The Cincinnati Reds of 1975-1976 are considered one of the greatest teams of all-time. Their lineup for those two years consisted of catcher Johnny Bench, first basemen Tony Perez, second basemen Joe Morgan, shortstop Dave Concepcion, third basemen Pete Rose, right fielder Ken Griffey, center fielder Cesar Geronimo, and left fielder George Foster.
Bench, Morgan, and Perez are in the hall of fame. Rose would be had he not been banned from baseball for gambling.
In 1975, the Big Red Machine won 108 games. At one point the team won 41 out of 50 games. They also went a month without committing an error.
In the postseason, the Reds swept the Pittsburgh Pirates and then defeated the Boston Red Sox in a dramatic seven game World Series. Game 6 of that series featured Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk hitting a walk-off home run in the 12th inning. For some reason, the replay of that home run has become one of the most popular highlights in all of sports. However, Fisk’s extra-inning heroics were in vain. The Reds won Game 7 and the series thanks to Morgan’s game winning RBI single in the top of the ninth.
The next season the Reds, with the same lineup, raced through the regular season and the playoffs. They defeated the New York Yankees 4-0 in the Fall Classic to become the only MLB team to have an undefeated postseason (no team has done that since baseball instituted the playoffs).
For the entire decade of the 70’s the Reds were six-time NL West Champions, four time NL Pennant winners, and two time World Champions.
The 1975-76 seasons weren’t the first nor the last time the Reds won the World Series. The franchise captured its first World Series in 1919. That win was eventually diminished when it was revealed that their opponents, the Chicago White Sox, fixed the game. The incident is known as the Black Sox Scandal.
The Reds returned to the World Series in 1939 only to be swept by the New York Yankees. The following year the Reds would repeat as National League Champions and defeat the Detroit Tigers in seven games for the world championship.
In 1990, led by the Nasty Boys (three hard throwing relievers from bullpen, Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton) the Reds swept the heavily favored Oakland Athletics for the franchise’s fifth World Series title.
Cincinnati was home to baseball’s first openly all professional team, the Red Stockings. The club was founded in 1866 but didn’t become fully professional until 1869. That team dissolved in 1870 and its best players moved to Boston. There the franchise reformed and eventually became the Atlanta Braves.
Cincinnati formed another team in 1876 as charter members of the National League. Unfortunately, the ballclub was expelled from league in 1880 for serving beer to fans and using their ballpark on Sundays.
A third Cincinnati team was formed in 1882 as part of the American Association. This club, named the Red Stockings, left the AA for the National League in 1890. When the team arrived in the National League they dropped the “stockings” from their name and just went by “Reds.”
The name “Reds” proved problematic for the team during the McCarthy era of the 1950’s. In order to remove any association with the Soviet Union and communism, whose sympathizers and practitioners were sometimes called “Reds,” the franchise officially changed its name to the Cincinnati Redlegs from 1956 to 1960.
Shortly after their name change, the Reds organization instituted a strict ban on moustaches, beards and long hair. The rule, which lasted until 1999, was meant to keep the team looking respectable.
In the 1980’s this rule cost the club the chance to acquire reliever Rollie Fingers. The pitcher had a unique handlebar moustache that he refused to shave—it was his trademark. The Reds had to pass on future hall of famer.
However, in 1999, the ban on wanton grooming was lifted when the club traded for left fielder Greg Vaughn. The four-time All-Star had a goatee.
The strict grooming rules started with general manager Bob Howsam and continued under the ownership of Marge Schott.
With the distinction of being the first woman to buy a baseball, the controversial Schott owned the club from 1984 to 1999. While Schott kept the Reds family friendly and was possibly the most accessible owner in all of sports, she was also a racist.
She was accused of not hiring African Americans, she used the “n” word, sympathized with Nazis, made anti-Semitic slurs, homophobic remarks, and offended Asians.
She fired manager, Davy Johnson because he lived with his fiancÃ©e before they were married.
In 1996, umpire John McSherry died before the Reds’ Opening Day game against the Montreal Expos. The game was obviously postponed. However, Schott was visibly upset that the game was rescheduled and even complained about it. Later, she sent regifted flowers to McSherry’s funeral home.
