vs. opponents

Chicago 12–107–159–13–113–911–115–177–15–1
Cincinnati 10–1212–1015–719–311–1112–1014–8
Los Angeles 15–710–1212–1017–513–910–1212–10
Milwaukee 13–9–17–1510–1216–612–1011–1114–8
Philadelphia 9–133–195–176–167–158–14–19–13
Pittsburgh 11–1111–119–1310–1215–710–129–13
San Francisco 17–510–1212–1011–1114–8–112–109–13
St. Louis 15–7–18–1410–128–1413–913–913–9


1961 Cincinnati Reds
Pitchers Catchers



Other batters

  • 27 Harry Anderson
  •  9 Hal Bevan


  • 23 Otis Douglas
  •  4 Reggie Otero
  •  2 Dick Sisler
  •  3 Jim Turner
  • 27 Pete Whisenant

Player stats

Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
CJerry Zimmerman7620442.204010
1BGordy Coleman150520149.2872687
2BDon Blasingame123450100.222121
3BGene Freese152575159.2772687
SSEddie Kasko126469127.271227
LFWally Post9928283.2942057
CFVada Pinson154607208.3431687
RFFrank Robinson153545176.32337124

Other batters

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
OFGus Bell10323560.255333
SSLeo Cárdenas7419861.308524
LFJerry Lynch9618157.3151350
CJohnny Edwards5214527.186214
2BElio Chacón6113235.26525
CBob Schmidt27709.12914
1BDick Gernert406319.30207
CDarrell Johnson205417.31516
CEd Bailey124313.30202
2BJim Baumer10243.12500
UTPete Whisenant26153.20001
3BWillie Jones970.00000
3BCliff Cook450.00000
PHHarry Anderson441.25000
OFJoe Gaines430.00000
PHHal Bevan331.33311

Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; CG = Complete games; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Pitcher G CG IP W L ERA SO
Jim O'Toole3911253.21993.10178
Joey Jay3414247.121103.53157
Bob Purkey3613246.116123.73116
Ken Hunt294136.19103.9675
Ken Johnson15383.0623.2542

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; CG = Complete games; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Jim Maloney27194.2624.3757
Jay Hook22062.2107.7636
Marshall Bridges13020.2007.8417

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Pitcher G IP W L SV ERA SO
Jim Brosnan5380.0104163.0440
Bill Henry4753.121162.1953
Sherman Jones2455.01124.4232
Howie Nunn2437.22103.5826
Claude Osteen10.10000.000

1961 World Series

AL New York Yankees (4) vs. NL Cincinnati Reds (1)
Game Score Date Location Attendance
1Reds – 0, Yankees– 2October 4Yankee Stadium62,397
2Reds– 6, Yankees – 2October 5Yankee Stadium63,083
3Yankees– 3, Reds – 2October 7Crosley Field32,589
4Yankees– 7, Reds – 0October 8Crosley Field32,589
5Yankees– 13, Reds – 5October 9Crosley Field32,589

Awards and honors

Farm system

Level Team League Manager
AAA Indianapolis Indians American Association Cot Deal
AAA Jersey City Jerseys International League Nap Reyes
A Columbia Reds Sally League Ted Beard and Hersh Freeman
B Topeka Reds Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League Dave Bristol
D Tampa Tarpons Florida State League Johnny Vander Meer
D Geneva Redlegs New York–Penn League Karl Kuehl



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