LIMA — The 1969 Major League baseball season was at the halfway point, and sportswriters were starting to realize the Cincinnati Reds had something special.
“Spurred by Lee May, Tony Perez, Bobby Tolan, John Bench and Alex Johnson, the Reds boast an all-around attack stronger than that of the awesome 1956 squad which tied a National League record with 221 home runs,” the Associated Press declared in a July 1, 1969, story.
From 1970 to 1979, Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine would dominate the National League, winning four pennants and two World Series.
Although the “awesome 1956 squad” of the Reds never came close to that success, it did boast a lineup that included Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell and Ed Bailey.
And, right in the middle of all that power in the mid-1950s was Wally Post. Described by reporters as “the quiet farm boy from St. Henry,” Post once hit a home run that might have gone 600 feet if it hadn’t thudded into a scoreboard. On the back of his 1957 Topps baseball card is this praise: “Some experts think that Wally hits the longest ball in the National League. They also feel that he rivals Mantle in distance blows. Again last season ‘Wallopin’ Wally’ struck terror in the hearts of pitchers by tying for 4th in home production and was the Redlegs’ No. 2 man in runs scored.”
The “quiet farm boy from St. Henry” actually was born down the road in the Mercer County crossroads of St. Wendelin on July 9, 1929. “Wally was a shy boy, pleasant, quick smile,” Charles Karcher, Post’s baseball coach at St. Henry High School, told the Cincinnati Enquirer for a June 22, 2003, story. “Unassuming, the kind of kid you want to know and be around. He was a little chubby when he first came out for the team — about 5-9 and 167 pounds — but by the time he was a junior, he was 5-11 and 190. He was so good the Reds signed him after his junior year; he couldn’t play as a senior.”
Post signed with the Reds in 1946 as a right-handed pitcher. By 1947, he was playing for the Reds farm team in Muncie, Indiana. “Muncie’s Packers mired the visiting Lima Terriers deeper in the cold, cold Ohio State League dungeon here last night by winning 8-1,” The Lima News reported on June 14, 1947. “Main fly in the Lima ointment was a 17-year-old boy, Wally Post, who took the local hill, (and) allowed Lima only seven hits. Lima’s lone run was unearned.”
When injury ended his pitching career, Post was moved to the outfield. Post had displayed his prowess as a hitter while at St. Henry High School, where, along with his brother, Eddie, he had anchored a formidable team. Karcher recalled Post hitting a home run 400 feet in a game against Houston High School.
“Eddie was the better pitcher,” the Enquirer wrote. “Wally threw harder, but his pitches didn’t have much movement. The Reds converted him to a right fielder in the minor leagues. He and the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Carl Furillo had the best arms in the National League.”
Post made his Major League debut on September 14, 1949, against the Boston Braves. “Post looks like a cinch to stick and wind up as a regular Reds gardener,” a story in the March 21, 1951, edition of the News predicted. “Although he has been playing the outfield only two years and has failed to hit .300 in the minors, he is an aggressive type player and will improve. He’s fast and an excellent judge of a fly ball.”
He didn’t stick and logged only 15 games with the Reds that season. A year later, a headline in the News pronounced Post only a “near-cinch” to make the Reds. It became a recurring theme. The promise of spring would fade and Post would spend his summer in the minor leagues before returning to the Reds in September.
Finally, in May 1953, after breaking camp with the Reds, Post again was sent down. The demotion turned out to be the break Post needed. In 133 games with Indianapolis that season, Post hit .289, smacked 33 home runs, drove in 120 runs, made the American Association All-Star team and won the admiration of his manager, George “Birdie” Tebbetts.
That November Tebbetts was named the new manager of the Reds. “In my opinion,” Tebbetts told a reporter at the time, “Post was the outstanding player in the American Association and the fans here are going to love him.” Post opened the season with a game-winning hit and took off from there, belting 18 homers and driving in 83 runs for the season.
It got better. “That boy has improved 50 percent since spring training last year,” Tebbetts said in March 1955. Post hit .300 with 40 home runs and 109 RBI in 1955 and was named the Reds most valuable player for the season. He followed that up with a 36-homer, 83-RBI season in 1956.
For his part, Post gave credit to Tebbetts for his success. “I’d been up and down since ’49 until ‘Birdie’ came along,” Post told reporters on July 26, 1955. “On the first day of spring training last year he told everybody, ‘Post is my right fielder.’ That did a lot for my confidence.”
Following the 1957 season, during which his batting average, home runs and RBI dipped, Post was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Harvey Haddix. In the summer of 1960, Post, unhappy with a drop in playing time with the Phillies, looked to return to Cincinnati. “I won’t be 31 until July and I think I’ve got at least four or five good years left,” Post told reporters on June 2, 1960. Two weeks later he was traded back to the Reds.
Post played a key role in the Reds 1961 pennant-winning season which also saw Post belt a monumental home run. “Veteran observers agreed Saturday that Wally Post’s home run off the left field scoreboard during the St. Louis-Cincinnati game Friday was probably the most powerful home run ever hit in Busch stadium,” the United Press International reported on April 15, 1961.“Most players and officials said the ball would have traveled 600 feet had it not struck the scoreboard.”
In the fall of 1961, the Reds faced the New York Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees won in five games although Post had a good series, hitting .333 with one home run. In the spring of 1963, he was sent to the Minnesota Twins, who released him after the season. Declaring “I think I’ve got some baseball left,” Post signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians in November 1963 but was released after only eight plate appearances in 1964.
Post was elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 1965.
As he had every offseason, Post returned to St. Henry when his baseball career ended. He frequently spoke to church groups and service clubs, and joined other retired players teaching the game to youngsters at baseball clinics in the area. He died in St. Henry on Jan. 6, 1982.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.