The Short Version: Behind two homers and 5 RBI from Johnny Bench and superb pitching from Gary Nolan and Will McEnaney, the Big Red Machine sweeps the New York Yankees and wins their second consecutive World Series championship! Final — Game 4 R H E Cincinnati Reds (4-0) 7 9 2 New York Yankees (0-4) […]

Even some longtime Reds fans have forgotten over time about the big one that got away from wearing a Cincinnati uniform — Vida Blue. That’s right, Vida Blue. In one of his final moves as the Reds General Manager, Bob Howsam traded for the star lefthanded pitcher of the Oakland A’s in December of 1977. […]

(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.

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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.

With an 8:00 game tonight, I thought some of you might want a place to chat during this fine Sunday, plus I had a couple of things that didn’t merit their own posts, so I decided to throw it all together here. It’s Time to Plan for October The Reds are now 8 games up […]

The “save” didn’t become an official statistic in baseball until 1969, although it had been tracked for years. The definition of a save itself was defined in 1960 by Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman but it has been redefined, examined and criticized since. (The first official “save” went to Bill Singer on Opening Day 1969, who […]

December 16, 1976: The Reds trade Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez and lefty reliever Will McEnaney to the Montreal Expos for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray.

Perez was a fan and clubhouse favorite who had been in the Reds organization since migrating from Cuba in 1960. Considered a great clutch hitter, manager Sparky Anderson was once quoted as saying, “When there’s a runner in scoring position, I can’t think of any batter I’d rather have at the plate than Perez.”

Perez had been with the Reds at the major league level for 13 years at the time of the trade and had driven in 90 or more runs for ten consecutive seasons. Waiting in the wings was Dan Driessen, a line-drive hitting first baseman who had just turned 24 and already had four major league seasons under his belt. Driessen’s first season as starter could have fit right into a Perez career line — .300 with 17 homers, 91 RBI — but it stopped there as he never exceeded 75 RBI again. Perez collected 91 RBI for the Expos in 1977 before dropping into the 70’s twice himself and then rebounding with a 105 RBI season with the 1980 Boston Red Sox. Perez came back to the Reds for the final three seasons of his career, primarily as a part-time player. For his 23 seasons, Perez hit .279 with 379 home runs, 1652 RBI, and an .804 OPS (122 OPS+).

The decline of the Big Red Machine is often blamed on the Perez trade. The Reds offense continued to perform at a high level even without Perez while the pitching failed, but anecdotal evidence seems rather strong that Perez had a calming effect in the clubhouse.

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October 22, 1920: The 1919 Chicago White Sox gambling conspirators are officially in trouble. From the bullpen section of Eight members of the Chicago White Sox are indicted for supposedly throwing the 1919 World Series. Although considered heavy favorites to win the Series, the White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in eight games […]

October 21, 1877: Does the curveball really curve or is it an optical illusion? It’s easy for us to see today with digital graphics, but even when I was a child, I would sometimes come across “scientific” sports articles discussing the physics of how a pitched baseball curved or whether it was actually an optical illusion.

Well, as is the case with most things, the magazine articles I read as a child weren’t exactly full of original ideas. Back in 1877, the folks managing the Cincinnati Reds team of the National League conducted a demonstration to prove that a pitched ball could curve. Unfortunately for the 1877 Reds, this may have been the high point of the season that had concluded on October 2. The 1877 Reds were 15-42 in their second year of existence, 25 1/2 games behind the league champion Boston Red Caps. On the flipside, the 15-42 season was an improvement. In 1876, the team had gone 9-56.

From “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder:

A demonstration is conducted in Cincinnati prior to an exhibition game between the Reds and Boston to prove that a pitched baseball actually curves. A wooden stake was driven into the ground just in front of home plate. Boston’s Tommy Bond, a right-handed pitcher, threw from the right side of the pitcher’s box, and the ball curved around to the left side of the stake. To prove the ball was not influenced by the wind or any other atmospheric condition, Cincinnati’s left-handed pitcher Bobby Mitchell curved a toss around the right side of the stake.

