Being a basketball coach for many years, not many people know that I love baseball. I'm a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan. And since this is 40th anniversary of the Big Red Machine’s 1976 world championship and Pete Rose will be inducted to the Reds Hall of Fame this weekend (June 24-26), this column will celebrate not the usual five but eight great facts about the Machine. The number eight is in honor of the eight position players who made up the Machine. So without further adieu…
1. The Big Red Machine was made up of the following players:
C- Johnny Bench
1B- Tony Perez
2B- Joe Morgan
SS- Dave Concepcion
3B- Pete Rose
LF- George Foster
CF- Cesar Geronimo
RF- Ken Griffey Sr.
2. The Machine only started together in the World Series years of 1975 and 1976, winning the fall Classic both times over the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. They won 224 games in those years.
3. In ’76, seven of the Reds made the All-Star team. The lone exception; Geronimo. But don’t feel badly for him, he hit .307 and won his third Gold Glove that year.
4. The 1976 Reds led the major leagues in 10 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.
5. The Big Red Machine featured six perennial All-Stars who were selected five or more times (Bench, Rose, Morgan, Perez, Foster and Concepcion).
6. They were not always loved. The press and fans labeled Rose a hot dog; Morgan was conceited; Bench arrogant and aloof. But there was a heroic quality that endured and finally triumphed.
7. The Reds won 108 games, the third highest in National League history; 28 of those games were in the last at-bat. They won the division by 20 games, the largest in the major leagues since 1906. The Reds beat the Pirates in the NLCS and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. It was the franchise's first World Championship in 35 years.
8. They were the first National League team to win back-to-back World Championships since the 1922 New York Giants.
In the seven seasons from 1970-76, the Reds won five division titles, four league pennants, and the consecutive World Series. They averaged 98 wins for a winning percentage. In the peak years of the dynasty, from 1972-1976, the Reds' winning percentage averaged .626 -- or 100 wins a season. But the most surprising aspect is The Great Eight played only 88 games together as a starting lineup in 1975-76. They went 69-19, a .784 winning percentage.
I think the Reds manager during the dynasty, the late Sparky Anderson, said it best about his team:
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the starting eight of the Big Red Machine is the greatest of all-time. But if somebody else has a better one, I want to sit and watch it."
Shane Shackleford is a third grade teacher at Evarts Elementary School and an assistant boys' basketball coach at Harlan County High School, both in Harlan, Ky. He and his wife Elizabeth reside in Harrogate, Tenn., with their dogs Molly and Bear. Shane can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.