I’ve often commented I was a Reds fan growing up. I’m not from Ohio; I’m an Army brat, lived lots of places, but never Ohio. My mom has always been a Cubbie and did grow up in the Chicago area. I’ve never been a front runner as a fan, so how did I latch onto one of the great dynasties in baseball history? Simple. The first game I can remember watching was on TV and involved the Reds. I was 7 and can’t really remember much about the game other than it was the 1970 WS against the Orioles. My family lived in the DC area; I knew more O’s fans than Senators fans because the O’s were good and the Senators weren’t. Ever. Me, though, as a little kid, I thought that Bench guy was just awesome and that was it. The Reds lost that series to the O’s, but it didn’t matter, I was hooked.
So, just how good were the Reds of the 1970’s? Well, in those 10 years, they won 6 NL West division crowns, 4 NL pennants, and 2 World Series. The 1976 team swept both the NLCS and WS. They averaged 95 wins a season.
They had a “great 8”—the primary starters at the 8 field positions for the decade: Bench as the catcher, Tony Perez at first, Joe Morgan at second, Dave Concepcion at short, Pete Rose at third, and outfielders George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, and Ken Griffey Sr. Those 8 all had All Star appearances (65 total in the decade), 25 Gold Gloves, 3 batting titles, 4 homer titles (2 each by Bench and Foster). They won 6 of the 10 NL MVP awards in the 1970’s: Bench in 1970 and 1972, Pete Rose in 1973, Joe Morgan in 1975 and 1976, and George Foster in 1977. Bench, Morgan, and Perez are all in the Hall of Fame. I argue that Concepcion, as the best shortstop between Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith, should be. We all know why Rose isn’t.
1981*: Most of the team was still together in 1981. They had the best record in baseball…and didn’t even participate in the playoffs in a total rip-off that irritates me to this day when I think about it. There was a strike that year in the middle of the season. The players were in the right, and ultimately the players won. Once the strike was over, the commissioner—the nearly always wrong Bowie Kuhn—decided to make the playoffs gimmicky that year. Since the strike happened in the middle of the season, he made up first and second half division winners who then played each other for the right to go to the league championships. The Reds were second in each half and thus aced out despite having the overall best record. Friggin’ Bowie Kuhn.