Monday Mascots #6: Mr. Redlegs

4 04 2016

In honor of Opening Day, I thought I’d post about the best opening tradition in baseball.  The Reds used to always be the first game in town, until sometime in the late 90’s.  I live in Chicago now, so going to Cincinnati’s Opening Day isn’t very realistic any more.  Plus, the Reds aren’t going to be very good this year, so I might as well do some kind of Reds post now.

Mr. Redlegs

I posted about Mr. Red last year after going to the All-Star game.  The Reds have 4 mascots, so even after this post, I’ll only be halfway done with all those mascots after this post!

Mascot/Team:   Mr. Redlegs (Cincinnati Reds, 2007-current)

Background:   The Reds first came up with a mascot known as Mr. Red in 1953 as part of the Crosley Field All-star game logo.  The character with a baseball head and a handlebar mustache and a bat.  The same character then appeared on either a primary or secondary logo for the team from 1954 through 1967.

Mr. Redlegs 1955

However, this mustachioed gentleman isn’t the guy really known as Mr. Red – that was the clean-shaven mascot that appeared on the “Running Man” logo that started in 1968, became the primary logo in 1972, and held that distinction for 20 years.  Running Man still functioned as an alternate logo until 2007.

Mr. Red aka Running Man retired in 2007 to make way for the return of Mr. Redlegs (and female mascot Rosie Red).  These days you can find Mr. Redlegs at every Reds game, adorned in an old school Reds uniform with the striped cap that was replicated in last year’s all-star game.

Mr. Red Mr. Redlegs Rosie Red race

Outside of baseball:   Like any good mascot, Mr. Redlegs hates the offseason and losing seasons.  Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight for the latter.  He also doesn’t like strikeouts, and his favorite song is “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.

Baseball card connection:  There aren’t too many cards of Mr. Redlegs, probably due to the fact that the Reds basically have 4 mascots (and maybe more if you count Schottzie the dog from the infamous Reds’ owner).  He was featured on a Topps team card in 2009, and also on the Reds’ Mascot cards from last year’s All-Star Fan fest giveaway.

2015 Topps ASG Fanfest set - Mr. Redlegs and Gapper

I got Gapper and Mr. Redlegs himself when I was down there!





2004 Cincinnati Reds season

19 12 2015

The 2004 Reds started off with plenty of promise.  Ken Griffey Jr. was healthy for the first half of the season.  Sean Casey was hitting well above .300.  Adam Dunn was mashing home runs.  A young Ryan Freel was stealing bases and giving spark at the top of the lineup.  The starting lineup looked pretty solid with a young Aaron Harang and Paul Wilson leading the way.  The bullpen was solid behind Danny Graves and Todd Jones.

Griffey, Casey, Graves and Barry Larkin made the All-Star game that year.  Though the Cardinals had pretty much put the division out of reach, the Reds (47-41) were only 1.5 games out of the Wild Card at the All-Star break.   A strong 2nd half could have meant a playoff berth.

The biggest moment of the season in St. Louis on Father’s Day.  With his dad at the game, Griffey connected for the 500th homer of his career.

Griffey 500

That was the 19th homer, and unfortunately, he’d hit only 1 more the rest of the year.  And the Reds’ fortunes turned for the worse.  Griffey had a partial hamstring tear the day before the All-Star break and couldn’t play in the game.  The Reds went into a slide at that point, losing 11 of 12 at the end of July.  A month later, Griffey came back, but he tore his hamstring completely off the bone in his first game back and was done for the season (this injury, more than any of his others, came the closest to putting his career in doubt).

The second half became a complete tailspin.  They finished the season with a 76-86 record, 29 games behind the Cardinals and 16 games back of the Astros for the Wild Card.

Dunn and Casey were the 2 bright spots of the 2nd half – both finished with some impressive numbers.  Casey hit .324 for the year, nearly matching his career bests with 24 homers, 99 RBI and 101 runs scored.

Dunn’s season was even more notable.  He smashed 46 homers, walked 108 times, knocking in 102 runs and scoring 105.  Unfortunately, he had a more dubious distinction.  Dunn struck out 195 times, which broke the previous single season record of 189 held by Bobby Bonds.  He also hit one of the farthest homers in recent times.  On August 10th he hit a ball that left the stadium in center field and rolled into the Ohio River.  The river is (officially) part of Kentucky, so this is (somewhat unofficially) the only ball in baseball history to land in a different state.  It’s the longest ball in the history of Great American Ballpark, and probably in all of Cincinnati baseball history.  You can’t fully appreciate it in the video below due to the camera work, but I figured it’s still worth showing it.

Team MVP:  Adam Dunn (.266/46/102)

Best Pitcher:  Paul Wilson (11-6/4.36/117)

Award Winners:

none

All-Stars:

Sean Casey, Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr., Danny Graves





2004 Topps Wire-to-Wire Reds Cards

30 11 2015

The number of guys from the 1990 World Series team was down to just 2 for the 2004 Topps set.  That’s a decrease of 1.  The 1 player who was gone after having a card in the 2003 set was Jose Rijo.

  • Rijo came back after 5 years off to pitch two seasons for the Reds as a reliever.  He is one of two players to play after having received Hall of Fame votes (Minnie Minoso).

Lou Piniella and Barry Larkin were both back in the Topps set – this would be Larkin’s last Topps card, while Piniella basically had cards through the 2009 season for his time with the cubs and Devil Rays.

2004 – Barry Larkin, Lou Piniella

2004 Topps Wire Reds Piniella Larkin

They had 3 parallel cards as well – Topps Gold, Topps Black and 1st Edition.

Larkin also was featured in the 2004 Hit Parade insert set, as he was 7th on the active hit list at that point.

2004 Topps Hit Parade Larkin

Piniella was also featured in the Series Seats Relic set, for his days with the Yankees.

2004 Topps Series Seat Lou Piniella

Finally, Paul O’Neill was also featured with the Evil Empire in a World Series set – you could find him in the Series Stitches relic set – though his “stitches” was a bat piece.

2004 Topps Series Stitch Paul O'Neill





2004 Topps cards – Big Red Machine

29 11 2015

Big Red Machine members were done being in the Topps set after 2002 when Tony Perez finished his final managerial stint.  But, there are quite a few insert cards of Big Red Machine members in every year after that.  In 2004, it was only Johnny Bench.  Bench was included in the World Series Highlights insert set.  You could find a regular insert, or an autographed version honoring his 1976 Series MVP award.

2004 Topps World Series Highlights Auto Johnny Bench

He was also in the Series Stitches relic.

2004 Topps Series Stitch Johnny Bench

It’s worth noting that 3 of the “Great Eight” members were included in 2004 Topps Retired Signature.  This used the same design as 2004 Topps.  It’s not the same product, so I don’t count it – just thought it was worth pointing out you could find Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion and George Foster in that product.





2003 Cincinnati Reds season

5 10 2015

Tall Stacks GABP 63004

After Riverfront Stadium (aka Cinergy Field) was demolished in December, 2002, the Reds looked forward to a promising new venue.  Great America Ballpark opened on March 31, 2003.  The Reds’ hopes hinged on the return of Ken Griffey Jr. from 2 previous injury-plagued seasons.  Griffey did notch the first hit at GABP, doubling off of the Pirates’ Kris Benson.  But that was the highlight of the baseball game for the Reds as they notched just 3 more hits and lost, 10-1.  The Pirates unfortunately returned the favor the Reds had paid them in 2001, beating Cincinnati in its park’s opener.

It was also a harbinger of what was to come that year for the Reds.  Griffey dislocated his shoulder in the 5th game of the season.  He actually got back to the field in a remarkable 6 weeks, and the Reds overcame a bad start to play well through mid-June.  They were a game above .500 on June 19th, only 3 games out of first.  But the team lost 15 of their next 19 games to fall out of contention.  To make matters worse, Junior tore up his ankle on the first game after the All-Star break.  It was his sixth major injury in just 4 seasons with the team, limiting him to just 201 plate appearances.  They season spiraled downward from there; without Griffey the team no longer had a respectable offense, and the pitching staff was even worse.  The team’s other future hall of famer, Barry Larkin, also suffered through injuries, playing in only 70 games.

Griffey 2003 separated shoulder

Jose Guillen was the most significant bright spot of that offense.  Signed as a free agent at the end of 2002, he hit .337 with 23 homers in just 91 games.  When the Reds fell out of contention, they traded him to Oakland for youngster Aaron Harang.  Aaron Boone was probably the team’s second best hitter, hitting .273 with 18 homers.  He was also traded in July, and ended up hitting one of the biggest postseason homers in history.  You’re welcome, Yankees.

Their pitching was abysmal.  They almost knocked Colorado off their annual perch of giving up the most runs in the NL.  Great American Ballpark played a part in this, but their pitchers just performed below expectations.  Well below.  Jimmy Haynes was the opening day starter, and he went 2-12 with an ERA over 6.  They converted Danny Graves to a starter, with terrible (4-15, 5.33 ERA) results.  Scott Williamson took over the closer role, and did pitch well.  Which meant he became trade bait, as the Reds sent him to Boston.  Ironically, if the Sox had brought him in to pitch against his former teammate, Boston may have made the series a year earlier.

Aaron bleeping boone

Right before they traded Boone, Guillen and Williamson, the Reds cleaned house in the front office, too.  They fired longtime General Manager Jim Bowden and skipper Bob Boone on the same day (July 28th).  Dave Miley was promoted from triple A to lead the club, and Dan O’Brien took over as GM.  Needless to say, it wasn’t the best way to open a new ballpark.

