Great natural ability Temple didn't have. A fierce competitive spirit, tremendous pride and determination he did have.
- Sportswriter Earl Lawson in 'Cincinnati Seasons'
The Reds teams of the latter half of the 1950s are among the most revered in Reds history, representing to many Reds fans the joy and innocence of bygone afternoons watching baseball at beloved Crosley Field. Johnny Temple was a central figure on these teams and served as a popular contrast to the power hitting exploits of teammates Ted Kluszewski, Wally Post and Frank Robinson.
Five years after he signed with the Reds in 1949, Temple made quite a splash as the starting second baseman for Cincinnati, playing sterling defenseand authoring the first of his three .300-plus batting seasons in a Reds uniform.
Temple teamed with shortstop Roy McMillan to form one of the best double-play combinations of the 1950s. A durable player, Temple never failed to appear in fewer than 141 games during each of his six seasons as the Reds' starting second baseman. Possessing a keen batting eye, Temple walked more than twice as many times as he struck out during his Reds career and was regularly among the league's leaders in on-base percentage, compiling a Reds career mark of .372.
He used his speed as a weapon which was something of an anomaly on a club in which the offensive focus was the long ball. Temple led the Reds in stolen bases for five consecutive seasons from 1954-58, finishing in the top 10 in the National League in each of those seasons.
A three-time All-Star, Temple was arguably the best second baseman in the league and this status -- coupled with his enormous popularity with Reds fans -- made the news of his trade to the Cleveland Indians after the 1959 season all the more shocking. While the Reds did receive future Reds Hall of Famer Gordy Coleman in the deal, the two primary players coming over from Cleveland -- second baseman Billy Martin and pitcher Cal McLish -- had brief, undistinguished stays in Cincinnati, whereas Temple continued his fine play with the Indians, including his fourth All-Star selection in 1961.
Temple returned to the Reds in 1964 as a player-coach, a role that ended abruptly in August after a fistfight with fellow coach Reggie Otero. Despite the controversial end to his second stint with the Reds, the memory of Temple's exceptional play the prior decade made him one of the fans' choices for induction into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1965.
Johnny Temple died of cancer in 1994 at the age of 66.