By Nick Fuchs
As the oldest professional team in baseball, the Cincinnati Reds are rich with history. Over the years, Hillerich & Bradsby Co. (H&B) has built relationships with many players from the organization and has obtained artifacts from Hall-of-Famers like Frank Robinson and current stars like Joey Votto. As a lifelong Reds fan, seeing these artifacts has me feeling like a kid in a candy store and I’m excited to share them with you! Let’s dive in!
Edd Roush – 1926 Letter to H&B
When we started making bats in the late 1800s, there weren’t many dedicated bat companies providing big leaguers with the lumber they needed. As a result, players were left scrambling and had to try several different options to find a bat they liked. Edd Roush, who played most of his career with the Reds, recognized the impact H&B had on his playing days and sent this appreciative letter to us in 1926. The letter highlights the struggle that many players were going through to find quality bats, and how H&B produced products that changed the game. Roush was also well known for his use of heavier-than-normal bats. You can see his 48-ounce bat (the heaviest ever used in a game) during a hand-turning demonstration in our museum.
Frank Robinson – 1964 Game Used Bat
Frank Robinson spent the early part of his Hall-of-Fame career with the Reds, playing with them from 1956-1965 and winning a Rookie of the Year award and his first of two MVPs. After struggling in 1963 with a .259 batting average and 21 home runs (both career lows at the time), he bounced back in 1964 to finish 4th in MVP voting. He used this bat (model R143) at some point during the season and later signed it.
Pete Rose – 1973 Bat Used for 2,000th Hit
Robinson and Pete Rose crossed paths briefly in the 1960s as they were teammates with the Reds for three seasons from 1963-1965. While Robinson had already established himself as one of the best players in the game, Rose was just getting started. Ten years after debuting in 1963, the Hit King recorded hit number 2,000 with this bat in 1973, a year in which he also won his only MVP award.
Ken Griffey Jr. – 1996 Silver Slugger Award
“The Kid” had established himself as one of the best all-around players in the game when he came to the Reds in 2000. He was already a 10-time All-Star, former MVP, and seven-time Silver Slugger winner. His 1996 Silver Slugger Award is on display in our museum. He won the award after hitting for a .303 average and slugging 49 home runs with 140 RBI.
Joey Votto – 2013 Game Worn Jersey
After the Ken Griffey Jr.-era in Cincinnati came to an end, the Joey Votto-era begun. Votto won the NL MVP in 2010 and was voted as the Face of MLB by fans in 2013, beating out the likes of Derek Jeter and Andrew McCutchen. He wore this jersey in a game against the Brewers in August of that year and hit his 19th home run of the season in it. Votto signed with H&B in 2011 and still swings our bats today. In fact, we regularly send pictures of billets to Joey so he can tell us which ones he wants us to use when we make his bats.
I’ve seen no shortage of exciting Reds moments in my short 24 years of life – Jay Bruce’s walk off home run to win the Central in 2010, Homer Bailey’s no hitters in 2012 and 2013, monstrous home runs from Adam Dunn, and many more.
One of my favorite moments was from this past season, when the Reds won 12 of their last 16 games to slide into the playoffs during the last weekend of the season. While the way the season ended was disappointing, I’ve never had more fun watching Reds games than when they were making that push for a playoff spot.
Seeing these artifacts helps me appreciate the great history the Reds have, while also getting me excited for the future. What artifact will we get next? What future moment will be immortalized in baseball history? Only time will tell.