The 1956 Reds Unorthodox Attempt to Set a New Home Run Record

The 1956 Cincinnati Reds were one of the most powerful offensive teams in baseball history. They finished in third place, a mere two games behind the first place Brooklyn Dodgers and one game behind the runner-up Milwaukee Braves.

Entering the last weekend of the season, the Reds needed one more home run to tie the record for the most home runs by a team. In 1947, the New York Giants hit 221 home runs.

Ted Kluszewski, who had hit 49 home runs in 1954 and followed that with 47 in 1955, had 35 home runs in 1956, but back problems cut down his production and playing time. He missed the last week of the season with a pulled shoulder muscle.

Manager Birdie Tebbetts indicated that he might manage the last two games in an unorthodox manner, especially since Kluszewski wouldn’t be available, except possibly as a pinch-hitter.

Reserve outfielder Bob Thurman (eight HRs) might be the Reds’ starting pitcher to get his bat into the lineup. Too bad that there was no designated hitter rule.

Catcher Ed Bailey (28 HRs) would join regulars Gus Bell (29 HRs) and Wally Post (36 HRs) in the outfield, but it gets better.

George Crowe (10) would be at first base in place of Big Klu, regular third baseman Ray Jablonski (15 HRs) would replace the powerless Johnny Temple at second, and Roy McMillan would remain at shortstop.

Frank Robinson, who tied a rookie record with 38 home runs, would move from the outfield to third base. Smokey Burgess (12 HRs) would catch.

Tebbets was serious.

“It’s not a clown lineup. Thurman may surprise you when he starts pitching. He pitched a lot of winter ball,” Tebbetts told reporters.

With two games remaining, the Reds had a chance of finishing second, which Tebbetts explained could affect his lineup.

“If we have a chance for second place, I’ll pass up the record and play my regular lineup.”

The power lineup never was used because the Reds had a chance to tie for the pennant or at least finish second with two games left. Neither happened as they finished third.

In the next to last game of the season, Smokey Burgess hit a pinch-hit home run off the Chicago Cubs’ Sad Sam Jones in the eighth inning to tie the single season home run record.

It was the last home run the Reds hit in 1956.


Redlegs, with 220, plan a juggling act to pass majors’ homer record of 221. (1956, Sep 28). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 32-32. Retrieved from

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