The Local Boys: Hometown Players for the Cincinnati Reds - Jesse Tannehill
Sun, 04/13/2014 - 07:53 RCN Newsdesk
In their new book, The Local Boys: Hometown Players for the Cincinnati Reds, authors Joe and Jack Heffron — local boys themselves — tell the stories of the men who achieved the dream depicted in that sculpture, profiling over 100 local players using historical research and, for many, original interviews with the players or surviving family.
The Heffrons feature legends like Pete Rose, Ethan Allen, Don Zimmer, Dave Parker, Buddy Bell, Junior Griffey, and even Charlie “Bushel Basket” Gould, who made the first roster back in 1869.
Now, in an exclusive feature, the publisher has given RCN permission to highlight a few players featured in the book who hailed from Northern Kentucky's river cities.
(SEE PREVIOUSLY: The Local Boys feature on Covington native Don Neville)
(SEE PREVIOUSLY: The Local Boys feature on Covington native Bob Barton)
The Reds were the first and final major league team in Jesse Tannehill's 15-year career, but he won only one game for them. He won 196 for other teams, compiling an
extraordinary .627 win percentage during those years. He more than qualifies for the one-that-got-away category.
Born and raised in Dayton, KY, he learned the game from his father and developed skills on the local sandlots before earning a spot on the Shamrocks, one of the top amateur
teams in the region. A crafty lefthander on the mound, Tannehill could also play the field and was a strong hitter. The Reds signed him in 1894, and he debuted on June 17
against St. Louis.
Still just 19-years old, he struggled in his first year, walking 16 batters in 29 innings and ending the season with a 11 record and a 7.14 ERA.
The Reds recognized his potential but felt he needed seasoning. For the next two years, he pitched for the Richmond Bluebirds of the Virginia State League, compiling a 49-24 record and low ERAs. On September 26, 1896, the Pirates drafted him, and the Reds lost one of their best local boys ever. By 1898, he was the Pirates' ace, and, during his six years in Pittsburgh, he won 20 or more games four times.
In 1901, he led the National League with a 2.18 ERA. He was known primarily for a slow, deceptive curve and pinpoint control. At only 5'8" and 150 pounds, he was small, but he developed a reputation for his unflappable presence on the mound -- not a guy that hitters could rattle, no matter how dire the situation.
During his years in Pittsburgh, the Pirates won three National League pennants, with Tannehill joined in the rotation by local boys, Sam Leever of Goshen and Howie Camnitz of Covington.
In December of 1900, the Pirates and Reds discussed trading Tannehill for Cincinnati ace Noodles Hahn, but the deal ultimately wasn't made.
After the 1902 season, Tannehill was involved in a contract dispute with the Pirates and, according to a SABR Bio Project profile by Nathaniel Staley, he was part of a group of
teammates who planned to jump to Ban Johnson's new American League. After a fight with a teammate in which he dislocated his shoulder, Tannehill was taken to the hospital where, Staley writes, "doctors administrated ether so his arm could be popped back into place. While under the anesthetic, Tannehill told Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss about conversations he had with Johnson."
Tannehill did jump before the next season to the New York Highlanders. Unhappy in New York, he requested a trade to the Reds but instead was dealt to the Boston Americans.
He won more than 20 games in each of the next two seasons for Boston, and on August 17, 1904, he pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox, a team that included his brother Lee, who played in Chicago for 10 years.
Tannehill's career wound down as he entered his thirties. Boston traded him to Washington, where he had middling success, and after spending 1910 with the minor
league Minnesota Millers, he signed with the Reds on April 8, 1911. The Reds opened the season against the Pirates and lost 14-0. Tannehill threw four and one-third innings in relief, surrendering seven runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks. He was released the next day, ending his second stint as a Red.
He played a few more years in the minors before calling it quits.
He then spent some years as an umpire in the Ohio State League, International League, and Western League -- one imagines he was as tough to rattle when calling balls and
strikes as he was when throwing them. In 1920, he got back to the majors as a coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.
He lived the remainder of his life in Dayton, working for years as a machinist. He was seen often at Crosley Field attending Reds games, long after the majority of Reds fans
knew he had once been one of the biggest baseball stars the city had ever produced.
Photo courtesy Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame