The Ohio Cup, also known as the Battle of Ohio, is an annual interleague rivalry series between the two Major League Baseball (MLB) teams from the U.S. state of Ohio: the Cincinnati Reds of the National League (NL) and the Cleveland Indians of the American League (AL). The series name comes from the trophy the teams play for, which was first introduced in 1989 for an annual pre-season exhibition game between the two teams, and later reintroduced in 2008. The cup is awarded to the team that wins the most games against the other in a particular season. In the event of a tie, the team holding the trophy from the previous season retains it.
Prior to the introduction of interleague play, the Reds and Indians had only met in spring training or other exhibition games. Because the two teams play in opposite leagues, the only chance they can meet in the postseason is in the World Series. The Ohio Cup series was originally created in 1989 and was an exhibition game between the two teams played in the state capital of Columbus at Cooper Stadium just prior to the start of the season. A total of eight Ohio Cup games were played, from 1989 to 1996, with the Indians winning six. The games in Columbus were typically well-attended, with attendance topping the stadium's 15,000-seat capacity in all but one year.
The regular-season series began in 1997 with the start of interleague play and has been played every season since except 2002. From 1999 to 2001 and until 2012, the teams met in two three-game series per season, one in Cincinnati and one in Cleveland. Since 2013, two two-game series are played back-to-back at each team's home field. Every three years, in the years the AL Central plays the NL Central as part of the interleague play rotation, the teams meet in two three-game series. Through the 2017 meetings, the Indians lead the regular-season series 56–47.
Cincinnati and Cleveland both have long histories in professional baseball and the current Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians franchises are among the oldest in Major League Baseball. The original Cincinnati Red Stockings, founded in 1869, were the first professional baseball team, and they were soon followed by other professional teams, including one in Cleveland known as the Forest Citys, founded that same year. The two teams played in Cleveland on July 2, 1869, a 25–6 win for the Red Stockings. The two cities again competed directly in the latter years of the American Association after the current Cincinnati Reds franchise was founded in 1881 and the Cleveland Spiders, first known as the Blues, in 1887. The Spiders joined the National League in 1889 and the Reds followed in 1890, where both competed until the Spiders were contracted after the 1899 season. The first meeting between the Spiders and Reds was played at National League Park in Cleveland, a 3–2 Spiders win. The following season, the Spiders hosted the Reds in the very first game played at League Park in Cleveland, won by the Spiders 12–3 behind winning pitcher Cy Young. Over the 10 seasons both were part of the National League, the Reds and Spiders played 138 times, with Cincinnati winning 75, Cleveland 60, and three ties.
The following year, the Spiders were replaced by a minor league team called the Lake Shores in the American League. The AL declared itself a major league for the 1901 season with the Cleveland franchise, then called the Blues, as a charter member. The team was later called the Bronchos and Naps before being renamed the Indians in 1915. Because the two teams are part of different leagues, however, the only chance for them to meet prior to the introduction of Interleague Play in 1997 was in exhibition games or in the World Series. Cincinnati won the tainted 1919 World Series and the Indians won the World Series the following year. In 1940, the Reds again won the World Series with the Indians finishing second in the American League.
Through 2014, the teams have only made the playoffs in the same season twice. The first time was in 1995 when both teams won their respective division and advanced to their respective League Championship Series. Both teams, however, fell to the eventual champion Atlanta Braves as the Reds were swept in four games in the National League Championship Series and the Indians lost the World Series four games to two. The Reds and Indians both made the playoffs again in 2013 as wild-card entries, and both were eliminated in the opening wild-card game.
Ohio Championship Series
In July 1910, the Cincinnati manager challenged Cleveland, then called the Naps, to a seven game "Championship of Ohio" series, which was held after the conclusion of the regular season. The Reds won the opener in Cincinnati, 14–7, and ultimately won the series four games to three, with the home team winning all seven games. After the 1911 season, the series was held again, with the Reds winning four games to two. The opener of the 1911 series, however, only drew 580 fans in Cincinnati, and while the remaining games, all played at League Park in Cleveland, drew better, the series was discontinued.
First Ohio Cup (1989–96)
|1||1989||April 2||Indians||1–0||Cooper Stadium||15,978|
|2||1990||April 8||Indians||12–3||Cooper Stadium||15,878|
|3||1991||April 7||Indians||4–3||Cooper Stadium||16,276|
|4||1992||April 5||Reds||2–0||Cooper Stadium||15,820|
|5||1993||April 3||Indians||9–1||Cooper Stadium||15,596|
|6||1994||April 1||Indians||8–4||Cooper Stadium||15,894|
|7||1995||March 31||Reds||6–1||Cooper Stadium||2,000|
|8||1996||March 31||Indians||5–3||Cooper Stadium||16,697|
Details of the original Ohio Cup were unveiled at a press conference on August 25, 1988. At that time, the two teams occasionally played each other in spring training and had yet to make the post-season in the same season. The managers of both teams did not treat the cup game as anything more than an exhibition, but many fans in Columbus treated it like a referendum on major league sports in the city as, at that time, Columbus did not have any major sports franchises.
