1919 – The Year That Changed Baseball

Cincinnati Reds

I think you all know by now that I love Cincinnati. I also love baseball. And Cincinnati loves its Reds. What I didn’t know was how pivotal events in 1919 Cincinnati were in changing the sport forever.  American Legacy Tours offers a tour that shares this bit of history, during which I learned A LOT!

things-to-do-in-Cincinnati-Mr. Redlegs-mascot-Reds-Fountain-Square-Cincinnati

As it so happened, I took the tour two days ago – May 4, 2019 which marked the 150th anniversary of the Reds’ inaugural game. Several players wore throwback uniforms to that time as well as the 1919 uniform.


Apparently, baseball has been huge in Cincinnati right from the start, despite the fact that the Reds weren’t a very good team. Still, baseball lovers were drawn to the sport and in 1919, the Baseball Commissioner resided in one of the downtown offices in Cincinnati.


As American Legacy Tours describes it, Cincinnati played a pivotal role in shaping the game of baseball. “Cincinnati is not only the birthplace to the first professional baseball team but also the location of the National League and American League merger, the creation of the World Series, and home to a championship that changed baseball forever.”

What Happened in 1919?

Why was that? Corruption. Plain and simple. It was the Cincinnati Reds vs. the Chicago White Sox for a 9-game (rather than 7) World Series in order to sell more tickets. But the whole thing was rigged, and fans caught on. So did many of the stakeholders in baseball’s success.

Right across the Ohio River was Newport, Kentucky which was full of gangsters, casinos, and lots and lots of money. Back in the day, baseball, boxing and horse-racing were the big things to bet on. After the 1919 World Series (which the Reds won), that would change. Once the indictments came down and the players involved were banned from baseball for life, Rule #21 came to be. From that point on, players would be required to sign that they understood that they could not bet on baseball. Seems that one future Reds’ player didn’t heed that warning.


The 1919 World Series

Much of this story was made into the 1988 movie “8 Men Out,” but as I learned on the tour, Hollywood took some liberties with their timelines in the telling. The real story is much more interesting as we could see the trickle effect that this scandal had on baseball in the years to come.

Boy, Cincinnati is chock full of history! The German beer heritage. The start of Procter & Gamble. The bounty hunters waiting for the slaves to cross the Ohio River. The first paid professional fire department. The first purely “American” city founded after the American Revolution.

Cincinnati is also the birthplace of not only the first professional baseball team but also the location of the National League and American League merger, the creation of the World Series, and home to a championship that changed baseball forever.

If you love baseball or history, you’ll love Cincinnati! American Legacy Tours knocks Cincinnati history out of the park!

Did you know much about this infamous story?




13 responses to “1919 – The Year That Changed Baseball

  1. ‘Say it ain’t so Joe.’ Baseball really does figure strongly in American history doesn’t it? Cincinnati is a city that doesn’t really resonate with us Brits – maybe because it has never had a song written about it. We know more about Tulsa, Phoenix, The Black Hills of Dakota 🙂 Interesting stuff Juliann, thank you.

    • Cincinnati has never really been much of a tourist destination, but there really is so much history here. Even today, baseball is HUGE in Cincinnati. We have Opening Day parades and a lot of people call out of work to attend the parade and the game. But unless you’re from around here, you’d never know all that CIncinnati has to offer.

  2. I saw a t-shirt for the Lima Cigarmakers on my walking tour through San Francisco on the subject of old Ohio baseball. Still wish I would have bought it. You can do worse than Pete Rose. My college was always growing up in the shadow of Art Schlichter. My ex father in-law used to spend many afternoons at the track with him, which in is kind of funny and tragic at the same time.

  3. No, I didn’t know this piece of baseball history. But I admit, I’m not a huge baseball fan. Don’t tell anyone, because I live in the Boston area now, and the Red Sox team is king here. At least I’ve been to some of the famous Fenway games!

  4. Super interesting! I’m a lifelong San Francisco Giants baseball fan but know embarrassingly little about the sport’s history. I had no idea that Cincinnati was the location of the National League and American League merger and where the World Series was created! I’ve been reading a lot about Cincinnati lately…maybe it’s time to visit 😉

    • I didn’t know any of these facts either, despite growing up here and being a huge fan of the Reds in the 1970’s. But then, I was a kid, so why would I have? More interesting to learn about it now that I can put it all into context.

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