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The Builder Of The "Roughhouse": CHARLES DRESSEN

         

   For a few years in the 1930s, the Cincinnati Reds were known as the "Roughhouse Reds" around the National League. It was their aggressive, hustling, scrappy style of play under new manager Charles Dressen that caused sporrswriters to give them the nickname.

Dressen, a one-time quarrerback on George Halas' Decatur Staleys - now the Chicago Bears ­knew only one brand of baseball: fire and brimstone. He molded his club in that manner. It was Dressen's motto that if the Reds couldn't win the baseball game, at least they could win the fight.

 

A third baseman with average ability, Dressen played for Cincinnati from 1925 through 1931. Out of a job, he was contemplating joining the police force in his native Decatur, Illinois, when he learned that the Nashville minor league team was about to changemanagers in early 1932. Always wanting to manage, Dressen went to the Tennessee capital and applied for the job. 

 

 

    His approach to the situation was somewhat unique. He offered to manage without pay if his team didn't win more games than it lost. The Nashville owner was impressed and hired Dressen as a rookie manager. True to his word, Dressen's team won more than it lost, but barely. The club had to win its final game to guarantee Dressen a salary.

Dressen's reputation began to grow. Reds general manager Larry MacPhail wanted to boot Bob O'Farrell as the Reds manager during the 1934 season so he began looking for a replacement. He went to Nashville and recruited Dressen, whose team had won the first half of the Southern League season by seven games. Dressen was hired and reporred to the Reds on July 29, 1934.

 

A laissez-faire attitude had evolved under O'Farrell, but that changed immediately when Dressen joined the club. He shook up the lineup and played a new game. His team bunted a lot, played the hit-and~run game and he used the squeeze play to get the man home from third.

 

Dressen never had much to work with in Cincinnati during those Depression years, but he did get the Reds out of the cellar and up to fifth in 1936. The following year, though, things got out of hand and he was fired after the 1937 season, when the Reds finished last.

 

The 1937 campaign was a strange one. The Reds fought more and won less. So enamored of the idea of having a bunch of bullies on his club, Dressen had one player, catcher Gus Brittain, on the team for one specific purpose - to act as a policeman. But the only guy that Brittain fought with that year was his own teammate, pitcher Paul Derringer.

 

That fight happened before a game when Derringer was warming up and Brittain was catching him. Several of Derringer's curve balls broke sharply into the dirr, hitting Brittain on the unprotected shins.

 

"If you'd use that much stuff in a game, maybe you could get somebody out," Brittain suggested. Derringer took the barb as a joke and continued to warm up. But quickly he realized Brittain wasn't kidding as the verbal onslaught continued.

         
       

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