Sitting between Cleveland and Cincinnati, the city was always divided when it came to allegiance to the state's big league teams. "Half the fans (in Columbus) love the Reds and hate the Indians and the other half love the Indians and hate the Reds. It's a great matchup", said the game's promoter, Keith Sprunk. Indians manager Doc Edwards agreed. "I'll love to play it, it's great. San Francisco and Oakland do the same thing. I'd like to see (the Ohio Cup) become an annual thing, either during the spring or in the summer." Crowds averaged 15,910 fans for the first five Ohio Cups at the 15,000-seat Cooper Stadium. Those crowds ranked 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 12th among all-time largest baseball crowds at the stadium. Only about 2000 made it out in 1995 with temperatures near freezing and replacement players taking the field.
The first Reds and Indians Ohio Cup match-up was marred by 40 °F (4 °C) temperatures made colder by constant rain and brisk wind. Cleveland started only four regulars while Cincinnati opted to play seven of their nine starters. It remained scoreless until the top of the eighth inning when a throwing error by Reds outfielder Herm Winningham allowed Luis Aguayo to score the only run. Minor league pitcher Gregg McMichael received the win while Reds' reliever Mike Griffin was credited with the loss.
In the 1990 contest, catchers Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Joel Skinner combined for six RBI as the Indians won their second straight Ohio Cup before a standing-room only crowd. In an action-packed game, the Indians banged out 13 hits, including six in the fourth inning which resulted in seven-runs. Cory Snyder hit a monster blast off Danny Jackson that traveled well past the 400-foot sign in straightaway center field. Alomar homered twice, the first a three-run shot to left-center, the second a solo effort. Skinner hit a two run shot after being brought in to replace Alomar.
Indians outfielder Albert Belle hit his eleventh home run of the exhibition season as the Indians beat the defending World Champion Reds 4-3 in 1991. Jerry Browne hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to lift the Indians to victory. The Reds finally ended their rivals' supremacy in 1992. Cincinnati took the lead in the first. Lead off hitter Bip Roberts doubled and later scored. They added another run in the fourth. Reds' third baseman Chris Sabo counted an RBI double among his two hits while Albert Belle hit two of his team's four hits.
Mike Bielecki stopped Cincinnati on one run and four hits in six innings and Albert Belle had a three-run single as the Tribe won their fourth Ohio Cup in five years in the 1993 contest. Highlights included a home run by Indians' first baseman Paul Sorrento. The only Reds run was scored by Barry Larkin.
In 1994, Manny Ramírez and Paul Sorrento homered in a five-run second inning to help give the Indians an 8-4 win. Mark Clark pitched seven innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking one and striking out five to gain the win. Albert Belle and Eddie Murray led off the second inning with singles and Sorrento followed with his homer. After Jim Thome singled, Ramírez homered. All five runs came off Tom Browning.
With the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike only coming to an end on April 2, replacement players traveled to Columbus to take part in the 1995 edition. Teamsters picketed outside the stadium as snow fell. With temperatures near freezing and replacements Tim Delgado and Rich Sauveur taking the mound, only a couple thousand fans made it out. The "Reds" won the game 6-1.
A line drive single by Julio Franco in the fifth inning broke a 3-3 tie Cleveland defeated Cincinnati to win the final Ohio Cup in 1996. Manny Ramírez had given Cleveland a 3-1 lead with a three-run homer to left field in the second off the Reds' Mark Portugal. Hal Morris drove in two runs for the Reds with a first-inning single and a double in the third, with Bret Boone scoring both times. A single by Vince Coleman in the fifth drove in Jeff Branson and tied the score at 3-3. The victory gave the Indians a 6–2 lead in the Ohio Cup series and was viewed by 16,697 people, the largest crowd in the game's history and the second largest at Cooper Stadium. Indians starter Joe Roa was the winning pitcher.
Interleague Series (1997–present)
In 1997 the Ohio Cup match series was discontinued with the introduction of interleague play and games between the Indians and the Reds continued as the "Battle of Ohio" series. The Indians and Reds first met on June 16, 1997 at Jacobs Field, in front of a sellout crowd of 42,961. Cleveland starting pitcher Orel Hershiser struck out lead off hitter Deion Sanders. Indians' designated hitter Kevin Seitzer recorded the first ever hit in a Battle for Ohio game when he doubled in the bottom of the first inning. Pokey Reese recorded the series first ever run, scoring in the bottom of the second inning for the Reds. Manny Ramírez hit the first Buckeye Series home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it was not enough to prevent the Reds winning the inaugural game 4-1.