It’s timely that or fortunate that the demonstration took place in Cincinnati in 1877. One of the Reds’ pitchers that year was Hall of Famer Candy Cummings, who is credited with having “invented” the curveball. Cummings was the most commonly used Reds pitcher that season, going 5-14 with a 4.34 ERA (61 ERA+). Cummings (career 21-22) is one of only three pitchers in the Hall of Fame with lifetime records under .500, along with modern day reliever Rollie Fingers (114-118) and Negro League star Satchel Paige who didn’t make his Major League debut until age 41 and went 28-31 (it’s thought his Negro Leagues record was 103-61).

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October 11, 1968: The Reds trade popular centerfielder Vada Pinson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Bobby Tolan and reliever Wayne Granger.

October 11, 1970: The Reds lose Game 2 of the 1970 World Series to the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 6-5, blowing an early lead for the second consecutive day. The Orioles now lead the World Series, two games to none.

The Reds scored three times in the bottom of the first inning off Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar to take the lead. Pete Rose reached on shortstop Mark Belanger’s error, but was forced out at second base by Bobby Tolan. Tony Perez singled to centerfield with Tolan stopping at second base. Tolan moved to third on a Johnny Bench flyout. Lee May then doubled to centerfield, scoring both Tolan and Perez and with May advancing to third base on an error by Orioles centerfielder Paul Blair. May scored on a Hal McRae squeeze bunt to give the Reds a 3-0 lead. Tolan made it 4-0 in the third with a solo home run.

The Orioles got one run back in the fourth on a Boog Powell home run and then erupted for five runs in the fifth inning to take a 6-4 lead. With one out, three straight singles from pinch hitter Chico Salmon, Don Buford, and Blair scored Salmon and chased Reds starting pitcher Jim McGlothlin. Powell greeted Reds rookie pitcher Milt Wilcox with another single, scoring Buford and making the score 4-3. Frank Robinson flied to right, but Brooks Robinson singled home Blair and then an Elrod Hendricks double scored both Powell and Brooks Robinson, giving the Orioles a 6-4 advantage. Clay Carroll relieved Wilcox on the mound and then he and Don Gullett pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. The Reds added one more run in the sixth inning on a Johnny Bench home run.

October 11, 1972: The Reds come from being down two games to one to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3. The Reds score two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs to win the game and the National League Championship Series.

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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).

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August 29, 1976: In a preview of the 1976 National League championship series, the Reds defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in 15 innings, 6-5. The Reds had scored the tying run in the ninth inning when Pete Rose scored from second on a passed ball. Later, in the 13th, Dave Concepcion scores from a second base […]

July 25, 1974: Tony Perez hits a dramatic two-out two-strike two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap a five-run Reds rally. The Perez homer enables the Reds to beat the San Francisco Giants, 14-13, in the first game of a double header. In the second game, Fred Norman shuts out the Giants, 5-0.

I don’t get to attend many Reds games, but the first game was one I saw as a boy and was easily the most exciting Reds game I’ve ever seen.

The Reds entered the game with the second best record in baseball at 58-40, but the best record in baseball was held by the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds had fallen 10 1/2 games behind back (48-37) as recently as July 10 and had cut five games off the lead in about two weeks. The Reds had the best record in baseball the rest of the way through season’s end.

The Giants opened the game with three runs off Clay Kirby. After retiring the first two batters, Kirby walked four, allowed two singles, and threw a wild pitch before manager Sparky Anderson replaced him with Dick Baney.

The Reds struck back for five runs in the bottom of the second off Giants’ starter Mike Caldwell and reliever Tom Bradley. Third baseman of the day Johnny Bench led off with a single and Tony Perez reached on an error with Bench stopping at second. Dave Concepcion doubled to left scoring Bench with the Reds’ first run. George Foster grounded out to shortstop for the first out of the inning, Perez scoring and Concepcion holding at second base. Concepcion stole third and Bill Plummer doubled to left field to tie the score at 3-3. Terry Crowley pinch hit for Baney (second inning–Sparky’s playing to win) against Bradley, but grounded out for the second out. Merv Rettenmund walked and Pete Rose followed with an infield single to load the bases. Joe Morgan singled to right field, scoring Plummer and Rettenmund, and giving the Reds a 5-3 lead. Bench popped out to end the inning.

Pedro Borbon came on to pitch in the third inning for the Giants, but gave up a run on a Gary Matthews triple and a Tito Fuentes single, closing the gap to 5-4. The Reds made it 7-4 in their half of the third when Concepcion homered after a Perez single.

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