Cincinnati Reds – Decade Record: 953-657, 6 Division Titles, 4 Pennants, 2 World Championships
The Big Red Machine won more Pennants (4) in the decade than any other team and tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the most division titles with 6. They led the majors with 953 regular season wins, one more than Baltimore and 37 more than anyone else in the National League.
Cincinnati boasted the game’s best all-around catcher, Johnny Bench (8 Gold Gloves, 290 HRs and an MLB high 1013 RBI), and MLBs all-time (and 1970s) hit leader in Pete Rose, who was also the decade leader in doubles and runs scored. From ’70-’78, Rose scored 978 runs, hit .312, and notched 1,853 hits, including 354 doubles and 59 triples. The move that cemented the club’s dominance was the 1971 blockbuster trade of 2-time Gold Glove second baseman Tommy Helms and first baseman Lee May (who had bashed 73 HR and 192 RBI in ’70-’71) to Houston for 2B Joe Morgan, P Jack Billingham, and CF Cesar Geronimo, who would win 4 Gold Gloves. Morgan emerged as the decade’s best second baseman, winning 5 Gold Gloves with 488 stolen bases and an on-base% of .404.
The trade allowed third baseman Tony Perez, the decade’s #2 RBI man behind Bench, to move over to first base in 1972. Two years later Rose moved to third, replacing the mostly ineffective Denis Menke, and when OF Bobby Tolan (.273 from 1970-73) was traded, room in the outfield opened for the second half of the decade’s most feared run producer, George Foster, who topped the majors’ single season marks with 52 home runs and 149 RBI in 1977, and Ken Griffey, who hit .310 with over 900 hits in the decade.
Bench (’70, ’72) and Morgan (’75, ’76) took home two MVP trophies each in the 1970s, and Rose (’73) and Foster (’77) one each, giving the Reds 6 MVPs in 8 seasons.
Surprisingly, no Reds pitcher won 100 games for the club during the 1970s. Until Tom Seaver (46-23, 2.83 E.R.A.) was acquired in 1977 the club lacked star power in their starting rotation, but Billingham (87-63), Don Gullett (91-44), Gary Nolan (79-47) and Fred Norman (85-64) were all among the league’s best. Manager Sparky Anderson earned the nickname ‘Captain Hook’ for his quick calls to the bullpen, but he had that luxury with reliable big game pitchers such as Clay Carroll (95 saves, 2.62 E.R.A), Pedro Borbon (76 saves, 3.32), Rawly Eastwick (57 saves, 2.40), Wayne Granger (46 saves, 3.02), and Doug Bair (44 saves, 3.10).
The Reds fell short in the 1970 and 1972 World Series, and were upset by the Mets in the 1973 NLCS. Anderson’s club shed their reputation for not being able to win the big one with a 108 win season in 1975, where they outdistanced defending NL Champ Los Angeles by 20 games. Then came a 3 game NLCS sweep of rival Pittsburgh, followed by a gutty 7 game win over Boston in a classic World Series battle. Cincinnati was even more convincing in 1976, becoming the NL’s first repeat World Champs in 54 years, with 102 regular season wins, a 3 game sweep of Philadelphia in the NLCS, and a 4 game dismantling of the Yankees in the Fall Classic.
Joe Gersbeck is a baseball historian and lifetime fan/student of the game who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. His website is http://www.1970sBaseball.com and his book, 1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade’s Best Seasons, Teams, and Players is available on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks: