1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds: the Greatest Baseball Team of All Time?
The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time,
Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames,
Weird Baseball Facts and
Trivia, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates,
Why Pete Rose
Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame,
Big Red Machine Timeline/Chronology
The Big Red Machine dominated the National League from 1970-1976, with a dynasty that won five division titles and four
pennants. During this impressive run the Reds appeared in four World Series, winning the last two
consecutively while going an astonishing 14-3 (82.4%)
in postseason play against the world's best teams. For five full seasons, 1972-1976, the Reds averaged a .626 winning percentage and 100
victories per year. For nearly a decade, 1970-1976, they averaged 98 wins per
season. The 1975 Reds won 108 games, one of the best records in the
modern era, against very stiff competition (the Schmidt-Luzinski-Carlton Phillies, the Stargell-Parker-Oliver Pirates, the Simmons-Brock-McBride
Cardinals, and the Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey-Buckner Dodgers). The 1976 Reds won 102 games despite injuries that often kept the starters from
playing together, and they remain the only major league baseball team to go undefeated in the postseason since divisional playoffs began.
Were the 1975-1976 Reds the greatest baseball team of modern times? Were they the greatest baseball team of all time? I claim the answer
to both questions is "yes" and will proceed to provide the "whys" and "wherefores" ...
The 1975-1976 Reds had a star-studded starting lineup called the "Great Eight" that was the best of all time when offense, defense,
baserunning and intangibles like hustle, versatility, clutch play and intimidation are considered. Members of the Great Eight collected six
MVP awards, four home run titles, six RBI titles, seven hits titles, six runs titles, three batting titles, 26 Gold Gloves and a staggering
65 All-Star selections. That's an average of eight All-Star appearances per starter! Incredibly, seven of the Great Eight made
the 1976 NL all-star team. The only Reds starter who didn't make the All-Star team that year, center fielder Cesar Gerónimo, hit
.307, won a Gold Glove, and finished 25th in the MVP voting despite batting eighth!
Furthermore, as I will document, the 1976 Reds were one of the best defensive
and base-stealing teams of all time. The "slash lines" below are batting
average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage/OPS. An asterisk means the player is a superstar in the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF), or should be. A plus sign means the player was
well above average for his position. A minus sign would designate a below-average player, but you won't find any weak spots in this stellar lineup:
• C Johnny Bench (*) was the greatest offensive/defensive catcher ever, in his prime years, and despite many injuries due to
the rigors of his position, he remains the Reds' all-time leader in homers, RBI and Gold Gloves (ten).
Bench was MVP twice, an All-Star 14 times, and he leads all catchers in career WAR and JAWS.
How good was Johnny Bench, really? Here's what David Schoenfield said in his
article about the best players of all time, age 25 and under: "The only
catcher to make the list ... who was he in 1970 [at age 22]? Only the NL MVP after leading the league in home
runs  and RBI  while possessing the strongest arm many had ever seen―he
started 130 games at catcher and allowed only 32 steals while throwing out 30.
You did not run on Johnny Bench." Or as an ESPN writer explained: "Bench
was the perfect archetype for his position, catching's answer to Willie Mays,
the guy whose game was all power. Power to the fences, a cannon behind the plate." Or as Bench's manager George "Sparky" Anderson advised, please don't embarrass any
other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench! Bench won a gold glove as a rookie, then went on to
earn ten consecutive gold gloves while averaging 29 homers and 100 RBI for a
decade; he redefined the catching position while hitting 40+ homers
twice. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Johnny Bench is the #40 player of all time,
comparable to Mel Ott, Carl Yastrzemski, George Brett and Joe Medwick.
• 1B Tony Pérez (*) was one of the greatest run producers ever, finishing with 1,652 RBI.
That's more than legendary sluggers like
Mike Schmidt, Rogers Hornsby, Joe DiMaggio, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell,
Jeff Bagwell, Orlando Cepeda and Harmon Killebrew.
Called "Mr. Clutch," Pérez ranks behind only Cap Anson, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in RBI
and total bases among HOF first basemen who didn't spent
much of their careers DH-ing. Pérez ranks in the all-time top 50 for total
bases, ahead of Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and first base peers like McCovey, Stargell, Killebrew,
Bagwell and Cepeda. And while Pérez didn't hit as many homers as the Foxxes and Gehrigs,
with 379 dingers he's right up there with a slew of impressive sluggers:
Cepeda, Johnny Mize, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Albert Belle, Frank Howard,
Ryan Howard, Jim Rice, Norm Cash and Bench. If you want your
first baseman to consistently produce lots of total bases and RBI, year after
year, then Pérez is in the upper tier. If for some reason you devalue total
bases and RBI, I think he still ranks in the top 20 but I have him closer to the
top 10. Pérez rivaled Bench as a home-run and RBI man; he averaged 28 homers and 103 RBI
for a decade, and drove in 90+ runs 12 times According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Tony Pérez is
the #247 player of all time, comparable to Home Run Baker, Max Carey, Larry
Doby and Bob Meusel.
• 2B Joe Morgan (*) may have been the greatest all-round second baseman ever; the 1976 NL MVP hit .320/.444/.576/1.020
with 27 homers, 111 RBI, 113 runs, 114 walks and 62 stolen bases; he also won five Gold
Gloves. Morgan has the highest career WAR among modern second baseman and ranks behind only immortals Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins
and Nap Lajoie at his position; however, he may have been the best when we consider defense, getting on base, base-stealing and power. In the
worst case, he's in the all-time top four. How rare was Morgan's 1976 season? Well, it would be 40 years before another second baseman
would lead either league in OPS! How good was Morgan for his peak five years of 1972-1976? Morgan's peak WAR was higher than
that of Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams ... and every other
HOF player not named Ruth, Mays or Mantle!
As Larry Granillo pointed out in his article on the greatest players by era: "Joe Morgan takes over as the best player in baseball in 1973.
His four-year run ends after two great years in '75 and '76 that find him
as far above the second best player as anyone else in history."
That opinion was seconded by The Sporting News, which made Morgan its
player of the year in 1975 and 1976. The only two-time winners prior to Morgan
were Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Sandy Koufax!
Morgan revolutionized the second base position with his
unique combination of power, speed, base stealing and defense; he averaged 100
runs, 109 walks, 40 steals and 18 homers for a decade. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Joe Morgan is the #64
player of all time, comparable to Johnny Mize, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Mark
McGwire and Paul Molitor. But at his peak, Morgan was higher.
• SS Dave Concepción (*) was the most complete shortstop of his era, with speed, defense, athleticism and a potent bat for his position (slugging
.401, 25th in the NL in 1976); he was an all-star nine times and won five Gold Gloves and
two Silver Sluggers. If elected, Concepción would rank eighth among HOF shortstops in games; ninth in home runs, stolen bases and
defensive WAR; and eleventh in hits and RBI. So he either belongs in the HOF or at the very least deserves strong consideration.
Concepción had a ten-year streak in which he either made the all-star team,
won a gold glove or was a leading MVP candidate; he also slugged .397 or better
six times and drove in 60 or more runs seven times. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Dave Concepción is the
#154 player of all time, comparable to Jackie Robinson, Hack Wilson, Willie
Stargell, Earle Combs, Pie Traynor and Pee Wee Reese (and he ranks above 14 other HOF
• 3B Pete Rose (*) is the all-time leader in games, wins, plate appearances, at-bats, hits and times on base;
in 1976 he had a banner year, batting .323/.404/.450/.854 with 215 hits, 130 runs, 42 doubles, 86 walks and
299 total bases while leading off; he also won two Gold Gloves. Rose's 79.1 career WAR would place him
fifth among HOF third basemen, behind only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs and George Brett. There has been a noticeable tendency in
recent years for some "experts" to claim that Rose was "just a singles hitter" and "not dynamic," but that can easily
be refuted with WAR7, which measures a player's seven best years. Rose has a higher WAR7 than Ralph Kiner, Goose Goslin, Tim Raines, Joe Medwick,
Manny Ramirez, Willie Stargell, Edgar Martinez, Paul Molitor, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Paul Waner and Tony Gwynn. Surely no one would claim those superstars were "not dynamic."
So obviously Rose was. Here's another measure of Rose's dynamism: over
a 24-year career that obviously involved some "slowing down" at the end, he
averaged 98 runs, 194 hits and 262 total bases per 162 games. Again, that's
for a 24-year career. Those would be exceptional numbers for most players
in their primes! According to his peak years alone, Rose would rank #6 among HOF
left fielders or #8 among HOF third basemen. If we give him credit for lifetime
achievements, he ranks even higher. As for Rose being "just a singles hitter,"
well he ended up with only 41 fewer total bases than Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat himself! Rose was the only all-star at five
different positions; he appears among the top 25 players of all-time at 3B, LF and RF field in various rankings; he had a .395 career OBP and was on base nearly 200
times at age 44. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Pete Rose is the #15 player of all time, comparable to Jimmie Foxx, Honus Wagner, Mickey Mantle,
Charlie Gehringer, Joe DiMaggio and Tris Speaker.
• LF George Foster (*) aka "the Destroyer" was the most feared slugger of his era; in 1976 he hit .306/.364/.530/.894
with 29 homers and led all MLB with 121 RBI; he was second only to Morgan in slugging percentage.
If elected, Foster would rank seventh among HOF left fielders in homers (348) and eleventh in RBI (1,239) and slugging percentage (.480). He was the 1977 NL MVP and
finished 1-2-3-6-12 in the MVP voting. Foster compares favorably with HOF outfielders Joe Medwick, Jim Rice, Ralph Kiner,
Hack Wilson, Chuck Klein, Enos Slaughter, Earle Combs, Kiki Cuyler, Zack Wheat,
Sam Thompson and Larry Doby. Foster's WAR7 puts him squarely
between Stargell and Rice (a very high peak indeed). The last time I
counted, there were 32 HOF outfielders who didn't strike me as better than
Foster; the majority seemed less good. The only slugging RBI types among the left
fielders markedly better than Foster, in my opinion, were Ted Williams, Carl
Yastrzemski, Al Simmons, Goose Goslin, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams and Ed
Delahanty. Rice and Medwick may be a notch above Foster, but it's getting close.
Also above Foster I would add speed merchants Rickey Henderson and Tim
Raines. That still leaves a sizeable list of HOF left fielders with fewer homers and RBI
than Foster, and below him in WAR7. If we consider all three outfield positions,
since Foster also played center and right, he is well above
average in homers and RBI, and his OPS+ is around the HOF average at a healthy
126. If we give him credit for the fact that he did more in fewer at-bats than
most of his peers―as did Kiner, Wilson, Combs and Doby―he looks even better. Why
is Foster a notch below peers like Stargell and Rice? Well it was hard for him to play left field when it was being manned by 17-time all-star Pete
Rose! The Big Red Machine was blessed with a two-decade unbroken string of excellent outfielders:
Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Rose, Tommy Harper, Deron Johnson, Alex Johnson, Bobby Tolan, Bernie Carbo,
Hal McRae, Griffey, Geronimo and Foster. If Rose hadn't moved to third, Foster may
never have found a full-time position. As it was, he started playing full-time
for the Reds at age 26 and only played full-time for ten years. But his
162-game average was 29 homers and 102 RBI. And there aren't many outfielders
who can say that. Billy Williams averaged 28/96, Carl Yastrzemski 22/90 and Reggie Jackson 32/98.
They were great players, and Foster was in the same class for a decade. That
should be good enough for HOF enshrinement, since ten stellar years (or fewer)
were good enough for the players I mentioned previously. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, George
Foster is the #193 player of all time, comparable to George Kell, Enos
Slaughter, Roger Maris, Tony Lazzeri, Home Run Baker and Tim Raines.
• RF Ken Griffey Sr. (+) combined speed (34 stolen bases) with
pop (.851 OPS); in 1976 he missed the NL
batting title by an eyelash and his .336/.401/.450/.851 slash line was nearly identical to Rose's. For his career, Griffey hit
.296 with a .431 slugging percentage, 2,143 hits, 152 homers, 200 steals and 1,129 runs.
Perhaps his most impressive stat is that he averaged 87 runs per 162 games for a
19-year career. Griffey compares favorably with HOF outfielders Earle Combs,
Kirby Puckett, Earl Averill, Richie Ashburn, Harry Hooper, Edd Roush, Kiki Cuyler,
Larry Doby, Enos Slaughter, Lloyd Waner, Chick Hafey, Ross Youngs, King Kelly,
Elmer Flick, Hack Wilson, Chuck Klein, Sam Thompson, Monte Irvin and Hugh Duffy.
Griffey's case for the HOF is not as strong as Concepción's and Foster's, but he
belongs in the conversation, and that makes him a star.
Griffey made three all-star teams and was the 1980 MVP, hit .300 or
better nine times, slugged .400 or better seventeen times, stole ten or more
bases ten times, and hit ten or more homers nine times. According to the
Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Ken Griffey Sr. is the #493 player of all time,
comparable to Carl Furillo, Cesar Cedeno, Amos Otis, Kevin Mitchell, Brady
Anderson and Harry Hooper.
• CF Cesar Gerónimo (+) was a great defensive player with a cannon-like arm and outstanding speed
and athleticism; in 1976 he hit .307/.382/.414/.795
with 201 total bases and 22 steals; he also won
four consecutive Gold Gloves while competing against great glove men like Roberto Clemente (12 GG), Garry Maddox (8 GG), Andre Dawson (8
GG), Dave Winfield (7 GG), Cesar Cedeno (5 GG), Bobby Bonds (3 GG), Dave Parker
(3 GG) and Willie Davis (3 GG). While Gerónimo is the only one of the Great
Eight who, in my opinion, is not in the conversation for the HOF, if he had
played the way he played in 1976 for an extended period of time, he would be!
Gerónimo had great range and speed (as evidenced by his leading all MLB outfielders in triples in 1976 while stealing
22 bases) with a canon-like arm. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Cesar Gerónimo is the
#857 player of all time, comparable to Kirk Gibson, Gary Matthews, Monte Irvin, Roy White, Lou Pinella, Bobby Tolan and Cesar Tovar. And
that is hellaciously good territory for any team's number eight hitter!
Going to WAR with the Elite Eight
To "grok" how great the Elite Eight really were, let's consider how they compare to Hall-of-Fame peers at their respective positions ...
• C Johnny Bench #1 (75.0 WAR) followed by Berra, Cochrane, Campanella, Fisk, Carter, Rodriguez, Dickey, Piazza, Simmons, Hartnett
• 1B Tony Pérez #9-11 (53.9 WAR, 1,652 RBI) behind Anson, Gehrig, Foxx, Murray, Thomas, Killebrew, McCovey, Mize
and possibly Greenberg, Bagwell
• 2B Joe Morgan #1-4 (100.3 WAR) possibly behind Hornsby, Collins and/or Lajoie (or
quite possibly ahead of them all)
• SS Dave Concepción #11-14 (according to Bill James; see the position
discussion below) close to Reese and ahead of Rizzuto, Tinker, et al
• 3B Pete Rose #6 (79.1 WAR) behind Schmidt, Matthews, Brett, Boggs and Brooks Robinson (the
up for his amazing defense)
• LF George Foster #12-15 (348 HR, 1,239 RBI) comparable to Kiner, Keller, Wilson, Doby, Medwick,
Rice, Klein, Slaughter, Wheat, Belle, et al
• RF Ken Griffey Sr. #16-19 (2,143 hits, 1,129 runs) comparable to Maris,
Hooper, Combs, Puckett, Averill, Ashburn, Cuyler, Youngs, et al
• CF Cesar Gerónimo (unranked) comparable to Albie Pearson, Pepper Martin, Harry
"the Hat" Walker, Gus Bell, Gary Matthews, et al
The 1976 Reds could be called the "WAR Lords" or the "Gods of WAR." I don't
believe there has ever been a starting eight who acquired as much collective
career WAR as the Great Eight. And they were in peak form in 1976. But there
were a number of injuries that kept the starters' seasonal WAR down. So I have
figured each starter's WAR per game started and adjusted it for 162 games.
Please keep in mind that 0 WAR is average/replacement level, 2 is starter level,
5 is all-star level and 6 was MVP level in 1976 ...
Joe Morgan: 9.6 WAR, 131 games started, projected 162-game WAR 11.8
(stratospheric, #1 in the actual MVP voting)
Pete Rose: 6.9 WAR, 156 games started, projected WAR 7.1 (MVP, behind only
Morgan and Schmidt, #4 in the actual MVP voting)
George Foster: 5.9 WAR, 137 games started, projected WAR 7.0 (MVP, behind only
Morgan, Schmidt and Rose, #2 in the actual MVP voting)
Ken Griffey: 4.6 WAR, 126 games started, projected WAR 6.0 (MVP, top ten WAR, #8
in the actual MVP voting)
Johnny Bench: 4.6 WAR, 123 games started, projected WAR 6.0 (MVP, top ten WAR)
Dave Concepción: 4.4 WAR, 142 games started, projected WAR 5.0 (All-Star)
Cesar Gerónimo: 2.7 WAR, 125 games started, projected WAR 3.6 (nearly double an
average starter, #25 in the actual MVP voting)
Tony Pérez: 2.6 WAR, 130 games started, projected WAR 3.3 (in 1976, 2.6-3.3 WAR
was All-Star level at first base; Pérez was second only to Garvey and had more
homers and RBI)
According to Fangraphs, Pete Rose would be the #8 first baseman, the #8 third
baseman, the #8 right fielder, the #8 left fielder, or the #5 second baseman
right behind Joe Morgan!
According to Fangraphs, Tony Pérez would be the #20 third baseman! He was an all-star
at third in his younger years.
And please don't forget that Dan Driessen was super sub who played first, third,
left and right―with career highs of 81 runs, 91 RBI, 18
homers, 31 steals, and 251 total bases!
So the Reds had great versatility as well.
Johnny Bench leads all HOF catchers in home runs (389), WAR
(75.0), JAWS (61.0) and gold gloves (10), is second in RBI (1,376), third in
games (2,158), fifth in runs (1,091) and OPS+ (126) and seventh in stolen bases
Tony Pérez had more RBI than all HOF first basemen other than
Cap Anson, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy
Foxx and Eddie Murray; he also ranks sixth in homers (379) and tenth in runs (1,272).
Joe Morgan ranks second among HOF second basemen in stolen bases (689), fourth
in WAR (100.3), JAWS (79.7), home runs (268) and OPS+ (132), fifth in runs (1,650) and sixth in OBP (.392).
Dave Concepción would rank eighth among HOF shortstops in games; ninth in home
runs, stolen bases and defensive WAR; and 11th in hits and RBI (so
he definitely belongs).
Pete Rose leads all HOF third basemen in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles,
doubles, runs, times on base and total bases, and ranks fifth in WAR (79.1) and
George Foster would rank seventh among HOF left fielders in homers (348) and
11th in RBI (1,239) and slugging percentage (.480).
Ken Griffey hit .296 with a .431 slugging percentage,
2,143 hits and 1,129 runs; he compares favorably with a number of 0HOF outfielders
Cesar Gerónimo does not compare with most HOF outfielders offensively, but he was a great fielder and thrower, and his 1976 offensive season
makes him one of the best number eight hitters of all time.
Please understand that I'm not saying that Ken Griffey Sr. should be in the Hall
of Fame. I'm just pointing out that he is comparable to a number of HOF
outfielders, and some pretty good names at that. Ditto with Concepción, although
I think―as Bill James has pointed out―that only ten HOF
shortstops seem better statistically, while he seems better than the next ten.
Hence, he seems like a solid HOF contender, considering his defense, speed,
athleticism and clutch hitting. I
also think Foster has a very strong case to be in the HOF, since he ranks close to
the left-field top ten in power numbers and was a dominant slugger for a decade.
But for my purposes here, what really matters is that seven of the Great Eight
compare with members of the HOF, and the eighth was nobody's weak sister,
especially in 1976. These are my main points:
The team above clearly has the best infield of all time―doubly so if we include
The infielders alone amassed 57 all-star appearances, an average of 11.4
appearances per player (including catcher). Can your all-time-great team rival
that? (Didn't think so!)
The infielders placed in the MVP voting a stunning 42 times, finishing in the
top ten 21 times. (Please check out the "MVP Matrix" under "MVPs Galore" for
During the Reds' heyday (1970-1976), Morgan easily led all MLB in WAR with 60.1,
an average of 8.6 WAR per season, going 4-4-8-1-1 in the MVP voting.
From 1970-1976, Bench was second only to Morgan in WAR with 42.3, an average of
6.0 WAR per season, going 1-1-10-4-4 in the MVP voting.
From 1970-1976, Rose was just behind Bench with 39.9 WAR, an average of 5.7 WAR
per season, going 6-10-10-2-4-7-24-12-1-5-4 in the MVP voting.
From 1970-1976, Pérez accumulated 29.1 WAR, an average of 4.2 WAR per season
despite playing first, going 8-19-10-3-7-15-22 in the MVP voting.
Concepción was a rookie in 1970 and had a somewhat slow start, but from
1974-1976 he averaged 4.6 WAR per season, going 15-9-4 in the MVP voting.
Please keep in mind that around 5 WAR is all-star level, and anything higher is
getting into the MVP level (especially in the mid-70's).
Where is another baseball infield, including catcher, with that sort of output
for an extended period of time, and with such high peaks?
During that seven-year period, the Reds had the top three WARriors
(pardon the pun), the best catcher, the best first baseman (or very close to
Willie Stargell), the best second baseman, the best all-round shortstop, and the
best third baseman in terms of WAR (although Mike Schmidt was charging fast and
Brooks Robinson was obviously better defensively than Rose, although far less
dynamic offensively). As far as I have been able to determine, only Reggie
Jackson rivaled the Reds' big three for the seven years in question, falling a
hair short of Rose. Has any other team in baseball history had the three best
players for seven years, complemented by stars like Pérez, Concepción and Foster? The "big five" for the Reds
accumulated 187.3 WAR7, and that doesn't include the superb outfield. If we take
the "big five" for the 1996-2002 Yankees, including two outfielders, their
accumulated WAR falls way short at 114.9. Such comparisons show
how "crazy good" the Reds infield really was. I believe the same sort of
disparity would show up with the 1927 Yankees (with the WAR-challenged Collins at catcher, Koenig
at short and Dugan at third), or any other team you care to pick.
Bench was the best catcher in baseball history for over a decade, from 1967-1977; after than he was
merely great by everyone else's standards.
Pérez has been vastly underrated, since he drove in more runs than all but a
handful of first base immortals.
Morgan may have been the best second baseman ever; if not he was
definitely in the
top four and his peak years were 1975-1976 when he was twice MVP.
Concepción has also been underrated but the stats don't lie: he had a
HOF-caliber career squarely around the middle of the HOF shortstops.
Rose was not the prettiest of fielders at third base, but he didn't make many errors and his offense easily puts him in the top six all-time players at third.
Foster was a monster (no one calls you the
"Destroyer" for merely being good!). Foster went 1-2-3-6-12 in the MVP voting with highs of 52 homers and 149
Griffey is also underrated; in 1976 his stats were nearly identical to Rose's
when Rose was having one of his best years.
Gerónimo had a career year in 1976, leaving no weak links in the Reds lineup.
Where is there another team this solid from top to bottom, with seven HOF
candidates and a gold glove centerfielder playing like an eighth for one
In case you don't believe me or think I'm exaggerating, let's consult Bill James, baseball's best-known
historian/statistician. Here is what he said on the subject, with
references to his Hall of Fame Career Standards (HFCS) rating system:
Bill James wrote: "The 1975-1976 Reds were probably the most diverse,
broad-based offense in the history of baseball."
• In his article about the best infields over a four-year period of time, Bill
James wrote: "With Perez, Morgan, Rose and Concepcion the Reds had four
infielders of Hall of Fame quality." He also put an exclamation mark
after "415 win shares!" which led the all-time pack. (And please keep
in mind that the Reds only
Rose at third for only two of the four years!)
When James published his picks for the top 100 players of all time
(with players like Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Turkey Stearnes and Pop Lloyd in the top 25, which pushes other players down), he had
Joe Morgan at #15 (comparable to Lou Gehrig and Eddie Collins), Pete Rose at #33
(comparable to Jackie Robinson and Eddie Matthews), and Johnny Bench at #44
(comparable to Yogi Berra and Cal Ripken Jr.).
• James rates Joe Morgan as the #1 second baseman of all time, followed by
Eddie Collins. According to HFCS, Morgan compares to Mike Schmidt, the best
third baseman of all time.
• James rates Johnny Bench as the #2 catcher of all time, after Yogi Berra,
but they are very close in his rankings. According to HFCS, Bench compares to
Joe Medwick, Hank Greenberg, Ernie Banks and Harmon Killebrew.
• James rates Pete Rose as the #5 right fielder, ahead of Tony Gwynn,
Reggie Jackson, Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner, et al. If we put Rose at third
he would be #4, behind only George Brett, Wade Boggs and Mike
Schmidt. According to HFCS, Rose also ranks above Rickey Henderson as the best
lead-off hitter of all time (more on this very interesting debate below; it
looks very close to me).
• James compares Dave Concepción to HOF shortstop Pee Wee Reese.
According to HFCS, Concepción was roughly equal to Reese, Maranville, Wallace,
Bancroft, Jackson and Ward, and substantially better than Rizzuto, Tinker,
Wright and Durocher. So by both measures Concepción ranks around #11-14 among
• Tony Pérez ranks around #9-15 among HOF first basemen, depending on
how we define "first baseman." According to HFCS, Pérez compares with sluggers
like Hack Wilson, George Sisler, Bill Terry, Enos Slaughter, Willie McCovey,
Willie Stargell, Jim Rice, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, Orlando
Cepeda and Dick Allen. If we value RBI, Pérez moves up considerably. If we
devalue RBI, in the worst case he is still around #15 in the HOF, but I continue
to believe that first base is primarily an RBI position, so Pérez is around #9 in my
rankings for the position.
• According to HFCS, Ken Griffey compares with Nellie Fox, Steve Garvey, Gil
Hodges, Keith Hernandez, Joe Gordon, Elmer Flick, Ross Youngs, Lloyd Waner,
Roger Bresnahan and Bob Meusel. If he is not a HOFer, he should at least be in
the conversation. At the very worst, he was a star just a few clicks short of
• According to HFCS, George Foster compares with Rocky Colavito, Larry Doby,
Charlie Keller, Darryl Strawberry, Mo Vaughn and Norm Cash. But his peak was
• Cesar Gerónimo is the only member of the Great Eight who does not rank in the HFCS
But as I have noted elsewhere, he compares with some pretty good outfielders like Albie Pearson, Mule Haas, Carl Everett,
Gary Matthews, Bobby Tolan, Lyman Bostock and Roy White. If your eight-place hitter
is that good, your team is obviously loaded!
According to Bill James and his HFCS rating system, I could trade the 1976 Reds
for a team of Roy Campanella, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Home
Run Baker (or Brooks Robinson), Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ralph Kiner (or Hack
Wilson) and Roger Maris. This shows, once again, just how great the Great Eight
really were. If this interests you, I have created a page that shows how the
Elite Eight can be traded based on WAR, JAWS, win shares, WSAB, OPS+ and other
factors. To see the "1976
Reds Virtual Trades" just click the hyperlink.
That seems pretty amazing to me: a team whose entire infield, including catcher,
compare with the top 1-15 players in the HOF at their respective positions. Add to
that two HOF-caliber outfielders and a great defensive centerfielder having a
career year with the bat. Has there ever been
another team in MLB history with that kind of star quality combined with
that kind of depth? Has any other starting eight in MLB history played as
many games, appeared in as many all-star games, contended for as many MVP
awards, scored as many runs, or driven in as many runs? No, and it really isn't
all that close. As Yogi Berra once said, "You could look it up."
If we take pitching into account things get trickier to judge, but
elsewhere on this page I have addressed the radical differences in pitching
between the "golden age" of baseball and the modern era. Suffice it
to say, for now, that strikeout statistics of the past suggest that
pitchers of yore were throwing bullets. Many of the winningest pitchers
were tossing 300+ innings and striking out fewer than 100 batters.
Obviously they were not bringing
much heat, other than a Walter Johnson here and a Rube Waddell there. If we took the fireballing 1976 Reds pitchers back in time, they would suddenly
become Bob Fellers and Dazzy Vances. Because I have no rational way to
compare pitching staffs across eras, I am going to stick primarily to
position players. Even so, I think the gaudy batting averages of yore also present a
problem. Would Babe Ruth have hit .393 against modern pitching and defenses, as
he did in 1923? It
seems very unlikely. Why has there only been one .400 hitter in the modern era,
and none since 1941? Such questions are rhetorical. However, I will make the point that even if we accept
the (probably) inflated batting numbers of teams like the 1927 Yankees, the 1976
Reds were still demonstrably better. If we accept the (quite probable) facts that
George Foster would have been comparable to Babe Ruth in 1927, and
that Ken Griffey Sr. was a much better athlete than Bob Meusel, the
comparisons break down completely. But for the sake of argument, let's give the hitters of yore the benefit of the
doubt, and assume that they would be competitive against modern athletes ...
even so, the
1976 Reds still rule the roost, as I will demonstrate ...
The Top Ten Reasons the 1976 Reds were the Best Team of All Time
(1) The 1976 Reds were a team with no weak links: they had all-stars at seven
positions, and the eighth, Gerónimo, should have been an all-star in 1976.
(2) The 1976 Reds were one of only three teams in MLB history with four MVPs in
the lineup, and only the Reds had four MVPs playing together in their primes.
(3) Tony Pérez could easily have been a fifth MVP, as he placed seven times in the
MVP voting, with four top tens, finishing as
high as third. Dave Concepción ranked as high as fourth in the MVP voting, and Cesar Gerónimo placed in 1976.
all eight Reds were MVP candidates during their careers. Has anyone ever suggested
that Joe Dugan, Pat Collins, Johnny Grabowski, Babe Dahlgren, Frankie Crosetti,
Tony Kubek, Clete Boyer and Bobby Richardson were all MVP candidates?
(4) The 1976 Reds were the only team in MLB history to lead their league in
every major offensive category: PA, AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI,
BB, BA, OBP, SP, OPS, OPS+, TB and stolen bases.
(5) The 1976 Reds were the only team in MLB history to lead both leagues
in every major hitting category: PA, AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB, BA, OBP, SP,
OPS, OPS+, TB. This is despite AL teams having the advantage of the
(6) While two AL teams (Oakland and Kansas City) stole more bases than the Reds,
the Reds were much more efficient base stealers, according to stolen base
percentage, so it seems
the Reds were the best base stealers too.
(7) The 1976 Reds also led both leagues in fielding percentage,
with four Gold Gove winners "up the middle" at the most important defensive
positions: C, 2B, SS, CF. And unlike so many other teams, the Reds did not have to sacrifice
potent bats for potent defense at these critical positions (more on this
important aspect of real greatness, below).
(8) In 1976 all eight Reds starters finished in the their league's top 30 for
OPS. Can any other team in the history of major league baseball say that, even
when there were far fewer teams and players? Also, no other team in modern
baseball history has had eight position players with 550 plate appearances, all
an OPS+ of 100 or higher. Again, no weak links.
(9) According to Bill James―he used
the word "wow!"―the Reds had the greatest infield of all time
the Reds outfield was also stellar in 1975-1976. (BTW, catcher was not
considered in James's analysis of the greatest infields. What happens when we
add the greatest catcher of all time to the mix? Doesn't any debate become
rather comical? How do we seriously compare Pat Collins or Johnny Grabowski to
Johnny Bench, Joe Dugan to Pete Rose, Mark Koenig to Joe Morgan?)
(10) According to multiple player ranking systems, the Reds had three of the
greatest players of all time: Johnny Bench (C#1), Joe Morgan (2B#1-4), and Pete
Rose (an all-star seventeen times at five different positions who ranks #5 at LF
and #7 at 3B, according to career WAR). The Reds had four Hall-of-Fame shoo-ins (Bench, Morgan, Rose, Pérez), two
more who should be enshrined (Foster and Concepción), another potential candidate
(Griffey), and a four-time Gold Glove winner (Gerónimo).
Joe West, who has been umpiring for 40 years, recently said, "The best hitting
team I ended up seeing was the Big Red Machine, just as they were dismantling."
West became a full-time NL umpire in 1978, so apparently he didn't see the Reds
at their peak in 1975-1976, but they were still the best he saw "close up and
personal" over a 40-year period. And the Reds in 1978 were a mere shadow of the
Need another reason? The 1976 Reds rose to the occasion: the better the
competition, the better they played. They won a glittering 61.1% of their games
against the five best teams in the National League. They swept the Phillies in
the divisional playoffs, averaging 6.33 runs per game despite facing
hall-of-famer Steve Carlton (20-7, 329 career wins), Jim Lonborg (18-10, 157
career wins) and Jim Kaat (283 career wins). The Phillies had won 101
games with a glittering collective team 3.08 ERA, but the Big Red Machine's bats went
through them like white-hot knives through butter. The Reds then swept the
Yankees so easily that the 1976 World Series was called "utterly one-sided." The Reds
averaged 5.5 runs per game, hitting .313 and slugging .522, despite facing
hall-of-famer Catfish Hunter (17-15, 224 career wins), Ed Figueroa (19-10,
fourth in the Cy Young voting), Dock Ellis (17-8, 138 career wins) and Doyle
Alexander (10-5, 194 career wins). The highly accomplished Yankees pitching staff had led the AL in wins, ERA and fewest
hits allowed, but once again it was like blazing-hot knives slicing through butter.
What really sets the 1976 Reds apart from all other teams, in my opinion, is that the Great
Eight were a team of all-stars and MVP candidates playing together in their
primes. When the Great Eight were healthy enough to take the field together,
their winning percentage was astronomical (.793). That would be 128 wins for a
full slate of 162 games! So when Johnny Bench started playing
like himself after a difficult season recovering from major lung cancer surgery at
baseball's toughest position, the
Reds became invincible and had the only undefeated postseason since the
divisional playoffs were instituted in 1981. Over a period of 35 years, only the
1976 Reds went undefeated in the postseason, and it was no fluke. The Great
Eight really were that great. And as we will see, some of
the comparisons of "murderers' row" lineups to the Great Eight are actually
laughable. For instance, the 1927 Yankees were terrible on defense, terrible on
the basepaths, had a center fielder with the worst arm in baseball history
(per Bill James), and a catcher with a lame arm and psychological
problems about throwing (per his manager). The Yankees would have been
unable to run on Bench's cannon arm, while the streaking Reds would
have run wild on Pat Collins and Earle Combs. At the same time, the Reds
sluggers would have teed off on the slowballing Yankees pitchers. Not a single
Yankees pitcher had 100 strikeouts in 1927. 'Nuff said.
The things that strikes me here is that the "worst" player on the 1976 Reds was
a Hall-of-Famer with more RBI than any number of all-time great sluggers. If
Pérez had played 162 games, he projected 113 RBI. That's pretty impressive
output from a team's "worst" player! The only Reds starter who might be
considered "marginal" for the 1976 NL All-Star team is, quite interestingly, the
only one who didn't make the actual 1976 NL All-Star team, Gerónimo. But it's
really not his fault because three NL centerfielders had great years in 1976:
Greg Maddux (6.4 WAR), Cesar Cedeno (5.9 WAR) and Rick Monday (4.4 WAR). At
worst, Gerónimo was just a slight notch below an All-Star outfield of Foster,
Griffey, Monday, Luzinski, Maddox and Cedeno. And two of the all-star
outfielders were his
One of the most impressive things about the 1976 Reds is that all eight starters
ranked in the top 30 in OPS: Morgan (#1), Foster (#4), Rose (#5), Griffey (#7),
Gerónimo (#20), Pérez (#22), Bench (#27), Concepción (#30).
If we rank the Reds by position, based on OPS, which doesn't factor in their
superior defense and basestealing, they rank #1 at second, short, left and
right; #2 at catcher; #3 at third, and #4 at first and center! Again, no weak
If we factor in defense, basestealing and a bit of common sense, the Reds
rank #1 at catcher, second, short, left and right; #2 at first (after Garvey)
and third (after Schmidt), and #4 at center (after Maddux, Cedeno and Monday).
The Reds dominated in OBP, with four of the top six: Morgan, Rose, Griffey and
Gerónimo. The same four Reds finished in the top ten in batting average, with
Foster number eleven.
The Reds dominated in slugging, with Morgan and Foster sweeping the top two
slots and all eight Reds in the top thirty.
The Reds dominated in RBI, with Foster and Morgan sweeping the top two slots,
Pérez sixth, and seven of the top
thirty-four. Rose, leading off, had more RBI than Jose Cruz, Larry Parrish, Al
Oliver and Bill Buckner. Concepción, hitting seventh, had as many RBI as Dave
Winfield and more than Willie Stargell. Crazy!
The Reds dominated in runs with Rose (130), Morgan (113) and Griffey (111)
finishing 1-2-4. All eight starters finished in the top forty.
The Reds dominated in stolen bases, with seven Reds in the top thirty-three.
Has there ever been another team so dominant at every position? (Another
MVPs Galore: Why the 1976 Reds were the Best Team of All Time,
from Top to Bottom
Enter the MVP Matrix, if you dare:
C Johnny Bench 1-1-4-4-10-13-16-17-21-23 with 14 All-Star
selections and 10 Gold Gloves
1B Tony Perez 3-7-8-10-15-19-22 with 7 All-Star
2B Joe Morgan 1-1-4-4-8-16-31 with 10 All-Star selections and 5
SS Dave Concepcion 4-9-15 with 9 All-Star selections and 5 Gold
3B Pete Rose 1-2-4-4-5-6-7-10-10-11-12-15-15-24 with 17
All-Star selections and 2 Gold Gloves (anyone who says Rose "wasn't dynamic" is
LF George Foster 1-2-3-6-12 with 5 All-Star selections
RF Ken Griffey Sr. 8-22 with 3 All-Star selections
CF Cesar Geronimo 25 with 4 Gold Gloves
That's 65 All-Star selections, 26 Gold Gloves, 6 MVP awards, 30 MVP top tens,
and 51 MVP nominations! Where is any other starting eight that compares to the
Reds' Great Eight? Or do the math ... add up the games played, the hits, the
runs scored, the total bases, the RBI, the WAR, the win shares, etc. ... is
there another starting eight that even comes close?
This is how the Reds dominated the MVP voting for nearly a decade:
The Reds are one of only three teams in MLB history with four league MVPs in the same lineup:
Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and George Foster. The other such teams were the 1939 Yankees (Joe DiMaggio,
Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and Joe Gordon) and the 1961 Yankees (Mickey Mantle,
Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Yogi Berra.) But in the years in question, Gehrig
and Berra were on the downsides of their careers. (In 1939, Gehrig hit .143 with
one RBI in eight games before retiring mid-season.) And while Gordon and Howard
were very good players, they were were not as dominant as any of the Reds' "core four."
Maris had two MVP seasons and one extraordinary year, hitting 61 homers in 1961, but he was not a
hall-of-fame player for his career (or if he was, George Foster and Ken Griffey
Sr. should be shoo-ins!). Dickey and Berra were great
catchers, but not as great as Bench. Gordon was no match for
Morgan at second base. Maris and Howard were RBI men who finished with 850 and
762 for their respective careers, but Pérez drove in more runs than the two
combined by himself, and
the "core four" Reds easily exceeded those totals, even though Rose and Morgan were not
prototypical sluggers and were often hitting first or second.
Hell, the Reds' leadoff hitter had
more RBI than a long list of Yankee sluggers! Pete Rose had 1,314 RBI, which
ties him with Graig Nettles and bests Derek Jeter, Enos Slaughter, Mark
Teixeira, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Bill Dickey, Tony
Lazzeri, Don Mattingly, Bob Meusel and Jorge Posada.
Rose also had more RBI than sluggers like Steve Garvey, Larry Walker, Mickey Vernon, Paul
Waner, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Collins, Hank Greenberg and Gil Hodges.
Reds RBI Kings
Tony Pérez 1,652
Johnny Bench 1,376
Pete Rose 1,314
George Foster 1,239
Joe Morgan 1,133
Dave Concepción 950
Ken Griffey Sr. 859
850 (1961 Yankees)
Elston Howard 762 (1961 Yankees)
654 (1961 Yankees)
Bobby Richardson 390 (1961 Yankees)
373 (1961 Yankees)
Tommy Henrich 795 (1939 Yankees)
Charlie Keller 760
Frankie Crosetti 649 (1939 Yankees)
George Selkirk 576 (1939
Babe Dahlgren 569 (1939 Yankees)
497 (1939 Yankees)
633 (1927 Yankees)
567 (1927 Yankees)
446 (1927 Yankees)
168 (1927 Yankees)
Johnny Grabowski 85 (1927 Yankees)
Reds Total Base Tyrants
Pete Rose 5,572
(#8 all-time, just 41 short of Babe Ruth!)
Tony Pérez 4,532
(#48 all-time, more than Mantle, DiMaggio, Berra, Schmidt, Mathews, Gehringer,
McCovey, et al)
Joe Morgan 3,962 (#95 all-time, more than DiMaggio, Berra, Cepeda,
Garvey, Frisch, et al)
Johnny Bench 3,644 (#140 all-time, more than Berra, McGwire, Canseco,
Mize, et al)
George Foster 3,370 (#200 all-time, more than Mattingly, Belle, Lynn, Cash,
Ken Griffey Sr. 3,117 (#257 all-time, more than Dickey, Posada, Lazzeri,
White, Combs, Nettles, Meusel, Luzinksi, Powell, et al)
Dave Concepción 3,114 (#258 all-time, more than Dickey, Posada, Lazzeri, White,
Combs, Nettles, Meusel, Luzinksi, Powell, et al)
Cesar Gerónimo 1,391 (more than Lou Pinella and Clete Boyer, who are
in the top 50 for the Yankees)
Total Bases and RBI show that the Great Eight were not only vastly superior to
Yankees like Kubek, Dahlgren, Dugan and Collins, but the Great Eight were
competitive with a team made up of some of the best Yankees of all time!
So if we are talking about "rows of sluggers," it seems obvious that the Reds had
much deeper offensive firepower than the most-lauded Yankee teams. And
then there are the four golden gloves at the four most critical defensive
positions, and all the stolen bases with the ultra-high success rate.
Getting back to MVPs: none of the other teams had a fifth "big gun" like Tony Pérez; he placed in the MVP voting seven times, finishing 3rd, 7th,
8th, 10th, 15th, 19th and 22nd. Pérez could easily have won the MVP award in 1970, when
his partner in slugging crimes won. Bench had
more homers, RBI and total bases, but Pérez bested him in
most other offensive categories: hits (186), walks (83), runs (107),
runs created (140), stolen bases (8), batting average (.317), OBP
(.401), slugging (.589), OPS (.990) and OPS+ (158). Pérez had 28
doubles, 6 triples, 40 homers, 346 total bases, and 129 RBI. The two "bash
brothers" were nearly equal
in which they led all NL position players, with Bench narrowly ahead: 7.4 to 7.2.
They were also first and second in RBI. In short, Bench was very deserving of
the MVP award, but Pérez was just as deserving that year. If Pérez hadn't been
competing against a teammate having the greatest offensive/defensive season by a catcher
in the history of baseball, he could have won the MVP in a landslide. That year
the incomparable Bench set
single-season records for catchers with 45 homers, 148 RBI and 355 total bases,
while earning one of his ten consecutive Gold Gloves.
And then there is Dave Concepción, who finished as high as 4th in the NL MVP
voting. He placed in the top 15 three times: ranking 4th, 9th and 15th.
Concepción was a highly-regarded clutch hitter who won two Silver Slugger
awards in addition to his five Gold Gloves. He had career highs of 16 home runs
and 84 RBI, and topped 200 total bases seven times. Those were exceptional
numbers for a shortstop of his era, prior to the arrival of the "steroid
Ken Griffey Sr. finished 8th in the NL MVP voting in 1976, despite the obvious
handicap of competing with Morgan, Bench, Rose, Foster and company for the award.
Griffey also finished 22nd in the 1980 MVP voting, and was a three-time
Finally, Cesar Gerónimo finished 25th in the 1976 NL MVP voting, despite the
handicap of hitting eighth, with the pitcher coming up next. Thus, every member
of the Great Eight was a potential MVP. That cannot be said about any other
candidate for the best team of all time.
Oh, and speaking of MVP awards, was Johnny Bench robbed of a third MVP award in
1974, when Steve Garvey won? Garvey had a nice 4.4 WAR season, but it paled in
comparison to what Bench accomplished at baseball's most demanding position.
Bench had 7.8 WAR and 8.6 fWAR. He threw out 49% of base stealers and had only
three passed balls. Bench topped Garvey in homers (33), RBI (129), extra-base
hits (73), total bases (315), slugging (.507), runs (108) and runs created
Joe Morgan also bested Garvey in WAR (8.6), OBP (.427), slugging (.494), OPS (.921), OPS+ (159),
runs (107), runs created (125), walks (120), stolen bases (58) and times on base
(273). Should there be a seventh MVP award in the Great Eight's trophy case?