Except in 2002, the Indians and Reds have played each other every year since interleague play has been established. They have played each other 6 times every year from 1999–2012 except 2002 and 2003, with each team hosting a three-game series. The Reds and Indians did not play each other in 2002 and played one three-game series in 2003. In 2004, the Indians-Reds rivalry resumed, playing six games per year.
Ohio Cup revived
The Ohio Cup was reintroduced in 2008 with a new trophy. The trophy is 3 feet high, with a 12-inch stainless cup in the middle. It is awarded to the team that wins the season series in a given year. When the teams split the season series, the team that currently holds the trophy retains it. Through the 2016 season, the Reds have won the trophy four times, the Indians three times, with three ties.
In the revived trophy's inaugural season, the Reds swept the first three-game series at home, which took place between May 16–18 2008, after three strong performances by Edinson Vólquez, Aaron Harang, and Johnny Cueto. As the series moved back to Cleveland on June 27–29, with the Indians' CC Sabathia throwing a 6-0 shutout against the Reds in the first game. In the second, the Reds battled back with a strong effort by Cueto to win game two 5-0. The Cincinnati Reds clinched the cup with this win. In the final game in Cleveland, the Reds overcame a late surge by the Tribe to win 9-5, and the series itself 5 games to 1. Ballots were passed out in the middle of the final game for the MVP, awarded to Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, who had a combined five home runs and 10 RBI in the series.
In 2009, the Reds retained the trophy, winning four of the six contests. The Reds took two of the three games in Cincinnati in May, and went on to win two of the three games in Cleveland in June. In 2010, the Reds won the Ohio Cup again, winning 2 of 3 games in Cincinnati, and again winning 2 of 3 games in Cleveland. The Indians won the trophy in 2011 by sweeping the first series in Cleveland, and winning 2 of 3 in the Cincinnati series. The Indians retained the trophy In 2012 and 2013 as the two teams split the Ohio Cup series, with each team sweeping their respective home series.
Beginning in 2013, this rivalry, along with all other interleague rivalries, played four games per year in two back-to-back two game series, instead of six games as they played through 2012. The two teams would play in one city on a Monday and Tuesday and the other city that Wednesday and Thursday. The teams played six games in separate three game series in 2015, and are expected to do so in years in which the AL Central and NL Central are matched up against each other (2018, 2021, etc.)
The Indians dominated the series in 2015 and 2016, winning nine of the ten games during those years.
|Year||Cleveland||Cincinnati||Dates played||MVP (2008–11, 2014–present)|
|1999||Indians||4||Reds||2||June 11–13, July 9–11|
|2000||Indians||3||Reds||3||June 9–11, July 7–9|
|2001||Indians||3||Reds||3||June 8–10, July 12–14|
|2004||Indians||4||Reds||2||June 11–13, July 2–4|
|2005||Indians||4||Reds||2||May 20–22, June 24–26|
|2006||Indians||3||Reds||3||June 23–25, June 30–July 2|
|2007||Indians||3||Reds||3||May 18–20, June 8–10|
|2008||Indians||1||Reds||5||May 16–18, June 27–29||Adam Dunn, Reds OF|
|2009||Indians||2||Reds||4||May 22–24, June 26–28||Ramón Hernández, Reds C|
|2010||Indians||2||Reds||4||May 21–23, June 25–27||Shin-Soo Choo, Indians OF|
|2011||Indians||5||Reds||1||May 20–22, July 1–3||Asdrúbal Cabrera, Indians SS|
|2012||Indians||3||Reds||3||June 12–14, June 18–20|
|2013||Indians||2||Reds||2||May 27–28, May 29–30|
|2014||Indians||1||Reds||3||August 4–5, August 6–7||Kristopher Negron, Reds IF|
|2015||Indians||5||Reds||1||May 22–24, July 17–19||Jason Kipnis, Indians 2B|
|2016||Indians||4||Reds||0||May 16–17, May 18–19||Rajai Davis, Indians OF|
|2017||Indians||2||Reds||2||May 22–23, May 24,July 24||Carlos Santana, Indians 1B|
The Indians and Reds have played each other many times in spring training as part of the Grapefruit League and Cactus League as the two teams trained at various times in Florida and Arizona. Since 2010, the Indians and Reds have shared Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona as their main spring training site. The Indians opened the stadium in 2009 and the Reds joined them the following season after both teams had previously held spring training at separate facilities in Florida.
- Krsolovic, Ken; Fritz, Bryan (2013). League Park: historic home of Cleveland baseball, 1891–1946. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-0-7864-6826-3.
- "CLV vs. CIN from 1890 to 1899 Head-to-Head Records". Baseball-Reference.com. 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
- Krsolovic & Fritz, pp. 45–46
- Chronicle-Telegram. Sunday, April 2, 1989
- Ky. Firm Designs Ohio Cup - KYPost.com
- "Year-by-Year Baseball History". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
- Associated Press (1993-03-31). "SPORTS PEOPLE; Reds' Morris Injured". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-30.