Not too long after that incident, Schott publically supported Adolf Hitler. This resulted in the league banning her from managing the team. She eventually sold her stake in the club in 1999.
Not only was Schott hateful, but she was also cheap. She didn’t want to pay for top players, scouts, or invest in the Reds’ farm system. Schott also thought that posting scores of other games on the stadium’s scoreboard was too expensive—it cost $200 a month.
No one seems to care how much it costs to post other baseball scores at the Great American Ball Park. The Reds moved into their new home in 2003. Before that the team played at Riverfront Stadium which was renamed Cinergy Field in 1996.
The Reds original home was Bank Street Grounds, the team played there until 1883. From 1884 to 1911 the team played in a stadium known as League Park. In 1902, the owners began to call it “Palace of the Fans.”
In 1912, the Reds replaced League Park with Crosley Field, also known as Redland Field. It was built on the same spot as League Park but this time with steel and concrete. The Reds called this 25,000 seat stadium home until 1970 when they moved into Riverfront Stadium.
Throughout the years these stadiums were home to quite a few milestones. In 1935 Crosley Field hosted baseball’s first night game. In 1938, Johnny Vander Meer became the only pitcher to ever throw two consecutive no-hitters. The first no-no occurred at Crosley Field, the second was at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
In 1944, Joe Nuxall became the youngest person to ever play in a major league game. He was 15-years old and on loan from Wilson Junior High.
In 1956, Reds Outfielder, and future hall of famer, Frank Robinson won the National League Rookie of the Year. Robinson was traded in 1966 to the Baltimore Orioles in one of the most lopsided trades in major league history. While with the Orioles, Robinson won the 1966 American League MVP and the Triple Crown. It took the Reds over a decade to recover from the Robinson trade.
In 1970, during the All-Star game, Riverfront Stadium witnessed Pete Rose slamming into catcher Ray Fosse during a play at the plate. Despite being an exhibition game, Rose hit Fosse so hard that he never fully recovered.
In 1981, The Reds had the best record in baseball but failed to make the post season. Due to a strike shorten season the league didn’t use overall win-loss records but split the season in two and sent the winners of both halves to the playoffs. The Reds finished in second place both times.
In 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record of 4,191. By the time Rose retired he had amassed 4,256 base hits. Nicknamed Charlie Hustle, Rose is also the all-time major league leader in games played, at bats and outs. He was the 1973 NL MVP and a 17-time All-Star.
However, in 1989 Rose accepted a permanent ban from the game of baseball due to accusations of gambling. Rose was not only accused of betting on baseball but on wagering on the Reds while he was their manager.
In 2004, Rose finally admitted that he had bet on baseball including Reds games but still claims he never bet against the Reds.
Rose has become one of the most divisive players in the history of baseball. While he’s arguably one the greatest baseball players of all-time he also jeopardized the integrity of the game. Nearly every baseball fan has an opinion on whether or not he should be inducted into baseball’s hall of fame.
Also occurring in 2004, Ken Griffey Jr. joined the 500-home run club. Two seasons later, in a game against the Florida Marlins, Griffey joined the 600 home run club.
On opening day in 2006, President George W. Bush became the first sitting commander-in-chief to throw out the first pitch at a Cincinnati Reds game.
In 2010, one of the all-time great Reds player will be eligible for the baseball hall of fame. Barry Larkin played shortstop for the Reds from August of 1986 to October of 2004. He was selected to 12 All-Star games, won 3 Gold Glove Awards, and the 1995 NL MVP.
Larkin was also a crucial cog in Reds 1990 World Series victory. He batted .353 in the Reds four game sweep of the Athletics.
Besides being one of the greatest shortstops to ever lace them up, Larkin was also a great humanitarian. During his baseball career he won both the Roberto Clemente Award and the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award.
With the team’s recent history littered with the likes of Schott and Rose, Larkin is a reminder that there are still good people in both the game of baseball and within the Reds organization.
The Reds play in the Central Division of the National League. Historically the Reds main rivals have been the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds and the Pirates have met five times in the postseason.