Reilly & Nicol

  • Card series: 1880s: Diamond Duos
  • City: Cincinnati
  • Team: Red Stockings (AA)
  • League: American Association

John Reilly:

John Good Reilly (1858-1937) was a one-man Big Red Machine long before the days of Bench, Morgan and Rose. When he was replaced at first base by Charles Comiskey in 1892, Long John held the Cincinnati record in singles, doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored, RBI, and games played. His decade with the Reds had seen Reilly consistently rank in the league top ten in most offensive categories. In addition, his lean 6’3” frame made him a welcome target for his teammates. To this day, after more than a century of powerhouses in the Queen City, Reilly remains one of only four in team history to twice lead the league in HRs. In 2012 he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, which according to the team’s website is the oldest continually operating team Hall of Fame.

  • Reilly had been orphaned at age three when his father died in the Battle of Fort Donelson while serving as captain of a Union ironclad gunboat
  • Long John grew up in Cincinnati as a professional artist until lured by his love of baseball. He was loyal to his hometown, retiring rather than moving to another club
  • Career home runs were impressive for the era at 69

Hugh Nicol:

Hugh N. Nicol (1858-1921) was one of the great “little men” in all of baseball. This Scottish immigrant arrived in Rockford, IL in 1865 and grew up playing a mid-west style of ball that would suit him for great accomplishments in the major leagues. After only two years with his hometown White Stockings, the Chicago version called him up to Cap Anson’s powerhouse in 1881. He was only a part-timer for the champion club in his first two seasons before his speed caught the attention of Chris Von der Ahe and Hugh moved to the Browns. “Little Nic” became a favorite with his outfield speed and accurate arm. Measuring speed on the bases is particularly challenging in evaluating 19th century players as “stolen bases” didn’t factor into record-keeping for a long time and rules changed into the ’90s. Nevertheless, Nicol’s 138 steals credited in 1887 surely rank him among the greats. SABR’s Charles Faber notes that this accomplishment came at age 29, leaving it to the imagination how many this speedster swiped in his early years. Hugh set this all-time record for his new club, the Reds, after being part of MLB’s first trade. Von der Ahe sent Nicol to Cincinnati for Jack Doyle and $400 after the ’86 campaign. His fame preceded Hugh to the Queen City, as reported by The Sporting News: “Hugh Nicol’s addition to the Cincinnati team means chain-lightening on the bases. He is worth all the young blood in Christendom.” The diminutive (5’4” 145lbs) utility man never hit very well, although he did shine in his first season in St Louis with a .285 average. His ten-year ML tenure saw him hit .235 for three clubs before returning to the minors and a managerial career that lasted through the 1905 season with various Illinois teams.

  • The light-hitting Nicol had a highlight game for the Browns in late 1883 as the club was seeking to overtake the Phils. Hugh went five-for-five with a walk and scored five times. The Browns fell one game short of Philadelphia for the pennant

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