History of the Reds' team name

December 1st, 2021

CINCINNATI -- The Reds were baseball’s first professional franchise, but their name has had multiple variations over the past century and a half.

In 1869, Harry Wright formed the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the team played its home games at Union Grounds, which was located just west of downtown. The team name originated from the high red socks or stockings the team wore with its knee-length pants. The barnstorming Red Stockings were 57-0 in their first season, but the team disbanded in 1870 and Wright -- and his brother George – went on to help found the Boston Red Stockings, which eventually became the Boston Braves.

When the National League was formed in 1876, Cincinnati was a charter member and had pro baseball once again. But these Red Stockings were expelled from the NL for selling beer at games and wanting to play on Sundays. The club fled to the American Association and became known as the Reds in 1881.

They remained as the Reds when the NL re-admitted them in 1890 and it remained that way for over a half a century.

Upon the end of World War II in 1945, American distrust of the communist Soviet Union and its global expansion began percolating. Joseph McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin, exploited the fear of communism and the Soviets in 1950 by brandishing lists of potential communist infiltrators and sympathizers around the United States. By 1953, as the Korean War was waged, McCarthy had launched public hearings to investigate alleged subversion and espionage. It became known as “The Red Scare.”

After changing the team name to the Redlegs in 1953, the club removed the mention of Reds from its home jerseys in 1956 and went with just the wishbone-C. The ’56 road jersey featured nothing but a Mr. Redlegs mustachioed logo left side of the chest, but that lasted just the one season before the gray uniforms also went with a simple wishbone-C.

McCarthy was censured by his Senate peers in 1954 for attacking the U.S. Army. The McCarthyism era quickly faded, and the senator died from hepatitis and alcoholism at the age of 48 in 1957.

The Cincinnati Reds name was restored by 1959 and “Reds” returned to the uniform inside the wishbone-C in 1961 -- the same year they returned to the postseason as NL pennant winners. They enjoyed only two winning seasons -- 1956 and ’57 -- as the Redlegs.

But as the Reds, the team has won five World Series in 1919, 1940, 1975, 1976 and 1990.