The Core Four and the Fearsome Fivesome
the positions where one generally finds weaker hitters for
the sake of defense―catcher,
second, shortstop and third―the Reds had a "core four" of
Hall-of-Fame-caliber players: Bench, Morgan, Concepción and Rose. At the
prototypical RBI positions―first base and outfield―they had two of the best RBI
men of their era in Foster and Pérez, and they were joined by Morgan having an
unbelievable year for a second baseman. If Bench and Pérez had matched their
best offensive seasons, there would be no debate today about which team was the
greatest ever. But even with their two legendary run producers
having somewhat "down" years, the Reds were still an offensive juggernaut. Can
anyone say that about the Ruth-Gehrig or Mantle-Maris teams, if the superstars
had failed to have stellar years? The 1976 Reds were
different because they had stars to match anyone's, but no other team ever had
eight position players who were all playing at an all-star level in the same
season―not only offensively, but defensively and on the basepaths as well.
According to the Hardball Times Baseball
Annual, the Reds' "core four" had higher combined win shares over a three-year span
than any other team in the last 50 years, matching
the average win shares of the 1927 Yankees and their "fearsome foursome" of Babe
Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri. But there are good reasons to
consider the Reds the superior team.
First, the Reds
really had a "fearsome fivesome" because for a decade in his prime,
Foster was an absolute monster. Foster was called "the Destroyer"
because that's what he did with his ebony bat called "The Black Death."
He destroyed opposing pitchers and threatened stadiums with his tape-measure
homers (two of which reportedly traveled more than 500 feet).
Second, the rest of the Big Red Machine were
much better, because the 1927 Yankees were average at short (Mark Koenig had an AL-worst
47 errors), dreadful at catcher (Pat Collins, Johnny Grabowski, Benny Bengough) and
third (Joe Dugan). In his book Baseball's Ten Greatest Teams baseball
historian Donald Honig said that the 1976 Reds were better at four positions
(catcher, shortstop, second and third) and probably better at a fifth
(left field, with the Destroyer).
Third, the Reds were by far the better base-running and
base-stealing team, while the Yankees were slow afoot and had two of the worst base-stealers of all
time, percentage-wise and according to wSB, in Ruth and Gehrig.
Fourth, the Reds were much better on
defense, with four gold gloves and cannon arms up the middle, while the Yankees
had a center fielder (Combs) with the worst arm in baseball history according to
Bill James, and two catchers with lame arms. The primary Yankees catcher (Collins) had a psychological problem about throwing, according to his manager.
(More on this on the hyperlinked article below.)
And while Ruth and Gehrig were undeniably great, the
Yankees simply couldn't match up at the other positions: Bench was a vastly greater
catcher (Collins had a measly 6.8 career WAR); Morgan was a vastly greater second baseman in every respect (the
Yankees' second basemen had a combined 45 errors); Concepción was much better
defensively at short and on the basepaths (Koenig had an anemic 7.6 career WAR); Rose was a vastly superior hitter
and leader at
third (Dugan had 9.3 career WAR); Gerónimo had one of the best arms in centerfield, compared to
one of the worst ever. Bob Meusel and Ken Griffey may seem like a draw at first glance,
with similar batting averages and total bases, but Meusel made 14 errors in the
outfield and was far less proficient as a base-stealer. And his average was
undoubtedly inflated by his era. Griffey is the clear winner in my book, or Foster, if we
compare him to Meusel. Perhaps give half a point to Combs for his offense, and take
away half a point for his pitiful throwing. That makes the final tally 6
1/2 to 2 1/2 in favor of the Reds. And as we will see, the same holds true with
other "murderers' row" teams of the past. The Reds match up with anyone on
offense and win hands down when defense and baserunning are considered. And the
Reds also win on intangibles, from the dominating arms of Bench and Gerónimo, to
the fiery leadership and hustle of Rose and Morgan, to the clutch hitting of
Pérez and Concepción, to the scowling presence of "the Destroyer" and his
intimidating black bat.
Click here for a detailed comparison of the 1976 Reds to the 1927 Yankees and
At the link above the 1976 Reds are compared to the 1902 Pittsburg Pirates, 1906
Chicago Cubs, 1927 Yankees, 1929 Philadelphia Athletics, 1932 Yankees, 1939
Yankees, 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1961 Yankees, 1970 Baltimore Orioles, 1997
Seattle Mariners, 1998 Yankees, 2016 Cubs, and other contenders and pretenders
to the mantle of "the best baseball team of all time."
The 1975-1976 Reds are the only team with three of the top 40 players of all
time, according to the ESPN Hall of 100, which has Joe Morgan #18, Johnny Bench
#26, and Pete Rose #38. To put that in perspective, they are all ranked ahead of
Eddie Collins, Sandy Koufax, Nap Lajoie, Reggie Jackson, Charlie Gehringer, Cap
Anson and Al Simmons. Other Reds on the Hall of 100 list include Frank Robinson
#20, Tom Seaver #22, Ken Griffey Jr. #35, and Barry Larkin #75. Click here for
All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team. How do the all-time Reds rank
compared to the all-time Yankees? Pretty favorably, actually. The Yankees
clearly win at three positions: Ruth (OF), Gehrig (1B) and Mariano Rivera (RP).
Three positions are virtual ties, with Barry Larkin stalemating Derek Jeter (SS),
Frank Robinson stalemating Mickey Mantle (OF) and Ken
Griffey Jr. stalemating Joe DiMaggio (CF). The Reds win
with Johnny Bench over Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra (C), Joe Morgan over Joe Gordon
or Tony Lazzeri (2B), Pete Rose over Graig Nettles or Red Rolfe (3B) and Tom
Seaver over Whitey Ford or any other Yankees starting pitcher. The all-time Reds
are superior defensively and on the basepaths, with a decisive edge at the key
defensive positions of catcher, second base and shortstop. And with Seaver starting they have the edge in pitching
as well. The Yankees' main advantages are the power of Ruth and Gehrig and the greatest closer of all time.
I have the all-time Reds slightly ahead at 4-3-3.
The Bill James Hall-of-Fame Career Standards ranks Frank Robinson #22, Ken
Griffey Jr. #31, Joe Morgan #56, Pete Rose #65, Barry Larkin #102, Johnny Bench
#116 (way too low!), and Tony Perez #162 (also too low, in my opinion).
According to WSAB (Win Shares Above Bench), Joe Morgan is #15, Frank Robinson is
#16 and Pete Rose is #22.
The JAWS 75 of 75 has Tom Seaver #17, Joe Morgan #26 and Johnny Bench #59.
According to WAR, Tom Seaver is #20, Frank Robinson #24, Joe Morgan #31,
Ken Griffey Jr. #57, Pete Rose #65, Johnny Bench #77, Barry Larkin
#97, Vada Pinson #242, Tony Perez #245, and Joey Votto is #312 (and still
According to the number crunching of Lehigh University Mathematics Professor Don
Davis, for players who played within the last 65 years, Johnny Bench is the #1
catcher (ahead of Berra, Piazza, Carter, Rodriguez), Joe Morgan is the #1 second
baseman (ahead of Sandberg, Carew, Jackie Robinson, Alomar), and if we moved
Pete Rose to the position he played in 1975-1976, he would be the #6 third
baseman (behind only Schmidt, Brett, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Matthews and Wade
According to "The Top 100 Position Players in MLB History" which ranks position
players on WAR+WAA except for catchers (and I agree that WAR undervalues
catchers), Johnny Bench is the #21 player of all time (ahead of Nap Lajoie,
Jimmie Foxx, Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra), Joe Morgan is #25 (ahead of Jackie
Robinson, Roberto Clemente, George Brett, Cap Anson and Charlie Gehringer), and
Pete Rose is #47 (ahead of Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Shoeless Joe Jackson and
Al Simmons). That's three of the top 50 position players of all time, on the
same team, playing together in their primes!
On the Ranker list of all-time greats regardless of position, Pete Rose is #17,
Johnny Bench is #24, and Joe Morgan is #57. So the 1975-1976 Reds had three of the top 57
players of all time, according to Ranker. Ranker and other rankings include Tony
Pérez in the top 100-200 players of all time. But if we study the 1976
statistics, Griffey was as good as Rose that year, and Foster was not only more
productive than Bench and Pérez, but than every slugger in baseball that year,
and for several years to come. So it was like having six hall-of-fame offensive
players, and two who were among the best in baseball at their respective
In the Ranker top ten players of the 1970s, Joe Morgan is #1, Tom Seaver is #4
and Johnny Bench is #5.
Here's another interesting fact about the Great Eight: according to Ranker,
George Foster is the 23rd best left fielder of all time, Pete Rose is the 24th
best left fielder of all time, and and Ken Griffey Sr. is the 29th best left
fielder of all time! So the Reds had three of the best left fielders of all
time, on the same team! Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Also according to Ranker, Johnny Bench is the
catcher of all time, Tony Pérez is the 22nd best first baseman, Joe
Morgan is the 3rd best second baseman, Dave Concepción is 11th best
shortstop, Pete Rose is the 7th best third baseman,
Cesar Gerónimo is the 42nd best centerfielder, and Pete Rose is the
8th best right fielder. So according to Ranker, every starter on the
1975-1976 Reds was an all-time great, and Pete Rose was all-world at three
different positions (which he really was).
Based on career JAWS, Johnny Bench is the #1 catcher of all time; Pete Rose is
the #7 third baseman of all time; Joe Morgan is the #4 second baseman of all
time; Tony Pérez is the #28 first baseman of all time; George Foster is the #30
left fielder of all time; Dave Concepción is the #45 shortstop of all time; Ken
Griffey Sr. is the #71 right fielder of all time; and Cesar Gerónimo is the #204
center fielder of all time.
Based on career WAR, Johnny Bench is the #1 catcher of all time (75.0); Joe
Morgan is the #4 second baseman of all time (100.3); Pete Rose is the #7 third
baseman of all time (79.1); Tony Pérez is the #27 first baseman of all time
(53.9); George Foster is the #30 left fielder of all time (43.9); Dave Concepción is the #42 shortstop of all time (39.9); Ken Griffey Sr. is the #71 right
fielder of all time (34.4) and Cesar Gerónimo is the #204 center fielder of all
According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Pete Rose is the #14 player of
all time, Johnny Bench #39, Joe Morgan #64, Dave Concepción #154,
George Foster #189, Tony Pérez #242, Ken Griffey Sr. #494, and Cesar
Gerónimo #832. (I will argue bitterly that Pérez with 1,652 career RBI at an
RBI position is being shortchanged! I think my charts elsewhere on this page are more
correct, and Pérez is close to Concepción and Foster.)
According to Baseball Projection, Joe Morgan is the #19 player of all time, Pete
Rose #45, Johnny Bench #52, Tony Pérez #167, George Foster #253, Dave Concepción
#375, and Ken Griffey Sr. #422. By comparison, the 1927 Yankees had only three
players in the top 500 (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Earle Combs). The 1961 Yankees
had only two players in the top 280 (Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra) and two more
in the top 500 (Roger Maris and Elston Howard). The 1939 Yankees have only one
player in the top 100 (Joe DiMaggio) and four more ranked no higher than #141
(Joe Gordon, Bill Dickey, Charlie Keller, and Tommy Henrich). Once again, the
Reds are clearly superior, top to bottom, with no
On a more amusing note, the Reds also had some of the greatest nicknames of all
time. Pete Rose was "Charlie Hustle." George Foster was "the Destroyer"
and his ebony bat was "The Black Death." Manager
George Anderson was "Sparky" and "Captain Hook" (the latter because he didn't
hesitate to yank struggling pitchers). Joe Morgan was "Little Joe"
because at 5'-7" he was short like Little Joe Cartwright on the TV show
Bonanza. Conversely, Tony Pérez was "Big Dog" and "Big Doggie"
and "The Mayor of Riverfront" and "Mr. Clutch." Johnny
Bench was the "Little General," "Hench Ench" and the "Binger Banger." Dave Concepción was "El Rey"
(the King). Cesar Gerónimo was "the Chief" (due to having the same
name as the famous Native
American chief). Fastballing ace Don Gullett was "Bullet." And the team also had a
badass nickname: "The Big Red Machine."
George Foster may have received his nickname "the Destroyer" from this quote by
manager Sparky Anderson: "If (George) Foster had been playing with the Dodgers
in the '50's they wouldn't have had to tear down Ebbets Field. George would have
demolished it with shots off his bat." In 1977, Foster was the only baseball
player within a 25-year time span (from 1965 to 1990) to hit 50 home runs in a
single season (the last was the immortal Willie Mays).
Foster was also nicknamed "Yahtzee" by Pete Rose, but no one seems to know why.
It has been suggested that someone thought "Yahtzee" was German for "George."
How good were the 1976 Reds offensively? Well, they were
the only team MLB history to lead their league in every major
hitting category. And they not only led the NL, they also led every team in the
AL as well, despite the huge advantage of designated hitters! The Red led all major league teams
in plate appearances, at bats, hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs,
RBI, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage,
OPS, OPS+ and total bases. How amazing! No other team in baseball history has
ever led all these categories in their own league, much less all of major league
baseball! And as we will see, when comparing teams against teams of their own
eras (to adjust for obviously inflated batting statistics in baseball's past),
the 1976 Reds were the most dominant offensive team of all time. And that's
before we consider things like defense, athleticism and base-stealing.
The 1976 Reds also led the NL in the ultra-rare power/speed combination of team
batting average, home runs and steals. And while Oakland and Kansas City stole
more bases in the AL, the Reds were much more efficient, with an 79% success
rate compared to KC's 67% and Oakland's 73%. So the case can be made that the
Reds were the best base-stealing team in all MLB as well. Oh, and they also led
in fielding percentage.
Incredibly, in 1976 all eight Reds starters were in the
NL's top 30 for slugging percentage and OPS! Has any team in major league baseball history ever had
all its starters rank in the top 30 for an entire season? (The 1927 Yankees had only five players in the AL top 30, and
there were fewer teams and players competing back then. I recently heard someone speculating that the
2016 Red Sox may be one of the best hitting teams of all time, but only five of
nine Red Sox starters were in the AL top 30 for OPS, and their highest ranking
hitter was their DH, David Ortiz, so only four position players compare to the
Reds.) And how
about base-stealing? The 1976 Reds led the NL with 210 steals while being caught only 57
times, for an ultra-impressive .79 success rate.
By way of comparison, the list of players with more than 200 career steals
and a success rate of .79 or higher is very short and contains names like Davey Lopes,
Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson. (As a matter of fact, Joe
Morgan was the first player in MLB history to retire with more than 600 steals
and a success rate higher than .79!)
So as a team, the Reds were elite, Hall-of-Fame-caliber base stealers as
well! On the other hand, Johnny Bench allowed only 32 stolen bases
by opposing baserunners, throwing out 46% of attempting stealers. So the Reds
had a huge advantage on the basepaths. One obviously cannot say such things about lumbering Yankee teams of the
past ! As we shall
see in due course, some of the "great teams" of the past do not begin to
compare with the 1976 Reds (or with the 1975 Reds, for that matter).
How did the Great Eight rank against their NL peers in 1976? Amazingly the Reds
had four of the top five NL players in runs created (Morgan #1, Rose #2, Foster
#4, Griffey #5). Only Mike Schmidt prevented a clean sweep by the Big Red
Machine. The Reds swept the top three positions in offensive win percentage
(Morgan #1, Griffey #2, Foster #3) with Rose giving
them four of the top six. They had three of the top four in runs scored (Rose with 130, Morgan with 113, and Griffey with 111)
and four of the top nine (Foster had 86). All eight Reds starters ranked in the
top 35 in runs scored. The Reds had the league
leaders in RBI (Foster with 121 and Morgan with 111) and Pérez was sixth with
91. They had nine of the top 45 base stealers (including super sub Dan
Driessen). They had three of the top eight in
walks (Morgan with 114, Rose with 86, and Bench with 81), and all eight starters
ranked in the top 45. They had five of the
top eleven NL batting averages (Griffey .336, Rose .323, Morgan
.320, Gerónimo .307, and Foster .306). They had three of the top four
in OBP (Morgan .444, Rose .404, and Griffey .401) and four of the
top six (Gerónimo .382). All eight starters were in the top 35 in OBP.
The Reds had the top two sluggers (Morgan .576 and Foster .530), and
all eight starters were in the top 30 in slugging percentage. They had four of
the top seven in OPS (Morgan 1.020, Foster .894, Rose .854, Griffey .851), and
all eight starters were in the top 30. They had three of the top five in total
bases (Rose with 299, Foster with 298, and Morgan with 272). All the Reds starters
had more than 200 total bases and ranked in the top 35, other than the injured
Bench who still garnered 183, which was second among NL catchers and ranked in
the top 45. They had four of the top six in extra-base hits (Rose #2, Foster #3,
Morgan #5, Pérez #6) and all eight starters ranked in the top 45. They had three
of the top four in times on base (Rose #1, Morgan #2, Griffey #4). They had three
of the top six in stolen base percentage (Morgan #2, Foster #4, Gerónimo #6).
They had four of the top ten position players in WAR (Morgan #1, Rose #3,
Foster #6, Bench #10). Has there ever been a
team that dominated all the major offensive statistics so thoroughly, from the
top to the bottom of the lineup? Not the 1927 Yankees with Dugan, Collins and
Grabowski. Not the 1961 Yankees with Richardson, Kubek and Boyer. Not the 1939
Yankees with Crosetti, Dahlgren and Henrich. Not the 1997 Mariners with Wilson,
Sorrento and Davis. Not the 1996 Yankees with Girardi, Duncan and Sierra. Not
the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers with Gilliam, Amoros and Jackie Robinson having a very
poor year. Not the 1970 Orioles
with Johnson, Belanger, Hendricks and Etchebarren. Not the 1929 Athletics with
Bishop, Hale and Boley. Not the 1998 Yankees with Curtis, Posada and Knoblauch.
None of the other great lineups compare with the 1976 Reds from the top of the
lineup to the bottom, when considering batting, defense and baserunning.
What happens if we throw in the whole American league as well? The Reds still
have a clean sweep of the top three in offensive win percentage; four of the top
ten players in extra-base hits, OBP, OPS and runs created; four of the top
twenty in batting average; three of the top four in runs scored; three of the
top ten in batting average (and five of the top twenty); three of the top ten in
total bases and stolen base percentage; the top two in RBI and slugging
percentage; two of the top ten in homers, six of the top fifty in runs, RBI,
OBP, total bases, slugging percentage and OPS; seven of the top 100 in hits and
homers; and eight of the top 100 in extra-base hits, total bases, walks and
The offensive lineup was so strong that the number eight hitter, Cesar Gerónimo, batted
.307 with 24 doubles, 11 triples, 201 total bases, and 22 steals. Gerónimo
slugged .414 with an OBP
of .382, an OPS of .795 and an OPS+ of 125. He also
finished 25th in the MVP voting, and won his third of four consecutive Gold
Gloves. How many baseball teams have had a number eight hitter deliver that kind
To show how strong the Reds lineup was, from top to bottom, every Reds starter
had 200 or more total bases and slugged .400 or higher, with the exception of
Johnny Bench, who was injured much of the season, only played 135 games, and yet
still came very close with 183 total bases and a slugging percentage of .394.
And despite having a down year according to his ultra-high standards, Bench
still had a way-above-average year for his position, ranking in the top five
among catchers in walks (#1), stolen base percentage (#1), stolen bases (#2),
doubles (#3), RBI (#3), runs (#4), home runs (#4), slugging percentage (#4),
on-base percentage (#4), and OPS (#5). When we consider that Bench won his ninth
of ten consecutive gold gloves; that he excelled at throwing out base runners and
thus at protecting his pitchers from the distractions of attempted steals; that
he redefined his position by introducing one-handing catching; that he remained
a feared slugger as attested by leading all catchers in walks despite missing so
many games; and that he led his team to a four-game sweep in the 1976 World Series, hitting
.533/.533/1.133 with a 1.667 OPS, two home runs and six RBI in four games ... well, I think we can
safely say that he was still the best all-round catcher in the game. By the way,
Bench played against the second-best catcher that year, Thurman Munson, in the
World Series. Munson hit only meaningless singles and watched his team lose four
straight games to the mighty Big Red Machine. As a "sympathetic" Sparky Anderson
explained after the series: "I don't want to embarrass any other catcher by
comparing him with Johnny Bench." And really there never has been a catcher
to compare with Bench in his prime, when he was hitting 45 home runs, driving in
148 runs, playing the best defense the world had ever seen, and cutting down
runners right and left with his powerful, accurate arm.
The Best Infield Ever, and the Best Outfield of its Era
Here's an interesting fact about the 1976 Reds: they had
far-and-away the best infield of all time, if we include
catcher, and in 1976 they also had four of the best
outfielders in all baseball (since Rose was an all-world left
fielder and right fielder). If you do a 1976 screen for all MLB outfielders
based on OBP, the top three are all Reds: Rose (.404), Griffey
(.401) and Gerónimo (.382). If you do a screen for runs, the top two outfielders
are Rose (130) and Griffey (111), with Foster twelfth (86). In total bases, Rose
was first (299), Foster second (298) and Griffey thirteenth (253). A screen for
batting average turns up all four Reds outfielders: Griffey first (.336),
Rose third (.323), Gerónimo ninth (.307) and Foster tenth (.306). A screen for
OPS has Foster first by a wide margin (.894), Rose second (.854), and Griffey
fifth (.851). Rose and Griffey were in a virtual dead heat in OPS with the mighty
Reggie Jackson, and Foster had him comfortably outslugged. In OPS, the
aforementioned three Reds ranked ahead of famous slugging outfielders of the day
like Greg Luzinski, Dave Parker, Dave Winfield, Fred Lynn and Jerry Rice. And
Gerónimo was not far behind (.795), leading Dave Kingman (37 homers) and Carl
Yastrzemski (21 dingers with 102 RBI). And even though Foster was the
only prototypical slugger among the Reds outfielders, all four
ranked in the top 25 in slugging percentage: Foster first (.530), Rose and
Griffey tied at thirteen (.450) and Gerónimo (.414) still ahead of most of the
outfield pack. Now we can see why Sparky Anderson moved one of baseball's
all-time best outfielders to third base: he had four of the very best
outfielders in all pro baseball, and only one weak spot on the entire diamond! It
seems like a genius move in retrospect, but the numbers suggest that he really
had no choice, as long as Rose could adapt to third base, which he did. (It
bears noting that the runs and RBI rankings are a bit unfair to Gerónimo, since
he was forced to hit eighth in such a formidable lineup. He was the only Reds
hitter who could be "worked around" since the pitcher was coming up next. But as
I will point out below, Gerónimo did have one of the best seasons by a number
eight hitter in modern baseball history, so he certainly played his part by
turning a lemon into lemonade.)
1976 Batting Statistics (bold italics indicates the league leader; bold
indicates top ten NL or top fifty MLB)
-G- PA AB
-R- -H- 2B 3B
HR RBI SB CS BB BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB WAR MVP
215 42 6 10
63 9 5
.404 .450 .854 141 299
144 627 562 86 172
21 9 29
17 3 52
.306 .364 .530
.894 150 298
141 599 472 113
30 5 27
111 62 9 114
.320 .444 .576 1.020 186
148 628 562 111
28 9 6
74 34 11
.401 .450 .851
140 253 4.6
139 586 527 77 137
19 91 10 5 50
.260 .328 .452 .779
636 576 74 162
10 49 .281
.335 .401 .736 107 231
555 486 59 149
24 11 2 49 22 5 56 .307 .382 .414
.795 125 201 2.7
135 552 465 62 109
24 1 16 74 13 2
81 .234 .348 .394 .741 109 183
As an indication of the Red's hitting dominance in 1976, their eight-place
batter, Cesar Gerónimo, was in the top ten for OBP and the top thirty for OPS
(both leagues included).
Bill Madlock of the Pittsburg Pirates edged out Ken Griffey Sr. for the NL
batting championship on the last day of the season.
George Foster led the NL in RBIs and was second to Morgan in slugging
Johnny Bench and Tony
Pérez had off years in 1976. If they had produced typical results, the team's
offensive numbers would have been even more off the charts. Bench was battling
physical problems, particularly bad shoulders. But Bench hit .385 in the NLCS
against Philadelphia, and when New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson hit .529
in the World Series, Bench rose to the occasion, hitting .533 with two home
runs, for which he was awarded the World Series MVP award. When Sparky Anderson
was asked to compare Munson to Bench, he demurred, saying: "You don't compare
anyone to Johnny Bench. You don't want to embarrass anybody."
Dan Driessen was the DH in all four World Series games. In fact, 1976 was the
first year the DH was allowed the the Series. At that time, the DH was allowed
on an every-other-year basis and in ALL games (until 1986 when it became yearly
and only in the AL parks). In 1976, Driessen DH-ed in both Yankee Stadium &
Riverfront. He went 5 for 14 (.357) with one homer and two doubles.
Raw slugging averages aren't everything; slugging averages have
varied widely over the years, from a low league average of around .300 in the
dead-ball era to a high of almost .450 in the 1930s and late 1990s. But if we divide a team's slugging average by the league's slugging average,
we get a relative number, so that we can compare teams from different eras. Here
are the all-time leaders: every team that finished 15% or better above the
league average (removing teams prior to 1888 and Coors Field teams with
Team League Relative
1. 1927 New York Yankees .489 .399 22.6
2. 1976 Cincinnati Reds .424 .361 17.5
3. 1965 Cincinnati Reds .439 .374 17.4
4. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates .374 .319 17.2
5. 2003 Red Sox .501 .428 17.1
6. 1947 New York Giants .454 .390 16.4
7. 1930 New York Yankees .488 .421 15.9
8. 1950 Boston Red Sox .464 .402 15.4
9. 1931 New York Yankees .457 .396 15.4
10. 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers .474 .411 15.3
But there are other offensive factors not measured by slugging percentage, such
as baserunning and hitting in the clutch. So a better measure may be a team's
runs per game compared to the league average. As I mentioned above, the 1927
Yankees were great at .28 runs per game above the league average, but the 1976
Reds were better at .33 higher. And because the Reds were also markedly better
at defense and base-running, and had no weak links, I think the clear edge goes to the 1976 Reds, the greatest starting
lineup in major league baseball history.
Excellence on the Basepaths
The 1976 Reds led the NL with 210 steals while being caught only 57
times, for an ultra-impressive .79 success rate.
By way of comparison, the list of players with more than 200 career steals
and a success rate of .79 or higher is very short and contains names like Tim
Raines, Davey Lopes, Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson. (As a matter of fact, Joe
Morgan was the first player in MLB history to retire with more than 600 steals
and a success rate higher than .79!)
The Reds had a higher stolen base success rate than superstar base-stealers like
Lou Brock (.75), Craig Biggio (.77), Mickey Rivers (.75) and Maury Wills (.74). So as a team, the Reds were elite, Hall-of-Fame-caliber base stealers as
well! On the other hand, Johnny Bench allowed only 32 stolen bases
by opposing baserunners, throwing out 46% of attempting stealers. So the Reds
had a huge advantage on the basepaths. One obviously cannot say such things about lumbering Yankee teams of the
past ! As we shall
see in due course, some of the "great teams" of the past do not begin to
compare with the 1976 Reds (or with the 1975 Reds, for that matter).
Hitting and running are just tips of an iceberg that is about to sink the
hopes of any other baseball team hoping to be considered the greatest of all
time. Here's a remarkable indication of just how good the best offensive
baseball team of all time was defensively: Bench and
Morgan were selected to the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team, while Concepción
was a finalist whose career defensive WAR puts him in the top 40 defenders of
all time, regardless of position. Cesar Gerónimo was good enough to be
considered for the Rawlings finalists, with four consecutive Gold Gloves, so
where it matters most, up the middle, the Reds had four defensive immortals! Can
that be said about any of the other "murderers' row" offensive teams? (The
question is rhetorical.)
The 1976 Reds led the NL and all MLB in fielding, with the fewest errors
and the highest fielding percentage. So they were the best defensive team in all
MLB by the numbers. This can be backed up by the fact that four Reds starters won
gold gloves in 1976: Bench (C), Morgan (2B), Concepción (SS) and Gerónimo
(CF). Furthermore the Reds won Gold Gloves at these four key defensive positions for
four straight years, 1974-77. Altogether, members of the
"great eight" accumulated 26 Gold Gloves. The Reds who didn't win gold
gloves weren't exactly slouches, either. Tony Pérez (1B) had
a stellar .996 fielding percentage and only five errors in 1976, but Steve
Garvey won the gold glove with an even-more-stellar .998. Pete Rose (3B) won two
gold gloves in other seasons, and ranks close to fellow gold-glover Alex Gordon in left-field Total
Zone metrics at +11 per season. In 1976, Rose was playing out of position at third base, where he was a
decent-but-not-great defender. However, with Concepción's speed, strong arm,
innovative one-bounce throws to first, ability to chase pop flies, and amazing leaping ability, the left
side of the infield was more than adequately defended. And we must remember that
it was a truly unselfish act for Rose to move to third base, when he had won two
gold gloves in the outfield. As a rival manager pointed out, Rose's
move "made the team" by allowing George Foster to play every day.
Rose's own manager, Sparky Anderson, was impressed enough
with his fielding at third base to mention "some real fielding gems" that he
came up with. Foster was a good outfielder with above-average speed
and a strong, accurate arm in his prime years; he had been used as a late-inning
defensive replacement early in his career. As an example of Foster's speed and
athleticism, in 1976 he stole 17 bases and was only caught three times. Ken
Griffey Sr. was also a good outfielder with excellent speed and a strong
arm. He defended well enough to play 203 games at centerfield during his
career. So there you have it: the 1976 Reds were one of the all-time great
defensive teams as well!
How good were the Reds on defense? Well, Bench is number one among catchers
all-time with ten Gold Gloves and was the number one catcher on the
Rawlings all-time Gold Glove list with 59% of the vote (more than Ozzie Smith!).
In his prime, playing in the steal-happy NL of the 1970's, Bench had eight
seasons in which he threw out 46% of runners or higher (1969-1970, 1972-1975),
twice topping 56%. Morgan earned five Gold Gloves and was the number one defensive second baseman
on the Rawlings list. Concepción also garnered five Gold Gloves and was one of
six finalists at shortstop on the Rawlings list. (Concepción would almost
certainly have won more Gold Gloves if a young defensive whiz named Ozzie Smith
hadn't started gobbling them up.) Gerónimo won four consecutive
Gold Gloves and thus qualifies as one of the best defensive centerfielders of
all time. Pete Rose won two Gold Gloves and has the 35th highest fielding
percentage of all time among outfielders at .991. Pérez had his best fielding year at first base
in 1976. Griffey and
Foster were above-average defenders, with excellent speed and athleticism, and strong
arms. Dave Schoenfield mentioned the 1975-1976 Reds in his discussion of the
best defensive teams of all time, naming Foster along with Bench, Morgan,
Concepción and Gerónimo as the key defenders. The 1975 Reds had a +61 runs Total
Zone defensive rating. Schoenfield commented: "Bench is probably underrated
here, rating at just +10 runs even though he had a 46 percent caught stealing
rate and just 32 steals allowed in 132 starts." In any case, with four Gold
Glove winners at the key positions up the middle, great team speed, and the best
fielding percentage in the NL, the Reds were certainly in the running as one of
the best defensive teams of all time.
