The “Jungle Cats” infield led the Cincinnati Reds to a championship in 1940

The famed “Jungle Cats” infield for Cincinnati: third baseman Bill Werber, shortstop Billy Myers, second baseman Lonny Frey, and first baseman Frank McCormick. (Artwork by Helmar)

The Cincinnati Reds were a dreadful team in the 1930s, finishing in the basement of the league five times. All that changed when Bill McKechnie arrived to manage the team, and an influx of new players assisted in the transformation.

A shrewd judge of talent and unafraid to shake things up, McKechnie handed the second base job to Lonny Frey, teaming him with the irrepressible Billy Myers at short. Both Frey and Myers were scrappy and quick, complimenting each other.

The most important part of the new Cincinnati infield was third baseman Billy Werber, who ended up being the biggest influence on McKechnie’s team. Werber worked with Frey and Myers on their fielding and challenged the infield to be a catalyst for team success.

Werber dreamed up the “Jungle Cat Infield,” dubbing himself “Tiger,” and naming Myers “Jaguar” and Frey “Leopard.” Thanks in large part to their airtight defense and the slugging of first baseman Frank McCormick, who became the National League Most Valuable Player, the Reds won pennants in 1939 and 1940, taking the World Series in the latter season.

“They were all good, fast, and smart,” pitcher Bucky Walters said of the Jungle Cats.

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