The Cincinnati Reds main rivals through most of their history have been the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago Cubs.
Here is how those rivalries developed, and where they stand in the 21st century.
Cincinnati Reds v. Los Angeles Dodgers
For the first hundred years or so of their existence, the Reds’ main rivals were based on geography — the Cubs and Cardinals fought Cincy for many of the same fans.
But, with the advent of divisional play in 1969, Cincinnati’s in-season rivalries became more tightly focused on the other teams in the original National League West: Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants.
That season, the Reds finished third to the Braves and Giants, but Cincy won the division in 1970.
San Fran won the West in 1971, and the Reds and Dodgers took the rest of the division titles through the 1970s, with the other team finishing second (1979 being the exceptions, when the Astros finished runner-up to the Reds).
Though the Dodgers enjoyed more success than the Reds in the 1980s, matchups between the two teams were always hotly contested, and they faced each other many times each season due to inhabiting the same division.
When baseball realigned for the 1994 season, the Reds landed in the NL Central, while the Dodgers stayed in the reconstituted NL West.
And, though the 1994 strike killed that year’s playoffs, the Reds and Dodgers met in the Divisional round of the 1995 postseason, where Cincy swept LA in three games.
Today, the rivalry has cooled to a large degree, but a Red-Dodgers matchup will always retain at least hint of the nemeses tensions from the past.
Cincinnati Reds v. St. Louis Cardinals
For many decades, the Reds and Cardinals were the only teams in the lower Midwest, and heartland fans generally split their allegiances between the two clubs.
Much of the choice about which team to follow came down to geography — between Cincinnati and the east coast, and in the southeast, fans gravitated toward the Reds. West of the Mississippi and toward the southwest, many fans latched onto the Cards … at least until teams began moving westward in the 1950s.
Indiana has always been a sort of battleground state, situated between the two teams, and also serving up plenty of Cubs fans.
Since 1994, or course, the Reds and Cardinals have built a more direct rivalry, playing each other several times a year as they compete for supremacy in the National League Central.
For most of that time, the Cards have seen more success than the Reds, and that’s true throughout the history of the franchise, too — St. Louis has won 11 World Series titles, second most behind the New York Yankees’ 27, while Cincinnati has five titles.
Cincinnati Reds v. Chicago Cubs
Although not the Cubs play in a huge market compared to the Reds, there is still some natural geographical rivalry, particular for fans in Indiana, and especially since both teams joined the NL Central in 1994.
Though the Cubs have won just three World Series, they undoubtedly have a bigger national and international audience than the Reds, and any matchup between the division rivals is bound to be a spirited affair.
Other Cincinnati Reds Rivals
The Dodgers, Cardinals, and Cubs may be the Reds’ staunchest competitors, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been other strong rivalries over the years.
Here are some that stand out …
Pittsburgh Pirates: Like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh is a river town with a strong blue-collar history, and pulled many fans from eastern Ohio, especially during the championship runs in 1960, 1971, and 1979. The Reds and Bucs also waged multiple NLCS battles in the 1970s, and in 1990, when Cincy won their most recent World Series.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves and Reds were fairly bitter rivals in the old NL West from 1969 through the early 1990s, and the Braves drew from part of the Reds’ southern and eastern base when they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966.
Cleveland Indians: Though the Reds and Indians share a state (Ohio), their rivalry had always been pretty loose and mostly theoretical until interleague play began in 1997. Now they play each other each season, but the teams have rarely been competitive at the same time, so the “Battle of Ohio” remains interesting but mostly uneventful.