What is the single most amazing 1976 Reds stat? It may be the fact that a
35-year-old Pete Rose only committed 13 errors while playing out of position at
third base in order to allow Foster and Griffey to play full-time in the
outfield. It was the "genius" idea of Sparky Anderson to move Rose to third base
in the middle of the 1975 season. But it took the all-world talent of Rose to
pull it off. Rose may have been the most versatile baseball superstar of all
was truly a remarkable player, and it was his unselfish move to third base that
"made" the Reds by allowing the Great Eight to take the field together. The 1976 Reds had
the fewest errors (102) in the major leagues and the highest fielding percentage
(.984). In addition to their four Gold Gove winners (Bench, Morgan, Concepción
and Gerónimo), they had "plus" defenders in Pérez at first, Foster in right and
Griffey in left. But they also had a
much-better-than-adequate-if-not-always-pretty third baseman named Peter Edward
A number of the Reds are among the top 100 in fielding percentage at their
respective positions, with Rose ranking at multiple positions. Of course
fielding percentage doesn't tell the whole story, but it does tell us whether a
defender is competent once he gets his hands on the ball. And these stats do
tell us some interesting things, I believe. First, Rose was much less
error-prone at third base than Pérez, which explains why
Sparky Anderson didn't move Pérez back to third. Second, Rose really was a
remarkable baseball player, to rank in the top 60 of all time at three different
defensive positions (it could be four, but I couldn't find separate percentages
for left and right fielders). Third, it's odd to see how close Pérez and
Killebrew were to each other at first and third; they are also very close in
career RBI. And then Phil Garner turns up in two different positions: close to
Pérez at third, and close to Rose at second! Coincidences seem to abound.
OF Rose (.9911, #35, 2 Gold Gloves) ≈ Mike
Trout, Alex Gordon, Mickey Stanley, Torrii Hunter, Andruw Jones
(.9896, #43, 4 Gold Gloves) ≈ Brady Anderson, Kirby
Puckett, Don Demeter
1B Rose (.9941, #47) ≈ Albert Pujols, Ernie Banks, Ed Kranepool,
Jim Thome, Jeff Bagwell, Joey Votto, Eddie Murray
3B Rose (.9609, #60) ≈ Graig Nettles, Adrian Beltre, Robin
Ventura, Mike Schmidt
C Bench (.9905, #84, 10 Gold Gloves) ≈ Roy Campanella, Yogi
Berra, Bill Dickey, Carlton Fisk
SS Concepción (.9706, #84, 5 Gold Gloves) ≈ Luis Aparicio, Ed
Brinkman, Walt Weiss
2B Morgan (.9812, #90, 5 Gold Gloves) ≈ Bill Mazeroski, Chase
Utley, Manny Trillo, Davey Johnson
1B Pérez (.9925, #99) ≈ Norm Cash, Bill Terry, Stan Musial,
Bill Buckner, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell
2B Rose (.9754, #158) ≈ Eddie Stankey, Phil Garner, Frankie Frisch, Glenn
3B Pérez (.9456, #171) ≈ Phil Garner, Home Run Baker, Harmon
OF Foster (.9845, #242) ≈ Carlos May, Eric Davis, Kenny Lofton
OF Griffey (.9808, #392) ≈ Bill North, Ken Landreaux, Vada Pinson, Willie Mays
Needless to say, if we look at the statistics of teams like the 1927 Yankees, we
are not going to find this kind of defensive excellence. The 1927 Yankees
committed 196 errors, with more than 90 by their middle infielders alone. They
had two catchers who couldn't throw and a centerfielder with the weakest arm in
professional baseball history, according to Bill James (more on this later).
The Best Double-Play Combination Ever?
Were Joe Morgan and Dave Concepción the best double-play combination of all
time? They each won Gold Gloves in the same year four times (1974-1977), a
feat matched only by Bobby Grich and Mark Belanger of the Baltimore Orioles. But
Morgan and Concepción were much more productive offensively and on the basepaths
than Grich and Belanger. And while the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance infield was
made famous by a poem, the trio committed 194 errors in 1906, they were not
offensive superstars, and no one can remember the name of their forgettable
catcher and third baseman. So they really don't come close to matching the Reds
infield of Bench, Pérez, Morgan, Concepción and Rose. Perhaps the 1982 Milwaukee
Brewers come closest, with Ted Simmons, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Robin Yount
and Paul Molitor all having banner offensive years. But still they fall short at
catcher, at second base, in stolen bases, and in defense. The 2009 Yankees are
also strong contenders, with Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek
Jeter and Aurelio Rodriguez. But they also fall short at catcher, at second
base, in stolen bases, and in defense. When we consider the "total package" the 1976 Reds remain the cream of the infield crop.
But as we will soon see, the 1976 Reds outfield was also superior, and by far the
best of its day.
The Greatest Infield of All Time
No other team in baseball history had the Big Red Machine's quality depth
from the top of the lineup to the bottom. Quite obviously, including catcher,
the 1975-1976 Reds had the greatest infield ever, with every member either in the Hall of
Fame or a strong candidate. The entire Reds infield made an All-Century Team:
Bench, Morgan and Rose made the official MLB All-Century Team, while Concepción and Pérez
made the All-Latino All-Century Team. And in 1976 the Reds also had four of the best
outfielders in major league baseball: George Foster (who led all MLB in
RBI), Cesar Gerónimo having the best offensive year of his career, Ken Griffey
Sr. matching Rose stat-for-stat, and the immortal Rose himself. When your number eight
hitter, Gerónimo, finishes 25th in the MVP voting and you have to keep Dan
Driessen on the bench (he hit .300 the following year with 31 doubles, 17
homers, 91 RBI and 31 steals,
slugging .468), you have an embarrassment of offensive riches. And when we consider
that the 1976 Reds were also one of the very best defensive and baserunning
teams of all time (something that cannot be said about the 1927, 1939, 1961 or
Yankees), that pretty much clinches the debate. Experts who have said that the
Reds had the best infield of all time include ESPN's Buster Olney. (BTW, Pete
Rose played on another contender: the 1981 Phillies with Manny Trillo, Larry
Bowa and Mike Schmidt having his best year.) Bill James rated Morgan the best
second baseman of all time. Bill James also called Bench "the closest we've seen
to a perfect catcher" and rated him number two, after Yogi Berra. In another
article on the best infields based on win shares, James rated the 1973-1976 Reds
the highest of all time, with 415 followed by an exclamation mark! James noted
that with "Pérez, Morgan, Rose and Concepción the Reds had four infielders of
Hall of Fame quality." And he wasn't considering catcher at the time. So it
seems that baseball's leading expert on stats agrees that the Big Red Machine
had, by far, the best infield of all time if we include catcher.
It is very difficult to compare
pitching staffs from different eras, so I am going to limit my discussion to
non-pitchers, except for this paragraph by way of explanation. The statistics
cited here are strikeouts per nine inning game (SPG) and the pitchers' all-time
ranking in this category. We have to drop out of the top 125 strikeout pitchers
of all time to find the first great early fireballers. I believe Rube Waddell
(7.04, #130), Smokey Joe Wood (6.21, #243), Dazzy Vance (6.20, #245) and Bullet
Bob Feller (6.07, #260) would have been great pitchers in any era, but what
would have happened if an average pitcher of the past started tossing 80-85 mph
"fast balls" to George Foster, Johnny Bench and Tony Pérez? They may have all
hit 60+ home runs in the same season! Conversely, who is to say how many games
Don Gullett (5.96, #293) would have won if he and his near-100-mph fastball had
been transported back in time? After all, Gullett is comparable to Feller in SPG
and he's comfortably ahead of Whitey Ford (5.55, #393), Johnny Vander Meer
(5.53, #395), Hal Newhouser (5.40, #417), Walter Johnson (5.34, #437), Dizzy
Dean (5.32, #442), Lefty Gomez (5.28, #455), Ed Walsh (5.27, #457), Lefty Grove
(5.17, #479), Chief Bender (5.10, #505), Tim Keefe (4.57, #637) and Rube
Marquard (4.34, #690). I think it's safe to say that the average pitching speed
in the past was far from spectacular, just by examining the innings and
strikeouts of the top pitchers. Some of the famous aces of the past were
pitching 300 to 400 innings per year, and striking out 120 or fewer batters,
even though the hitters were using heavier bats. For instance, Cy Young
(3.43, #919) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (3.81, #822) were obviously not
throwing extreme heat. Young must have been slower than Christmas, because a
typical season for him was close to 400 innings and around 120 strikeouts, and
that was true even when he was in his prime. Many pitchers of
yore with lots of career strikeouts got them only because they threw
beaucoup innings. For instance, Christy Mathewson,
Carl Hubbell and Eddie Plank were under 4.5 SPG and out of the top 600. There
was obviously a dearth of pitching speed, aside from a few blazing exceptions.
When a flameballing strikeout artist like Rube Waddell or Dazzy Vance
appears, he really sticks out in the pitching statistics because strikeouts were
so few and far between back then. For instance, in 1927, the year of
the famous Yankees "murder's row" led by Ruth and Gehrig, only two pitchers
struck out as many as 174 batters: Vance and Grove. Hell, only nine pitchers had
100 or more strikeouts! Either all the batters had the eyesight and coordination
of Ted Williams, or the pitches were relatively slow and easy to make contact
with. The statistics obviously suggest the latter, and explain why Ruth and
Gehrig hit so many homers that year. I believe my compilation here is a
reasonably complete list of the main strikeout kings from 1900 to 1950. There is an obvious
connection between velocity and HPG, because the leaders in HPG were speed
merchants: Herb Score, Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, Sid Fernandez, J. R.
Richard, et al. Even among elders the strikeout kings were generally the best in HPG:
Ed Walsh, Smokey Joe Wood, Bullet Bob Turley, Walter Johnson, Rube Waddell, et
al. In conclusion, it is my opinion that if the 1976 Reds pitching staff were
transported back in time to 1950 or earlier, they would suddenly have become a staff
of all-time aces. Don Gullett (5.96, #293) compares with Bob Feller; Fred Norman
(6.05, #272) with Dazzy Vance; Gary Nolan (5.58, #386) with Whitey Ford; Pat
Zachry (5.11, #499) with Lefty Grove; Jack Billingham (4.6, #629) with Tim
Keefe. So in any comparison to teams of the first half of the 20th century, the
fireballing Reds would have a staff equivalent to Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, Dazzy
Vance, Whitey Ford and Tim Keefe. If we pair those five
Hall of Fame pitchers with the Great Eight, I think it's safe to say they
would blow away the 1927 Yankees, or any other team they might face! Of course
there are pitching factors other than speed, but let's be honest ... what made
Rapid Robert Feller a legend? Obviously, the speed of his fastball. What made
Herb Score a sensation? Ditto. What made Walter Johnson a legend? Ditto. So it
stands to reason that if we sent Bullet Gullett back
in time, his fastball would make him a legend. Gary Nolan also had a blazing
fastball; at age 18 he struck out Willie Mays four times in a game and averaged
nearly a strikeout per inning for his rookie season. Fred Norman's fastball was
described as "electric" and topped out around 94 mph. Pat Zachry threw a mean
fastball in the 90-92 mph range. The real difference is that in the past only a
few rare pitchers could really bring the heat, whereas in modern times many
talented pitchers can.
Bench, Pitching and Coaching
While the Big Red Machine was legendary for its starting eight players, the 1976
Reds also had a productive bench. Dan Driessen played first base and left
field, slugging .402 with an OPS+ of 116, driving in 44 runs, and stealing 14
while only being caught once. (Driessen would star in the 1976 World Series as a
designated hitter, then go on to have an OPS+ of 100 or higher in 13 of
his 15 major league seasons.) Bob Bailey played third base and left field, hitting .298
and slugging .508 with an OPS+ of 148. Ed Armbrister played left field and right
field, hitting .295 and slugging .462 with an OPS+ of 125. Doug Flynn played second,
third and shortstop, batting .283 and leading the reserves with 62 hits. Other backups included Bill Plummer
(catcher), Mike Lum (all three outfield positions), and the versatile Joel
Youngblood (all three outfield positions, catcher, second and third). Don Werner
(catcher) played in three games as the team's only
late-season call-up. Merv Rettenmund was traded to the San Diego Padres during
the 1976 season. Clay Carroll and Joaquín Andújar were traded before the
The 1976 Reds pitching staff exactly matched the NL league average ERA that year
(3.51) despite the position players' defensive prowess, meaning that the team's success was primarily due to the
excellence of the Great Eight. Reds pitchers
included Gary Nolan (15-9, 3.46), Pat Zachary (14-7, 2.74), Fred Norman (12-7,
3.09), Jack Billingham (12-10, 4.32), Santo Alcala (11-4, 4.70), Don Gullett
(11-3, 3.00), Rawly Eastwick (11-5, 2.09, 26 saves), Manny Sarmiento (5-1,
2.06), Pedro Borbon (4-3, 3.35, 8 saves), Pat Darcy (2-3, 6.23), Will McEnaney
(2-6, 4.85, 7 saves), Rich Hinton (1-2, 7.64) and John Henderson (2-0, 0.00).
The Reds had a great coaching staff, led by Hall-of-Fame manager George
Other coaches included Ted Kluszewski, Russ Nixon, George Scherger and Larry
The Best Manager Ever?
Sparky Anderson was called "Sparky Who?" in headlines that announced his hiring
by Reds general manager Bob Howsam. But "Sparky" had immediate success as a
manager, winning 102 games in his inaugural 1970 season. Later he became the first
manager to win the World Series with teams in both leagues. He won two with the
Reds in 1975-1976, then another with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. He was also the
first manager to win 100 games with two different teams. Under his direction, the 1984 Tigers set a
MLB record by opening the season 35-5; they finished with a franchise-record 104
wins. Known as "Captain Hook," Anderson was famous for yanking pitchers for
relievers. His 2,194 wins are sixth highest in major league baseball history,
and he is a member of the Hall of Fame. He was also voted the AL manager of the year
in 1984 and 1987.
"Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for," Pete Rose said. "He
understood people better than anyone." Bill James noted that among the
all-time great managers, Sparky Anderson seemed to care more about his players.
