The last time the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series was 1990.
Thirty years ago. It doesn’t seem possible.
Most of you remember that year. Some of you weren’t even born yet. But it was the year of Sweet Lou, The Nasty Boys, pinch-runner Billy Bates, and a special World Series for Billy Hatcher.
I watched Game 4 – it was a Reds sweep of the powerful Oakland A’s – and saw both Eric Davis and Hatcher leave the game with injuries. But Jose Rijo was dominant and Randall Kirk Myers got the last out and I went downtown to celebrate. I danced on the bar of the Downtown Lounge in celebration a few hours later.
I never dreamed thirty years would go by without another championship. That’s entering Cubs Country, folks.
So with another series of articles on an historic season in mind, I thought about doing 1990 but it will be remembered frequently this year, as it should be —- so I chose another one.
You think the Reds need to get off to a fast start in 2020 after dismal ones the last two years? In 1970, they were 70-30 after their first hundred games. The National League West Division race was in shambles.
You think the Cincinnati need a great platoon system in left field? That’s what they had in 1970.
Think the Reds have an issue at shortstop this year? In 1970 they had a journeyman for a starter and a raw rookie from Venezuela named Dave Concepcion.
Like our five starters this season? When healthy, the Reds 1970 rotation was Jim Merritt (a 20-game winner that year), Wayne Simpson (who started off 14-1), Gary Nolan (a Reds Hall of Famer) and Jim McGlothlin, a 14-game winner.
The Reds bullpen had The Hawk (Clay Carroll), a submariner (Wayne Granger) and a 19-year-old kid from Lynn, Kentucky (Don Gullett).
But the biggest change for those Reds was their manager, a then 36-year-old rookie named George Lee Anderson. You might better know him as Sparky.
For sure, Sparky had talent on that team – Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Lee May, and Bobby Tolan to name a few – but he made some critical decisions early that resulted in 102 regular season wins that year
It was 1970 – leaving the old (Crosley Field) for the new (Riverfront Stadium). It was when the All-Star Game mattered. Cincinnati was the home to the Reds, Bengals, and the Cincinnati Royals. All three sports teams had young stars – Bench, Quarterback Greg Cook, and point guard Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald.
Two coaches were legends – Paul Brown and Bob Cousy. And the third one was wide-eyed, quotable Sparky Anderson, who took a deep breath before asking General Manager Bob Howsam for a salary of $35,000 a season to manage the Cincinnati Reds. “I hope we have all sorts of champions while I’m in Cincinnati,” he said at his introductory press conference just days after a headline in a Cincinnati newspaper asked “Sparky Who?”
Howsam thought Sparky’s salary request was a little high. He countered with $28,500. Sparky quickly accepted it.
It was a deal. The 1970 Cincinnati Reds were off and running.