The Big Red Machine

The Big Red Machine

:"The Big Red Machine" is also the publicly used name of the Hells Angels biker gang."The Big Red Machine" was the nickname given to the Cincinnati Reds baseball team which dominated the National League from 1970 to 1976. Over that span, the team won five National League Western Division titles, four National League pennants, and two World Series titles [] . Even though Cincinnati, OH, is closer to the eastern coast of the United States, the Reds were in the Western division of the National League until 1994, and entered the NL Central in 1995, after the creation of a Wild Card playoff format (which required the creation of a third division in the American and National Leagues). The team's combined record from 1970-1976 was 683 wins and 443 losses.

Some place the beginning of the Big Red Machine era at 1970, when the team posted a regular season record of 102-60 [] , wherein the Reds won the National League pennant. Then-rookie manager Sparky Anderson headed the team. Anderson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager by the Veterans Committee in 2000 [] . As for the players, the Reds boasted a powerful lineup, consisting of catcher Johnny Bench, first baseman Lee May, (who hit 147 home runs in seven seasons with the Reds, from 1965-71) [] , third baseman Tony Perez, and outfielder/infielder Pete Rose. Shortstops Woody Woodward and Dave Concepción were also strong members of the team. The pitching was questionable, but outstanding seasons by Jim Merritt and Wayne Simpson helped the dominant Reds win 60.7 percent of its 1,126 games in the 1970s. Wayne Granger, Clay Carroll and Don Gullett rounded out an outstanding bullpen. Following a 1971 season in which the Reds ended with a 79-83 fourth-place finish [] , the second base position was filled by then-nine-year veteran Joe Morgan, after a trade with the Astros sent Reds two-bagger Tommy Helms packing for Houston, TX. Bench, Peréz and Morgan are all members of the Hall of Fame, and Morgan is now a color analyst for ESPN baseball television broadcasts.

Although some of the the original players departed the team, some extend the Big Red Machine nickname for years after the Reds' two World Series victories in 1975 and 1976. As fate might have it, the Reds turned around to finish in second place in 1977 [] and 1978 [] . Rose left the Reds to play in Philadelphia in 1979, and Anderson was fired. In 1980, the Phillies would win the World Series over the Kansas City Royals, 4 games to 2 [] . They would return to the Fall Classic three seasons later to face the Baltimore Orioles. The Cincinnati Reds would not return to the World Series until 1990, when then-manager Lou Piniella led the team to a 4-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, a re-match of sorts from the 1972 World Series.

One might take interest to know that while the primary use of the nickname "Big Red Machine" is to refer to the teams of the 1970s, the nickname is sometimes still used to refer to current teams, especially if the team is enjoying success at the time.

The Cincinnati Reds might have been the team of the decade in the 1970s, with an overall record of 953 wins and 657 losses, however this win/loss record for the 10-year span may be misleading in accordance with the record book. The following is a comprehensive list of World Series Champions from 1970-1979, and how many games were played in each World Series [] :


1970: Baltimore Orioles def. Cincinnati Reds, 4 games to 1.
1971: Pittsburgh Pirates def. Baltimore Orioles, 4 games to 3; Reds did not advance to post-season.
1972: Oakland Athletics def. Cincinnati Reds, 4 games to 3.
1973: Oakland Athletics def. New York Mets, 4 games to 3.
1974: Oakland Athletics def. Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 games to 1; Reds did not advance to post-season.
1975: Cincinnati Reds def. Boston Red Sox, 4 games to 3.
1976: Cincinnati Reds def. New York Yankees, 4 games to none.
1977: New York Yankees def. Los Angeles Dodges, 4 games to 2; Reds did not advance to post-season.
1978: New York Yankees def. Los Angeles Dodges, 4 games to 2; Reds did not advance to post-season.
1979: Pittsburgh Pirates def. Baltimore Orioles, 4 games to 3.

The list above concludes that although the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati played in four World's Series, the team only won two of those Fall Classics. Countless athletes have said that a season which ends without a championship is a failure; therefore, if one applies this way of thinking to the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s, then the Big Red Machine failed 8 of 10 seasons, despite such outstanding final regular season records throughout the decade. The Reds made more World Series appearances than any other team in that span, but the list shows other teams that also dominated postseason baseball in the 1970s. Moreso than the Reds, the Oakland Athletics won three World's titles in a row, yet comparable to the Reds, the Orioles were 1-2 in championships for the decade. One might note that the 1983 World Champion Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies, whose starting first baseman was former Red, Pete Rose, and the Orioles then-future Hall of Fame twenty-three year-old starting shortstop went by the name of Cal Ripken, Jr. It was Ripken, Jr.'s only championship in a twenty-one season career, culminated by a Hall of Fame induction in 2007.

The eight players shown in the illustration above are arguably the eight greatest to step onto a baseball field as a collective unit. The Big Red Machine had baseball's all-time hit leader in Rose, with 4,256 hits [] ; 3 Hall of Fame players in Bench, Peréz and Morgan; 6 National League MVP selections; 4 National League home run leading seasons; 3 NL Batting Champions; 25 Gold Glove winning seasons, and 63 collective All-Star Game appearances [] .

Pete Rose, who might be considered the greatest player to ever wear a Cincinnati Reds uniform, if not one of the greatest Major Leaguers in history, has been the subject of much debate since he was permanently banned from baseball in 1989 [] .

Cincinnati's Big Red Machine teams from 1975 and 1976 are the only National League teams during the last 75 years to win back-to-back World Championships. Before them, the 1921 and 1922 New York Giants are the NL team to accomplish this feat [] .

Key team members and their positions

*Johnny Bench, catcher.
*Tony Pérez, first base.
*Joe Morgan, second base.
*Pete Rose, Outfield (approximately half of Rose's career was spent playing infield as well).
*Dave Concepción, shortstop.
*George Foster, outfield.
*César Gerónimo, outfield.
*Ken Griffey, Sr., outfield.
*Sparky Anderson, manager.


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