To understand how completely the Great Eight dominated the National League in 1976,
please consider that all eight Reds starters ranked in the top 30 for OPS, with
Morgan #1, Foster #4, Rose #5, Griffey #7, Gerónimo #20, Pérez #22, Bench #27
and Concepción #30. That is all the more impressive because Bench was recovering
from major surgery, had a down year (for him, not mortal catchers) and missed 27
games. Morgan and Pérez also missed more than 20 games. But Morgan still managed
to nearly double some of his closest competitors' stats. Bench and Pérez were
still elite at their positions. A strong case can be made that every Reds
starter was either first or second at his respective position if offense,
defense and baserunning are considered. Another strong case can be made that the
Great Eight would be heavily favored over an NL all-star team of Bob Boone, Steve
Garvey, Dave Cash, Bill Russell, Mike Schmidt, Cesar Cedeno, Greg Luzinski and Dave
Kingman. The Reds' infield including catcher is clearly superior. The outfield
might be a wash, but I would give the edge to Foster, Griffey and Gerónimo all
having career years (although Foster would soon reach even greater heights). The
all-star outfield has more raw power but the Reds outfield was highly
productive at the plate while offering more speed, defense and
Reds have seven Hall-of-Fame-caliber players with four immortals (Bench, Pérez,
Morgan and Rose), while the all-stars have only one HOF "lock" in Schmidt. (I based the
opposing all-star team on the 1976 NL all-star team
after removing the Reds who made the team that year.)
Key: BA=Batting Average, DWAR=Defensive WAR, OWAR=Offensive WAR, WAR=Combined
WAR (Wins Above Replacement), OWP=Offensive Win Percentage, PA=Plate
Appearances, RC=Runs Created, SBP=Stolen Base Percentage, SP=Slugging
Percentage, TOB=Times on Base
Johnny Bench led all NL catchers in defense (Gold Glove/DWAR), runs, home runs,
walks, steals and SP; he finished second in doubles, total bases and RBI despite
playing in only 134 games
Tony Pérez led all NL first basemen in triples, home runs and extra base hits; he finished second
in runs, RBI, doubles and slugging; he was fourth in total bases and steals
despite playing in only 139 games
Joe Morgan led all NL second basemen in defense (Golden Glove), WAR, runs, home runs,
RBI, walks, BA, OBP, TOB, SP and OPS (often by
ridiculous margins); he was second in doubles and steals despite playing in only
Dave Concepción led all NL shortstops in defense (Golden Glove/DWAR), BA, hits,
homers, RBI, total bases, extra base hits, OBP, SP and OPS; he was second in
runs and doubles, third in steals
Pete Rose led all NL third basemen in games, at bats, PA, hits,
singles, doubles, runs, TOB and OBP; he was second only to Mike Schmidt (and
just barely) in total bases and OWAR; despite leading off he was sixth in RBI
Ken Griffey Sr. led all NL outfielders in BA, OBP, TOB, OWP and runs; he was
second in hits, RC and OWAR, third in steals and OPS, fourth in doubles and triples;
despite hitting second he was ninth in SP and RBI
George Foster led all NL outfielders in WAR, extra base hits, total bases, runs
created, SP, OPS and RBI; he was
second in OWP and SBP, third in home runs, fourth in hits and triples, fifth in
BA and runs
Cesar Gerónimo led all NL outfielders in defense (Golden Glove) and
triples; he was second in OBP, third in SBP, fourth in BA, tenth in steals, and
within a whisker of Dave Winfield and Bobby Murcer in OPS
Consulting the Experts
What do the experts say about the 1976 Reds? Russell O. Wright wrote a book on
the subject, Dominating the Diamond, in which he determines the twelve
most dominant teams in baseball history. Wright
compliments the Reds for their "great offense" and "great defense"
(I would add "great
baserunning" but Wright may be including that under the general heading
"offense"). Wright calls Johnny Bench the "best defensive catcher in the history
of the game" and a "powerful hitter." That makes Bench truly one-of-a-kind, as
no other great defensive catcher hit 40+ home runs multiple times, won two MVP
awards, and finished with as many career home runs
and RBI as Bench. Wright calls Joe Morgan "one of the best second basemen
ever to play the game" and indeed in most rankings he is in the top four, along
with Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins and Charlie Gehringer. That is very heady
company! Wright compliments Pete Rose for being the all-time hit leader and for
being extremely "versatile" by playing several positions at a high level, while
still being able to win Gold Gloves. And Wright salutes Tony Pérez as one of the
most consistent RBI men in baseball history. Wright concludes: "That
combination may have been the best four ever to play in the major leagues
[on the same team]. But that is just the beginning, as Wright goes on to point
out that "There is no doubt that the 1976 Reds had an unusual combination of
all-star players ... The outfielders all hit over .300, and in the case of
George Foster, hit with unusual power."
During the 1975-1976 seasons, that Reds lineup played only 87 games together,
including the post-season, according to Big Red Dynasty by Greg Rhodes
and John Erardi. The Great Eight won 69 games and lost 18, for an otherworldly
.793 winning percentage. Rhodes and Erardi compared the starting eight to other
dynasties', picking the Reds over the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1929 Philadelphia
Athletics, and the 1927 and 1938 Yankees. Their conclusion:
"No team has
ever been more dominant than the '76 Reds."
Dave Schoenfield in his article "Five best players in baseball: a history" makes
a good case for the 1971-1975 Reds by demonstrating that the Reds consistently
had three of the top five players in all MLB, according to accumulated WAR: Joe
Morgan, Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. Reggie Jackson was close to Bench and Rose.
The number five player, Willie Stargell, was extremely close to Tony Pérez,
depending on the window of time selected. So the Reds had three of the top five,
and a fourth player who was almost as good. Then George Foster showed up, and he
rivaled any of the best for a decade!
Dave Schoenfield had this to say about the 1972-1976 window: "Absolutely
phenomenal: Morgan was nearly 18 wins better than the No. 2 player [Rod Carew]
over this five-year span. I don’t know if any player has ever dominated the game
to the extent Morgan did over this stretch (that’s another article)."
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio didn't mince words: "A helluva team. They do everything.
They hit the ball. They run. They are tough on the field. From the top of the
order to the bottom, they can hurt you."
Red Schoendienst agreed: "You make one mistake against a team like that and
you're gone. If you check their power, they'll run you to death. You check their
running, some guy will hit one out in the bottom of the ninth."
Reds manager Sparky Anderson: "When I'm out speaking, I try to explain to people
how good these guys were ... In 1976, they played 162 games, then
swept the playoffs—that's 165 games ... then swept the World Series—that's 169 games. They won 109 games, a .640 winning percentage ... and the
eight guys played together only 57 times [that year]!" (Actually, it may
have been 87 times, but still the point remains the same.)
"We didn't think we could get beat," Reds second baseman Joe Morgan said,
"because we almost never did get beat." And when the Great Eight played
together, it was true. A .793 winning percentage over 162 games translates to
128 wins. And that was with just a league-average ERA, which means the position
players were―truly―beyond compare.
Pete Rose knows a thing or two about baseball, having been an all-star 17 times
at five different positions and having worked as a player-manager. Here is what
he said, when asked how the Big Red Machine compared to other all-time great
teams: "Not many teams had great production from second base and catcher. That
team had everything: speed, power and daring base running." These are important
points, I believe. No second baseman of the modern era can rival Morgan's
combination of speed, base-stealing, power, getting on base, and defense. He was
truly one of a kind. Ditto for Bench, who was a defensive genius and an
offensive dynamo. And Rose might have added that few third basemen could hope to
match his own production.
Johnny Bench mentioned the Reds' confidence and intimidation advantages: "We
could be down two or three runs and we knew we were going to win, they knew we
were going to win, and we knew they knew we were going to win." His comment
reminds me of a golfer saying something similar
about Jack Nicklaus when the Golden Bear was winning all the major golf
Bill James is the best-known name in baseball history and stats. In his article
"Infields" posted on October 1, 2012, he ranks baseball infields by win shares
for a four-year-period of time. His highest-ranking infield, with 415 win shares―followed by an exclamation mark―is the 1973-1976 Reds.
(And mind you, James is
not including the best catcher of all time, Johnny Bench!) James comments that
"with Perez, Morgan, Rose and Concepcion the Reds had four infielders of Hall of
Fame quality." Yes, and Bench makes five. And then Foster―leading all MLB
outfielders in RBI and slugging in 1976―makes six. Also in 1976, Griffey was playing like
another Rose. So for that particular year, make it seven. And Gerónimo wasn't
all that far behind, especially when we consider his stellar defense, throwing, base-stealing, and high batting average, on-base percentage, slugging
percentage and OPS in 1976. So make it eight, for that one
In The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers, James explained one very
good reason for the success of Sparky Anderson: "He took over a team with two
all-time greats (Rose and Bench) and two other players who were among the
twenty-five best ever at their positions (Perez and Concepcion). Within two
years, the Reds had traded for Joe Morgan and George Foster."
According to the Bill James Top 100, Joe Morgan is the #15 player of all time
and the best second baseman; Pete Rose is the #33 player of all time and would
rank third at third base, after Mike Schmidt and George Brett; Johnny Bench is
the #44 player of all time, and ranks second at catcher, after Yogi Berra.
If we combine what Bill James said in the excerpts above, we get something like
C Bench (all-time-great #44, HOF, #2 catcher of all time)
1B Pérez (top 25 first baseman, HOF)
2B Morgan (all-time-great #15, HOF, #1 second baseman of all time)
SS Concepción (top 25 shortstop, HOF caliber)
3B Rose (all-time-great #33, HOF caliber, #3 third baseman of all time)
Quite obviously, there has never been another infield with such glittering
Elsewhere, Bill James concluded: “The 1975-1976 Reds were probably the most
diverse, broad-based offense in the history of baseball.”
Joel Reuter's 1970's MLB All-Decade Team
Catcher: Johnny Bench
First Base: Willie Stargell
Second Base: Rod Carew
Shortstop: Dave Concepcion
Third Base: Mike Schmidt
Outfield #1: Pete Rose
Outfield #2: Reggie Jackson
Outfield #3: Lou Brock
Starting Pitchers: Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton,
Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins
Reliever: Rollie Fingers
Richard Barbieri's '70s All-Decade Team
Catcher: Johnny Bench. The 1970s had its share of talented catchers: Thurman Munson, Ted Simmons, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. Bench, though is the
undisputed king. "For the decade, he hit
290 home runs; no other catcher even topped 175. In fact, the gap from Bench to
second place Gene Tenace is as large as the gap from Tenace to 17th place Bob
Boone. For good measure, not only was Bench the best power-hitting catcher in
the decade, but he also stole the most bases. And, if all that is not enough,
Bench also did a fair bit to stop his share of would-be base stealers, winning
the Gold Glove at catcher every year from 1970 through 1977."
First Base: Rod Carew or Tony Perez. (In his online comments,
Barbieri said that Tony Perez would be the first choice for first baseman,
followed by Steve Garvey and George Scott, if the position were limited to
players who primarily played first base during the 70's.)
Second Base: Joe Morgan. Morgan was the best overall player of
Shortstop: Bert Campaneris, but I would take Concepcion (or at least it was very
Third Base: Mike Schmidt
Left Field: Pete Rose. He led the league in hits four times,
runs three times and doubles four times. His best season came in 1973 when he
won the league MVP and batting title.
Center Field: Caesar Cedeno
Right Field: Reggie Jackson
Starting Pitchers: Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Bert
Blyleven, Jim Palmer. Seaver ranks sixth in Baseball-Reference’s
fan ELO rating—behind only Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Greg Maddux, Lefty Grove
and Pete Alexander. During the decade, Seaver won 178 games (nearly
18 per year) with a 2.61 ERA.
Manager: Sparky Anderson. He took over the Reds for the 1970
season. That year they went 102-60 and made it to the World Series. The next
year the team went just 79-83, and finished fifth. Clearly, Sparky decided he
didn’t like that and for the rest of the decade the Reds were an unmatched
success. The never won fewer than 88 games, won four division titles, three
pennants and two World Series. Overall, and counting the beginning of his career
as Tigers’ manager in 1979, Anderson-led teams won 919 games at a .590
clip—that’s an average of nearly 96-66.
My Expanded 1970's All-Decade Team
C - Johnny Bench, Gary Carter
1B - Tony Perez, Willie Stargell
2B - Joe Morgan, Rod Carew
SS - Dave Concepcion, Bert Campaneris
3B - Mike Schmidt, Graig Nettles
OF - Pete Rose, Greg Luzinski
OF - Dave Parker, Lou Brock
OF - Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, George Foster
P - Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton,
Fergie Jenkins, Bert Blyleven, Catfish
Hunter, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Goose Gossage
Manager - Sparky Anderson (In nine years as Cincinnati skipper,
he won two World Series, four NL pennants, five NL West division titles, and had
a winning percentage over .600 six time, including five in a row.)
The Great Catcher Debate
There really isn't much―if any―debate about the greatest
catcher of all time. Recently, I have heard certain would-be experts claiming
that Mike Piazza was the best catcher of modern times. But Bench had more RBI
(1,376) and runs (1,091) than Piazza, and Bench was far superior defensively,
throwing, and stealing bases. The most glaring difference is Bench's ten Gold
Gloves to Piazza's none. Another noticeable difference is career WAR, with Bench
leading handily, 75.0 to 59.4. What about speed, or lack of it? Piazza stole 17
bases in 16 years, and was thrown out more times than he succeeded. In 1975
Bench was a perfect 11-0 stealing bases, and in 1976 he was 13-2. Furthermore,
Bench revolutionized his position, introducing the one-handed method of
catching. Yes, Piazza was a great hitter, but Bench was great at everything!
And before his surgery in 1976, Bench was on pace to leave Piazza (and everyone
else) out of the offensive picture entirely. He won two MVP awards by age 24 and
had accrued 35.5 WAR by age 26. At the same age Piazza had less than half
Bench's WAR. Since Bench's peak WAR was higher than Piazza's, if Bench had
stayed healthy the already-considerable WAR gap would be even larger. But as
Bench noted himself, after his surgery at age 28, he was never the "real" Johnny
Bench again. Still, even hobbled by a falling-apart body, he was a great
catcher, by anyone else's standards.
Which catcher came closest to Bench? I would vote for Roy Campanella, who threw
out a MLB career record 57% of base-stealers and was a three-time MVP, with
offensive stats close to Bench's in his prime. From what I understand,
Campanella was great at blocking errant pitches, handling pitchers and throwing
out runners, but his overall defense wasn't up to Bench's standards. For
instance, Bench's fielding percentage was higher (.990 to .988) and his errors
per inning caught were lower (.007 to .008). And Campanella didn't play nearly
as many games: he was a rookie at age 26, due to racial discrimination, and then
he had only five seasons with 500 or more plate appearances. So I don't think he
compares directly to Bench, but at his peak in those MVP years he may have been
breathing the same rarified air. In any case, their career batting averages,
slugging percentages and OPS+ are quite similar. Bench seems to have had the
advantage in overall defense and definitely in games played (and thus career
homers, RBI, etc.). Right now, here are my catcher WAR rankings, with a
projection of Campanella's career WAR if he had been able to play an entire
(#1) Johnny Bench, career WAR 75.0, OPS+ 126, HR 389,
(#2) Roy Campanella, projected WAR 70.0, OPS+ 123, projected HR 386 and RBI
(#3) Gary Carter, career WAR 69.9, OPS+ 115, HR 324, RBI 1,225
(#4) Ivan Rodriguez, career WAR 68.4 , OPS+ 106, HR 311, RBI
(#5) Carlton Fisk, career WAR 68.3, OPS+ 117, HR 376, RBI 1,330
(#6) Yogi Berra, career WAR 59.5, OPS+ 125, HR 358, RBI 1,430
(#7) Mike Piazza, career WAR 59.4, OPS+ 142, HR 427,
(#8) Bill Dickey, career WAR 55.8, OPS+ 127, HR 202, RBI 1,209
(#9) Gabby Hartnett, career WAR 53.4, OPS+ 126, HR 236, RBI 1,179
(#10) Mickey Cochrane, career WAR 52.1, OPS+ 129, HR 119, RBI
830 at a high level)
The Great Leadoff Debate
Few baseball fans would argue that Johnny Bench was one of the greatest catchers
of all time. Few would contest that Joe Morgan was one of the best second
basemen of all time. And it's hard to argue with Tony Pérez's 1,652 RBI,
Concepción gold gloves and superior offensive stats for a shortstop of his era,
or the reason that George Foster was called the "Destroyer." But for some odd
reason, many baseball fans radically undervalue Pete Rose.
