(Editor’s note: As regular readers of RN will know, John is our correspondent from Afghanistan. This piece was written by John, and originally published in The Zephyr, a weekly newspaper in Galesburg, Illinois.)
It was 12:34 in the morning at Fenway Park in Boston when Pat Darcy took the mound to enter his third inning of work. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, which had been delayed for three days because of rain in New England, had started four hours earlier between Darcy’s Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox.
Darcy had faced six Red Sox batters in the 10th and 11th innings and retired them all. The Reds and Boston were tied 6-6 in the 12th inning. Pat Darcy was the eighth Cincinnati pitcher that Sparky Anderson had used that night. Aside from Darcy, he had only two left. Don Gullett was being held for Game 7 if the Reds, who were leading the Series 3-2, were to lose. The only other pitcher left besides Darcy in the razor-thin Reds bullpen was Clay Kirby.
Pat Darcy was a 25-year old rookie pitcher during that 1975 season. He’d had a good year; an 11-5 record, a 3.38 earned run average and Sparky had used him primarily as a starter (22 starts) and long relief pitcher. That’s worth about $4 million a year by today’s standards. But Darcy pulled in $17,500 in 1975.
Darcy was always ready and there was always work with Sparky. Lots of work. After Gullett’s thumb was broken by a line drive in June and the Reds nursing a 3 and ½ game lead over the Dodgers in the National League Western Division, Sparky bragged to a close friend that his genius would really be seen by one and all now. It was. Sparky’s extensive use of the bullpen changed the landscape of baseball.
Anderson’s answer to young Don Gullett’s injury was to swarm the mound with relievers, pulling starters at the first sign of weakness. The Reds disowned complete games. Fresh arms ruled. In fact, it was Pat Darcy who stopped a consecutive streak of 54 incomplete games when he went the distance against the San Francisco Giants in August.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.
2013 is looking good so far. Despite injuries to their #1 starter, starting leftfielder and cleanup hitter and catcher, the Reds are thick in the race for the Division as Memorial Day awaits. Their MVP is a Boy Named Choo, Votto is hitting like Votto and Bruce looks like he is in the beginning of […]
Last week, we brought you the first part of Bill Lack’s excellent discussion with Big Red Machine pitcher Fred Norman. Today, part two. Enjoy! http://traffic.libsyn.com/redlegnation/Redleg20Nation20Radio208620Fred20Norman20Part202.mp3 You can listen with the player above or right-click here to download the mp3 file to listen at your leisure. For links to all previous episodes of Redleg Nation Radio, […]
One week after club legend Jim Maloney joined Redleg Nation Radio, we’re very excited that Fred Norman, starting pitcher for the 1970s Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds, had a few minutes to spare for our Bill Lack. More than a few minutes, actually; this is a long one, so we split it into two parts. […]
Thank God for Tony Cingrani. The lefthanded rookie hurler kept the Redlegs from getting swept out of Washington, DC with a true gem this past Sunday. Six innings of work, no runs, 11 strikeouts and a win. And this didn’t come against the Marlins or Cubs, either. Reds and lefthanded pitchers who are successful don’t […]
October 17, 1976: Tony Perez singled home Ken Griffey with the winning run as the Cincinnati Reds won the second game of the 1976 World Series, 4-3, in Cincinnati. The World Series win gave the Reds victories in the first two games of the Series. The Reds scored first in the game when they scored […]
October 15, 1892: Bumpus Jones pulls off one of the most improbable events in baseball history and pitches a no-hitter in his first major league game. In the last Reds’ game of the 1892 sesaon, Jones defeats the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-1. It’s one of the only two wins in Jones’s career and the first no-hitter […]
October 9, 1876: The first National League Cincinnati Reds team finished the worst season in Reds history with an 11-0 lost to the Hartford Dark Blues. The Reds, or Porkopolitans as they were sometimes called, went 9-56, a .138 won-loss percentage, and finished 42 1/2 games behind the first place Chicago White Stockings.
The first Reds team had a genuine superstar, Charley Jones, who batted .286 with a .724 OPS (154 OPS+) and was second in the league with four home runs. Those were the only home runs the Reds hit all season. Jones was the only Red to have a slugging percentage over .279. Over the next decade, Jones became one of baseball’s best known and very best players with several teams signing him to contracts, but that’s another story. The Reds most common pitcher (carefully chose the word “common”) was Dory Dean who finished the season 4-26 with a 3.73 ERA (ERA+ 59). He led the team in games pitched and innings pitched despite missing the first two months of the season. His .133 winning percentage is the worst ever by a one-year pitcher with a minimum of 20 decisions.
