The Big Red Machine: Still the Greatest

7576

Team posters in the man cave

43 years ago October 22, the 1975 Reds won the World Series.

42 years ago October 21, the 1976 Reds won the World Series.

Those teams are the only back-to-back World Series winners from the National League since the 1921-1922 New York Giants. And the 1976 Reds are the only undefeated postseason team since division play began in 1969.

The 1975 Reds won 115 games; the 1976 Reds won 109.

And how good were the 1976 Reds? To quote Greg Rhodes and John Erardi in Big Red Dynasty:

The 1976 Reds led the major leagues in ten major offensive and defensive categories: runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and fielding average.

No other team has ever led all these categories in their own league in one season, let alone all of baseball.

They also led in stolen bases and matched the league average with a 3.51 team ERA.

I believe the 1972-1976 Reds are the finest team to ever play professional baseball. They epitomized what I think the game is all about, and how it should be played.

The numbers are overwhelming, but they are perhaps the least of why I loved those teams at the time, and why I still revere them today.

One day they would blast the ball all over (and out of) the park to win; the next day, Nolan or Gullett or Billingham might throw a shutout. The next day, Concepcion or Morgan or Geronimo or Bench might save the game with Gold Glove defense, and “The Hawk” (Clay Carroll) or Tom Hall or Will McEnaney or Rawly Eastwick would slam the door and get a save.

And if the game was close late, and Morgan was coming to bat, you could hear and feel the energy and anticipation in the crowd. I felt that Morgan could work a walk almost at will, and then no one could stop him from stealing second base. The pitcher knew it; the catcher knew it; the crowd knew it; and he would steal it anyway. And most likely, Tony Pérez — the best clutch hitter I have seen — would drive him in, and another one “belonged to the Reds.”

They could win games in every way imaginable. Every game was exciting and fun, because they never seemed to be out of a game, and because of their spectacular range of skills.

To everyone who was a part of those great teams:

Thank you for all that you gave to me, and all of us who were Reds fans back then. You showed us how to play the game, and win, the right way. You gave us championships, so many thrills, and a lifetime of great memories. Your flame still burns brightly — even after all these years.

You will always have a special place in my heart.

Long live The Big Red Machine!