Was he one of the two best leadoff men of all time, or does he belong further
down the list? I think it is child's play to prove that Rose is either the best
or second-best leadoff man of all time. First, let's ask: "What is the main goal
of hitting leadoff?" Isn't the goal to get on base and score or create
runs? Yes, stealing bases is a factor, but would you rather have a leadoff
hitter who steals bases, or one who scores runs in bunches? I think any baseball
coach or manager would chose getting on base and producing runs over steals. So
let's examine the evidence from those angles:
Hits: Pete Rose #1, Craig Biggio #22, Rickey Henderson #23, Ichiro Suzuki #25,
Lou Brock #26, Omar Vizquel #42, Johnny Damon #54, Max Carey #71, Tim Raines #80
Times on Base: Pete Rose #1, Rickey Henderson #4, Craig Biggio #19, Tim Raines
#48, Omar Vizquel #50, Lou Brock #60, Johnny Damon #62, Max Carey #69, Ichiro
Total Bases: Pete Rose #8 (just 41 less than Babe Ruth!), Craig Biggio #36,
Rickey Henderson #45, Johnny Damon #72, Lou Brock #69, Ichiro Suzuki #100
Runs: Rickey Henderson #1, Pete Rose #6, Craig Biggio #15, Billy Hamilton #27,
Johnny Damon #32, Lou Brock #47, Tim Raines #54, Max Carey #57, Kenny Lofton #63
Runs Created: Pete Rose #10, Rickey Henderson #11, Craig Biggio #34, Tim Raines
#61, Johnny Damon #73, Lou Brock #85, Ichiro Suzuki #91
WAR: Rickey Henderson 110.8, Pete Rose 79.1, Lou Brock 45.2, Tim Raines 69.1,
Kenny Lofton 68.2, Craig Biggio 65.1, Billy Hamilton 63.3, Ichiro Suzuki 59.0
What these numbers tell us is that there is a considerable gap among leadoff
hitters, after Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson. Rose leads all leadoff hitters in
four categories. Henderson leads in runs and WAR. If you want to claim that
Henderson was the best leadoff man of all time, you have a decent argument,
although Rose leads Henderson by wide margins in hits and total bases. But I
don't think there is much of an argument to choose anyone other than Rose for
the other top slot.
The "eye test" gives me the following ranking: Rose #1, Henderson #2, Biggio #3, Brock #4, Damon #5, Raines #6, Suzuki #7, Carey #8, Vizquel
#9, Lofton #10
The Great Second Base Debate
How good was Joe Morgan, really? Really, really good! For example, "Little Joe"
is in a virtual three-way tie for the fifth most productive five-year "WAR path"
(if you'll pardon the pun) ...
Babe Ruth (1920-1924) 56.9 WAR
Willie Mays (1962-1966) 52.3 WAR
Barry Bonds (2000-2004) 51.1 WAR
Roger Hornsby (1921-1925) 49.9 WAR
Mike Trout (2012-2016) 47.8 WAR
Mickey Mantle (1954-1958) 47.7 WAR
Joe Morgan (1972-1976) 47.7 WAR
Lou Gehrig (1927-1931) 47.2 WAR
Stan Musial (1948-1952) 44.7 WAR
Albert Pujols (2005-2009) 44.5 WAR
Yes, Joe Morgan was really, really good! Or, more accurately, he was one of the
all-time greats and a challenger to Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie
for the title of the best second baseman ever. Bill James ranks Morgan first,
with Collins ahead of the great Hornsby. Other analysts have also dropped
Hornsby below Lajoie. Why? I can think of three compelling reasons.
First, Hornsby was an "indifferent" defender with limited range. He had seasons
with 52, 46, 34, 34, 30 and 30 errors. His career fielding percentage was .959.
Conversely, Morgan and Collins were superior defenders. Collins had a career
fielding average of .969 and Morgan's was .981.
Why was Hornsby's range so limited?
Apparently, he was a plodder. In the years that times caught stealing were
recorded (13 seasons), Hornsby's stolen base record was a hideous 56-64, for a
"success" rate (I use the term loosely) of .467. For 17 consecutive seasons,
Hornsby failed to steal as many as ten bases. And while Collins stole a lot of
bases (741), he got thrown out a lot too, with seasons of 58-30, 46-30, 48-29
and 12-10. Morgan was the first MLB player to retire with 600 steals and a
success rate above .800, so he wins this contest hands down.
Third, Hornsby did not seem to be a positive influence in the clubhouse. In
fact, he once had a fistfight with his manager, Branch Rickey!
A Saint Louis Blues teammate, Harlond Clift, said of Hornsby that "everyone
hated him." And that doesn't seem to be an exaggeration, because when Bill Veeck
fired Hornsby the Browns players were so happy that they gave Veeck an engraved
trophy to thank him!
Here are my personal rankings, for whatever they're worth:
(1) Joe Morgan excelled at everything; he was a great defender and a much more
efficient base-stealer than Collins, with more power to boot.
(2) Eddie Collins was an all-time great hitter, and a much better defender and
base-stealer than Hornsby.
(3) Rogers Hornsby was a great pure hitter with considerable power, but he was
not as good on defense, the basepaths, or in the clubhouse.
(4) Nap Lajoie is the fourth of the all-time great second basemen. Bill James
has argued that he was a good fielder, but not a defensive superstar.
(5) Jackie Robinson was handicapped by racism; he didn't play in the majors
before age 28. But when he did play, his peak years were superb.
(6) Charlie Gehringer hit .320 and slugged .480 for his career. He was a
superior defensive player who started the first six all-star games.
(7) Rod Carew was an all-star for 18 consecutive seasons, but he never won a
Gold Glove and didn't hit with much power, so he drops just a bit.
(8) Ryne Sandberg won nine consecutive Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and
was an all-star ten times with highs of 40 homers and 54 steals.
(9) Frankie Frisch hit .316 with 2,880 hits, 419 steals and 1,532 runs. The
"Fordham Flash" was fast, and a stellar defender.
(10) Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio (tie). Biggio had 3,060 hits, 414 steals
and four Gold Gloves. Alomar had 2,770 hits, 474 steals and ten Gold Gloves.
The Great First Base Debate
How good was Pérez? Let's compare him to his first base peers, who played during
the same era ...
1,652 RBI, 1,272 Runs, 2,924 Total Runs
1,636 RBI, 1,305 Runs, 2,941 Total Runs
Harmon Killebrew 1,584 RBI, 1,283 Runs, 2,867 Total Runs
Willie McCovey 1,555 RBI, 1,229 Runs, 2,784 Total Runs
Willie Stargell 1,540 RBI, 1,194 Runs, 2,734
Orlando Cepeda 1,365 RBI, 1,131 Runs, 2,496 Total Runs
Al Oliver 1,326 RBI, 1,189 Runs, 2,515 Total Runs
1,314 RBI, 2,165 Runs, 3,479 Total Runs
Steve Garvey 1,308 RBI, 1,143 Runs,
2,451 Total Runs
Obviously, there are many exceptional names on this list. But Pérez leads in the
most important stat for an RBI position, RBI. Only two hall-of-famers have more
total runs produced―Pete Rose and Ernie Banks―and they
accumulated hordes of those runs playing other positions. And so among players
who primarily played first base, Pérez leads in both runs driven in and runs
scored. What this chart tells us, I believe, is that Ernie Banks was a helluva
player, that Pérez was his equal, and that Rose was worth 1,000 more runs than
superstars like Garvey and Carew.
How does Pérez rank against HOF first basemen in the critical category of RBI?
He ranks fourth among players who primarily played first base, who did not pad
their stats for years by DH-ing.
Cap Anson 2,075
Lou Gehrig 1,995
Jimmie Foxx 1,922
Eddie Murray 1,917 --- 20% of career at DH
Frank Thomas 1,704 --- 57% of career at DH
Tony Pérez 1,652 --- 3% of career at DH
Ernie Banks 1,636
Harmon Killebrew 1,584
Jake Beckley 1,581
Willie McCovey 1,555
Willie Stargell 1,540
Jeff Bagwell 1,529
Ranking the Reds by MPV, All-Star and Gold Glove Awards
In the MVP column, the first number is the times winner, and the second number
is the times in the top 25 in the MVP voting. The second number may be the more
meaningful. Every member of the Great Eight was in the MVP race at least once,
and average players do not get votes for MVP. All-Star is abbreviated A/S, and
Gold Glove is GG. The stats below are the players' career-best numbers. The
players are ranked by the number of MVP nominations. The Cincinnati Reds Hall of
Fame is designated by "Reds." Every member of the Great Eight is in the Reds
Hall of Fame. Six of the eight should be in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. The
other two were exceptional players who probably fall a bit short of Cooperstown,
but were among the brightest stars of their day, and especially in 1976 when
Griffey "slashed" nearly the same as Rose, and Gerónimo had his finest offensive
Pos Name HOF MVP A/S GG -BA-
SLG -OPS- -R- 2B 3B HR RBI TB SB
3B Pete Rose
Reds* 1/14 17 2 .348 .512 .940 130 51 11 16 82 321 20
C Johnny Bench Yes 2/10 14 10 .293 .587 .932 108 40 4 45
148 355 13
2B Joe Morgan Yes 2/7 10 5 .327 .576
1.020 122 35 12 26
111 284 67 (twice)
1B Tony Pérez Yes -/7 7 - .328 .589 .990 107 38 7 40
129 346 10
LF George Foster Reds* 1/5 5 - .320 .631 1.013 124
31 9 52 149
SS Dave Concepción Reds* -/3 9 5 .319 .433 .767 91 33 8 16 84 245
RF Ken Griffey Sr. Reds -/2 3 - .336 .503 .855 117 35
10 21 85 273
CF Cesar Gerónimo Reds -/1 - 4 .307 .471 .795 73
25 11 10 54
* Pete Rose should be in the HOF, and would be, if not for gambling that had
nothing to do with his play on the field.
* Dave Concepción is not in the HOF, but should be and will hopefully make it
* George Foster was better than most HOF outfielders for a ten-year period from
1975-1984, averaging nearly 100 RBI per season. In a five-year span, he averaged
35 home runs and 116 RBI per season.
Interesting Facts and Statistics about the Big Red Dynasty
The 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds were the first NL team to win back-to-back World
Series since the 1921-1922 New York Giants.
The 1975 Reds started 18-19, then won at a .667 clip after manager Sparky
Anderson shifted Pete Rose to third base on May 3, 1975, allowing George Foster to play left field.
The 1975 Reds won 108 regular season games, then went 7-3
in the postseason.
The 1975 Reds compiled two notable streaks: winning 41 out of 50 games in one
stretch (.820), and going a month without an error. They
The 1975 Reds were the last NL team to score 100+ runs more than their
competitors, other than two altitude-aided Rockies teams.
The 1976 Reds went 109-60, including a perfect 7-0 record in the postseason.
The 1976 Reds had the only perfect
postseason since the League Championship Series started in 1969.
From 1970-1976 the Reds won 683 games, an average of 98 wins per season.
In the peak years of the dynasty, from 1972-1976, the Reds averaged 100 wins per
season, a .626 winning percentage.
From 1975-76 the Reds won 224 of 351 games including the postseason, a .638
The Great Eight played only 87 games together as a starting lineup, going 69-18
for an otherworldly .793 winning percentage.
Multiply .793 by 162 games, and you get 128 wins for a full season. Were they
really that good?
"We didn't think we could get beat," said Joe Morgan, "because we almost never
did get beat."
Then suddenly it was over, when Tony Pérez was traded to Montreal ... the worst
trade in Reds history (well, maybe the Frank Robinson trade comes close).
But those 87 games were enough to stamp the signature of the Great Eight on
Members of the 1975-1976 Reds garnered six MVP awards, four home run titles, three batting
titles, 26 Gold Gloves and 65 All-Star Game appearances.
They were stars, individually and collectively.
In 1976, seven of the eight Reds starters made the NL All-Star
The one who didn't—Cesar Gerónimo—hit .307 with 24 doubles, 11 triples, 201
total bases and 22 steals, while winning the third of four straight Gold Gloves
and finishing 25th in the MVP voting.
The 1976 Reds hit .280 and slugged .424 as team.
Remove the pitchers and the team slugging percentage rises to .444, while the team
batting average climbs from .280 to .291.
The 1976 Reds led both major league divisions in every major hitting category: runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, batting average,
total bases, slugging, OBP, OPS and OPS+.
The 1976 Reds also led the major leagues in fielding average.
No other team has ever led all these categories in their own league in one
season, let alone all MLB.
Furthermore, the 1976 Reds led the NL with 210 steals while being caught only 57
times, for a very impressive
.79 success rate.
By comparison, the list of stolen base leaders with more than 200 career steals
and a success rate of .80 or higher is very short and contains names like Lopes,
Raines and Henderson.
So as a team, the 1976 Reds were elite, Hall-of-Fame-caliber base stealers as
The 1976 Big Red Machine led the National League in home runs and stolen bases,
demonstrating a combination of speed and power rivaled only by the Dodgers of the early 1950s.
In the 1976 NL MVP voting, Joe Morgan was first, George Foster second, Pete Rose
fourth, Ken Griffey Sr. eighth, and Cesar Gerónimo twenty-fifth despite hitting
eighth in the lineup.
This was in a year that the team's superstar sluggers, Johnny Bench and Tony
Pérez, struggled offensively. Would the 1927 Yankees have dominated if Ruth and
Gehrig had down years?
The entire infield made an All-Century Team:
Bench, Morgan and Rose made the official MLB team, while Concepción and Pérez
made the All-Latino All-Century Team.
The Reds had "star power" at every position, with Bench, Morgan, Rose and Foster
accounting for six of the eight National League MVPs awarded from 1970-77. Tony
Pérez was a regular MVP candidate, finishing as high as third. Dave Concepción
was an all-star nine times and placed in the top fifteen in the MVP voting three
times, finishing as high as fourth. Ken Griffey Sr. was a three-time all-star
who finished as high as eighth in the MVP voting. Cesar Gerónimo won four
consecutive Gold Gloves from 1974-1977 and finished as high as twenty-fifth in the MVP
voting. There was no "weak link" on the team, at any position.
There were only
levels of ascending excellence, from all-star to stellar.
Related Pages: All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team,
The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time,
Cincinnati Reds Trivia,
Is Mike Trout the GOAT?,
Best Baseball Nicknames,
Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia,
Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates,
Why Pete Rose Should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame,
Big Red Machine Chronology