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.

1970.

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.

22 Responses

  1. Jim t

    John Ring love your article but I have to correct you by implying Cousy was a legend. He played on some great teams but he also was instrumental in trading the Big O. Who by the way Cousy couldn’t carry his jock strap let alone guard. Paul Brown was a legend and Bill Walsh commented that Greg Cook was the most talented QB he ever coached. Sparky was the man but Bob Howson trading May, Helms and Stewart for Morgan, Geronimo, Billingham and Ed Armbrister formed the BRM.

    • David

      The Reds were dubbed “The Big Red Machine” by a Houston sportscaster in a 1969 game, when their lineup was mangling the Astros.

      The 1969 team was also a very good offensive team; Pete Rose, Alex Johnson, Bobby Tolan (who hit 26 HR’s that year) , Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Lee May. That was the last year that Leo Cardenas played short.
      Alex Johnson was traded to the Angels for Jim McGlothlin after the 1969 season. Alex won the American League batting title in 1970, but McGlothlin was necessary for the pennant run. Plus Alex was a terrible outfielder.

      • Peter Onte

        Tolan was one of my favorite Reds ever (in part, I admit, b/c of his batting stance) — but, his biggest HR total was 21 (in ’69).

    • Brayan O'Malley

      The Reds got Menke as well. They later traded Menke back to the ASStros for Pat Darcy.

  2. KELLY GREEN

    Wow, didn’t realize Sparky was only 36 when he took over the Reds!

  3. Ernie

    The 70 team was great,but they were beat by an even greater team the Orioles.Im a Reds fan but you have to give the Orioles credit.

    • Mike Adams

      Yeah, that 4 man rotation won a lot of games for Baltimore. Was it 3, or 4, twenty game winners?
      And I still can’t believe Brooks Robinson hoovered up all those hard hits balls that the BRM hit to the left side in that series.
      The Reds would put the wood to the ball and hit a bullet but Robinson snared it multiple times to rob the Reds.

      • RojoBenjy

        Brooks won that series for Baltimore with his glove.

      • Brayan O'Malley

        Cuellar, Dobson, McNalley & Palmer all won 20 games – in 1971. Then proceeded to lose to the Pirates in Clemente’s last 7 games of his career. Brooks Robinson was incredible, but the Reds pitching (or lack thereof) is what lost the Series for the Reds.

      • Redleg Bob

        Clemente actually played one more year after ’71.

      • Brayan

        @Redleg Bob – You’re absolutely right. Bench homered over his head in Game 3 in 1972. My bad. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Andrew

      Agreed. Even Peter E. Rose said Baltimore 3B Brooks Robinson belonged “in a higher league”. And the other Robinson – former Redleg Frank – had something to prove to ther Reds’ organization for trading him away. That whole team had a chip, thanks to the ’69 “Amazin’s”.

    • Brayan O'Malley

      Credit is given. But the Reds pitching staff was in ruins. The Reds barely got past Pittsburgh in the NLCS (3-0, 3-1, 3-2), and their pitching in the World Series is where we lost it, not just Brooks’ defense. Jim Merritt’s 20-win arm was dead. Wayne Simpson who started the year 14-1 had blown out his rotator cuff and was called lazy by Sparky through the 2nd half. It was a different era, that’s for sure.

      Another thing about 1970… Jim Maloney had injured his achilles in spring training and only pitched 7 games for the Reds before going on the IR. That was his age 30 season – he was traded to the Angels and retired after 1971 season.

      The Reds, if fate had willed it such, would have crrrruuushed the Orioles, if their pitching had been healthy.

  4. RedNat

    it is intriguing yet some what depressing to compare Reds eras.

    we have the Crosley Era, the Riverfront era and now the current Gabp era.

    the riverfront era was dominated by speed and the reds really flourished.
    the gabp era and Crosley have a lot in common. the game is dominated by pitching and power hitters as it was in the 50s/60s. Besides one break out year in 1961the reds really struggled to adapt to this style of play. overall we were never really that good at Crosley and our record at Gabp speaks for itself.

  5. Sliotar

    Nice piece and nice writing, John.

    This club was before my time but my late grandfather, who sparked the love of the Reds in me, often referred to the 1970 team as the one … that re-kindled his love.

  6. TR

    I forget the number of games, but the Reds had a long winning streak during the first couple months of the 1970 season. I knew then that that was the start of something special.

  7. My Beloved Reds

    As a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in Cincy, how spoiled I was. I didn’t realize just how spoiled until the 80s rolled around. It was absolutely amazing to watch that Team dominate an entire decade. Looking back on it now, we really should of won more than two World Series Championships. Trading Tony was a bad move, but Driessen was young and it looked like he was gonna be a massively successful bat for the Reds for years to come. But, as Sparky said, Tony was the glue of that Team. Losing him started the decline that lasted until the 1990 Wire-to-Wire Championship.

    • RojoBenjy

      I cut my teeth on Paul Householder, Dan Driessen, Eddie Milner, Gary Redus, Ron Oester, Nick Esasky, and the ever-ready Wayne Krenchicki.

      But in those days there was still Johnny Bench!

      My dad has made sure that I know all about 1970, 1975, 1976.

      In addition, one of the best investments I ever made was in the 75 and 76 full series DVD’s.

      1990 I was 17—it was the defining moment of my teen years (almost—lol).

  8. MK

    More than pinch running I remember Billy Bates getting his only hit as a Red in Game 2 and scoring the winning run running for himself.

    • RojoBenjy

      He’s a household name in my family.