At least the Reds finished the season. The New York Mutuals and the Philadelphia Athletics quit the season with two weeks to go and found their teams expelled from the National League. The nation’s two largest cities did not have major league baseball teams for at least the next five seasons. Philadelphia did not get another major league baseball team until 1882 when the American Association granted them a franchise. The National League granted a franchise to Philadelphia in 1883 in response to the AA move. The National League and American Association both granted New York franchises for the 1883 league seasons.
October 9, 1898: The Reds’ Dusty Miller collects eight hits in a Reds doubleheader with the Cleveland Spiders. The Reds won the first game, 12-5, but the second game resulted a 6-6 tie with the game called after seven innings due to darkness.
In the first game, Miller was 5-5 with five singles against Hall of Famer Cy Young. In the second game, he had a single, a double, and a triple. For the season, Miller batted .299 and led the Reds with 99 runs scored and 90 rbi. Miller played seven major league seasons, five with the Reds. His best Reds season was 1895, when he batted .335 with 10 homers, 112 rbi, 103 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 triples and an .888 OPS (124 OPS+). The best hitter for the 1898 Reds was Mike Smith, a former 34-game winning pitcher for the Red Stockings in 1887. Smith batted .342 with an .858 OPS (139 OPS+).
It was a team of upcoming players; young talent in the infield and on the pitching staff, mixed with stable battle-tested veterans known for their leadership. It was team built on power in the outfield and in the infield with a corner infielder MVP candidate; a team with just enough speed to keep the opposition honest.
This upstart team was entering the playoffs playing a veteran juggernaut of it’s era. The veteran team was full of all-stars with a power-packed first baseman, a slugging OBP-minded second baseman, a slick fielding shortstop, and a versatile third baseman capable of high batting averages. The outfield had power and speed with a centerfielder that could cover lots of ground. The pitching staff was relatively young, but still veteran in nature with lots of choices in the bullpen.
Do the teams sound familiar? These teams could be the 2010 Reds and Phillies, but they’re not. I’m talking about the 1976 Reds and Phillies.
The 1976 Reds were THE BIG RED MACHINE, one of the greatest dynasties in baseball lore. The best team of the 1970’s in Major League Baseball’s toughest league and the toughest division at the time. Four times did the Reds face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the League Championship Series, but one time, in 1976, they faced the Philadelphia Phillies, winners of 101 games themselves, one fewer than the 1976 Big Red Machine. And, the Phillies themselves had won seven of twelve games that season from the Reds, the only team to have a winning record against the 1976 BRM.
The 1976 Cincinnati Reds
The Reds had Hall of Famers Johnny Bench at catcher, Tony Perez at 1b, and Joe Morgan at 2b. They had potential future Hall of Famers at shortstop (Dave Concepcion) and third base (Pete Rose). They had possibly the most feared slugger of the mid-1970s in left field (George Foster), perpetual Gold Glover in Cesar Geronimo in center field, and an all-star OBP, high average hitter Ken Griffey in right field. The Reds starting pitching staff was never as bad as the popular view was at the time, or at least manager Sparky Anderson knew how to handle them. Fred Norman and Jack Billingham were wily veterans, Gary Nolan had already re-invented himself into a Cy Young type pitcher twice if not three times, Pat Zachry was Rookie of the Year, rookie Santo Alcala won 11 games, and everyone thought that young Don Gullett was headed to the Hall of Fame. The bullpen led by Pedro Borbon and youngsters Rawly Eastwick, Will McEnaney, and Manny Sarmiento may have been the best in baseball. While everyone remembers their hitting (120 OPS+), even their pitching staff was dead on league average (ERA+ 100).
October 5, 1939: Yankees pitcher Monte Pearson holds the Reds hitless for seven and 1/3 innings as the Yankees shutout the Reds, 4-0, to take a two game to none lead in the 1939 World Series.
The Yankees reached Reds starter Bucky Walters for five hits in the third inning, plating three runs, and later added a Babe Dahlgren fourth inning home run to account for all their scoring. The Reds’ Billy Werber was the Reds’ only baserunner before the eighth inning, drawing a fourth inning leadoff walk. However, Werber was erased trying to steal second base as Lonnie Frey struck out. The Reds got their first hit on an Ernie Lombardi single in the eighth inning. Werber got the Reds’ only other hit, a ninth inning single.
October 5, 1940: The Reds’ Paul Derringer pitches a five-hitter to win his first World Series game in six starts as the Reds evened the 1940 World Series at two games each with a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Derringer had previously started two World Series games in the 1931 classic while with the St. Louis Cardinals and the 1939 Series with the Reds as well as the opening game in the 1940 Series before notching his first WS victory in this game. His career walk rate was 1.9 in regular season play, but he averaged 4.6 walks per nine innings during his postseason career and he walked six in this 1940 victory. Four different Reds had two hits in this game with Ival Goodman collecting two rbi.