Team MVP: Jose Guillen (.337/23/63)

Best Pitcher: Scott Williamson (5-3/3.19/53, 21 SV)

Award Winners:

none

All-Stars:

Aaron Boone





2003 Topps Wire-to-Wire Reds Cards

21 09 2015

The number of guys from the 1990 World Series team was at 4 players in the 2002 Topps set.  2 players had their last card that year, though one Reds player came back in 2003.

There were 2 players gone after having cards in the 2002 set:

  • Paul O’Neill played his last game in game 7 of the 2001 World Series.  He was in the 2002 set with his full stat line.
  • Eric Davis also played his last game in 2001, and he pinch-hit in the game where Barry Bonds hit his 71st homer to break the single season HR record.  He also got a full stat line in the 2002 Topps set.

There was 1 player back in the Topps set after a long hiatus:

  • After 5 years out of the big leagues due to injury, Jose Rijo came back to pitch two seasons for the Reds as a reliever.  He is one of two players to play after having received Hall of Fame votes (Minnie Minoso).  This was his first Topps card since 1997.  This was his final Topps card, as he retired after the 2002 season.

Lou Piniella and Barry Larkin were both back in the Topps set – Larkin had one more year after this.  Piniella basically had cards through the 2009 season.

2003 – Barry Larkin, Jose Rijo, Lou Piniella

2003 Topps 90 Reds Rijo Larkin Piniella

Each guy had 3 parallel cards – Topps Gold, Topps Black and HTA.

Larkin and O’Neill were both featured in the Farewell to Riverfront Stadium relic set.

2003 Topps BRM Farewell to Riverfront Larkin

2003 Topps BRM Farewell to Riverfront O'Neill

Larkin also was featured in the 2003 Hit Parade insert set.  At the end of 2002, he was 10th on the active hit list.

2003 Topps Hit Parade Larkin

Piniella was also featured through the buyback promotion.  9 of his old cards were inserted into 2003 Topps and then stamped with buyback embossing.

  • 1971 Topps #/2
  • 1972 Topps #/1
  • 1974 Topps #/2
  • 1974 Topps Traded #/1
  • 1975 Topps #/6
  • 1976 Topps #/8
  • 1977 Topps #/8
  • 1978 Topps #/15
  • 1979 Topps #/10

Larkin was also in the Kanebo Japan set that is kind of ancillary as being related to Topps 2003.  On that note, O’Neill was in the 2003 Topps retired set as well.





2003 Topps cards – Big Red Machine

20 09 2015

After Tony Perez was in the base set as a manager in 2002, we were back to no more Big Red Machine players in the base Topps set.  But, as would pretty much be the case going forward, there were quite a few insert cards of Big Red Machine members.

First, it’s worth noting that just about all of the “Great Eight” as well as manager Sparky Anderson were included in the Topps Retired Signature product.  This used the same design as 2003 Topps, except with a white border.  It’s not the same product, so I don’t count it – just thought it was worth pointing out.

Most of them were involved in the Vintage Embossed inserts.  You could argue this isn’t even really an insert, but I’ll list the cards that were bought back and the announced quantities.

  • 1968 Topps Joe Morgan AS (#/2)
  • 1971 Topps Johnny Bench / Tony Perez / Billy Williams LL (#/7)
  • 1971 Topps Johnny Bench / Tony Perez / Billy Williams LL (#/6)
  • 1973 Topps Johnny Bench / Dick Allen LL (#/8)
  • 1975 Topps Johnny Bench / Dick Allen MVP (#/13)
  • 1975 Topps Johnny Bench / Jeff Burroughs MVP (#/4)
  • 1976 Topps Johnny Bench (#/4)
  • 1977 Topps Joe Morgan (#/10)
  • 1980 Topps Joe Morgan (#/13)
  • 1981 Topps Joe Morgan (#/45)
  • 1982 Topps Ken Griffey Sr. / Tom Seaver TL (#/9)
  • 1983 Topps Joe Morgan SV (#/5)
  • 1983 Topps Johnny Bench (#/10)
  • 1984 Topps Glossy All-Stars Johnny Bench (#/1)

OK, so now we can move on to real cards made for the 2003 Topps product.  Three of the guys were in the relic set “Farewell to Riverfront Stadium”.  Bench, Morgan, Perez and Concepcion all had cards in this set.

2003 Topps BRM Farewell to Riverfront Bench 2003 Topps BRM Farewell to Riverfront Concepcion 2003 Topps BRM Farewell to Riverfront Morgan 2003 Topps BRM Farewell to Riverfront Perez

George Foster made it into a different set.  He was in the Record Breaker set for both series 1 and series 2.

2003 Topps RB George Foster

2003 Topps RB 2 George Foster

He had an autographed version as well.

2003 Topps RB auto George Foster