Eddie used to take care of the whole outfield, not just center field. He was far and away the best outfielder I ever saw.
- Heinie Groh
Born and raised in Oakland City, Ind., Edd Roush was acclaimed as the greatest player to wear a Reds uniform in the club's first century of existence. After a brief stint with the White Sox in 1913, Roush played two years in the Federal League before joining the New York Giants in 1916. In July of that season, Roush was part of a historic trade in which the Reds acquired three future members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Roush was sent to Cincinnati along with Christy Mathewson -- who became the Reds manager -- and Bill McKechnie -- a utility infielder who later managed the Reds to two pennants and a world championship in the 1930s and '40s.
Roush emerged as the key player in the trade, as he quickly established himself as one of the game's premier hitters and most talented center fielders. In his first full season with the Reds, Roush led the National League in hitting and later fell only two points shy of a consecutive title in 1918. During the Reds' world championship season of 1919, Roush again led the league in batting while also finishing in the league's top five in numerous other offensive categories.
Although Roush's career spanned some 18 big league seasons and earned him a place in Cooperstown in 1962 as the first player to enter the Hall of Fame as a Red, Roush was often most closely associated with the 1919 season and the controversial World Series against the White Sox that followed it.
That eight members of the Chicago club were eventually banned from baseball because of their involvement in a conspiracy to throw the Series is one of baseball's most well-known stories. Often forgotten when this tale is told is the irrefutable fact that, on paper, the Reds of 1919 were every bit as good, if not better, than their American League counterparts. The reason that the White Sox were heavy favorites to win the Series rested largely on the fact that the Sox had won the title two years earlier and the Reds had rarely been contenders since they rejoined the NL in 1890.
Roush insisted throughout his life that the Reds would have won the Series if it had been played squarely. Given the often conflicting versions of what particular Sox players did or didn't do to throw the Series, the extent to which the Sox "gave" the Series to the Reds represents one of baseball's greatest ongoing debates. Two recently published books -- including one by Roush's granddaughter Susan Dellinger -- offer new insights into the events surrounding the Series and are indicative of the ceaseless fascination the event continues to elicit. Regardless of the opinions of fans, writers and historians, Roush was always certain of one thing: The 1919 Reds were better than the 1919 White Sox and deserved the title they won.
Roush retired as an active player in 1931 but stayed connected to the game as a coach and scout for a number of years. On March 21, 1988, while attending a Spring Training game at Bradenton's (Fla.) McKechnie Field -- named after his former teammate, fellow Hall of Famer and longtime friend Bill McKechnie -- Roush died of a massive heart attack at the age of 94. Voted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1960, Roush joined the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. As part of baseball's centennial celebration in 1969, an all-century Reds team was selected which had Roush as both the starting center fielder and the club's greatest player.