October 5, 1961: The Reds even the 1961 World Series game at one game apiece as Joey Jay pitches a four-hitter while Gordy Coleman and Johnny Edwards each collect two rbi in a 6-1 win over the New York Yankees.
September 15, 1885: Rookie Cincinnati Red Stockings pitcher George Pechiney defeats the Baltimore Orioles, 1-0, in Baltimore. Pechiney joined the Red Stockings in August after pitching in the minors and started 11 games down the stretch. He went 7-4 with a 2.02 ERA (161 ERA+) during the last few weeks of the season. The 1885 Red Stockings finished in second place to the St. Louis Browns. The Red Stockings were 63-49, 16 games behind the Browns.
Pechiney didn’t fare as well in 1886. He started 40 games and pitched 330 innings, finishing the season 15-21 with a 4.14 ERA (85 ERA+). The nadir of his season came on April 27 when the Browns beat him 20-2 with Pechiney going the distance. He allowed 15 earned runs and 24 hits. At year’s end his contract was sold to the Cleveland Blues. In 1887 (his final season) he went 1-9 with a 7.12 ERA (61 ERA+).
The 1885 Red Stockings team was built on offense. Managed by local sportswriter Ollie Caylor (see, sportswriters can manage a team…), the offense was led by local superstar Charley Jones (fascinating biography found here…), Jones was fifth in the league in OPS and batted .322 (157 OPS+). The Red Stockings boasted one of the best infields in Cincinnati history in first baseman John Reilly ( career 128 OPS+), Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee (career OPS+ 106), third baseman Hick Carpenter (OPS+ 86) and slugging shortstop Frank Fennelly (OPS+ of 118). Fennelly had a huge 1885, batting .273 with 10 homers (41 extra base hits) and 89 rbi in just 112 games (OPS+ 142).
The 1886 Red Stockings declined and were the worst Cincinnati team of their American Association era, finishing in fifth place (65-73) the only sub-.500 team of the 1880’s.
September 15, 1887: The Cincinnati Red Stockings defeat two different teams on the same day. In the morning, they defeat The New York Metropolitans, 4-0, on Staten Island, and then travel to Brooklyn to beat the Brooklyn Grays that afternoon, 11-1.
The 1887 Red Stockings finished second with an 81-54 record, 14 games behind the St. Louis Browns. The 1887 Red Stockings featured duel 30-game winners in Mike Smith (34-17, 2.94 ERA, 148 ERA+) and Tony Mullane (31-17, 3.24 ERA, 134 ERA+). (You can read more about Smith and Mullane here). John Reilly was the hitting star, batting .309 with 96 rbi in 134 games.
September 15, 1950: The pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies sweep a doubleheader from the Reds. The Reds lose the first game, 2-1, and then go 19 innings before losing the nightcap, 8-7.
The Phillies first game runs scored on a double play ground out and a home run by catcher Andy Seminick, giving them a 2-0 lead after four innings. The Reds’ only run came in the sixth inning when Virgil Stallcup doubled home Lloyd Merriman. Knuckleballer Willie Ramsdell went the distance in the loss.
September 5, 1973: For the second day in a row, the Reds explode in extra innings to beat the Houston Astros in Houston. The Reds use the three game series to move into first place in the Western Division, a lead they won’t relinquish for the rest of the season.
The Reds entered the three-game series with the Astros one game behind the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Having spent most of the season in third and fourth place, the Reds trailed by as many as 11 games as late as June 30. The Reds moved into a tie for first on the first day (September 3). While the Dodgers were losing 11-8 to the San Francisco Giants, the Reds scored two runs in the eighth inning on a Ken Griffey pinch single to beat the Astros, 4-3.
The Reds scored first on a second inning solo home run by Andy Kosco, but the Astros plated three runs in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead. The Reds got one run back in the sixth inning on a Pete Rose two-out single. The Reds won it in the eighth when Johnny Bench doubled with two outs. Kosco drew a walk, and Ed Armbrister, making his second consecutive start since his recall from AAA, reached on an infield single to load the bases. Ken Griffey, in his seventh game since his recall, then delivered a pinch two-run single giving the Reds their 4-3 lead and eventual margin of victory. Pedro Borbon pitched the final three innings of the game, surrendering no runs despite giving up six singles in those three innings. Former Astro Jack Billingham had started the game for the Reds and had pitched six innings, allowing three unearned runs.