COMMENTARY | Before baseball adopted the three-division league alignments in 1994, the Cincinnati Reds had played the majority of their NL West road games on the West Coast from 1969 to 1993. But the disadvantage of playing so many road division games so far from home was not enough to stop the rise of the Big Red Machine that terrorized the NL in the 1970s.
The Reds won six division titles, advanced to the World Series four times and finished second in the division three times during the decade. Of the four division titles the Reds didn't win, three of those were claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, so it's only fitting for Reds Country that the Reds would be playing the Dodgers for the upcoming weekend series that features a tribute to Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan and a reunion of the "Great Eight" position players who won back-to-back World Series championships as the 1975 and 1976 versions of the Big Red Machine.
Joe Morgan Tribute
Dubbed Joe Morgan Weekend, the tribute to "Little Joe" features dedication of a statue that will forever memorialize Morgan alongside fellow Reds greats Johnny Bench, Ted Kluszewski, Joe Nuxhall, Frank Robinson and Ernie Lombardi, whose in-action likenesses adorn the entrances to Great American Ball Park.
The statue honor is one befitting the catalyst of the Big Red Machine, who sparked the Reds to three World Series and four division titles in his first five years with the Reds between 1972 and 1976. Morgan has two of the best back-to-back seasons in baseball history in 1975 and 1976, which earned him NL MVP honors for both seasons. Morgan played eight seasons as part of the Big Red Machine, and his legacy will shine even brighter now for generations to come in Reds Country.
The Great Eight
The reunion of the Big Red Machine features the greatest teams of its dynasty who are represented by the "Great Eight" position players of the 1975 and 1976 teams: Morgan, Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey and Cesar Geronimo. This lineup was only fully intact for the 1975 and 1976 seasons and saw its end in 1977 with the departure of Perez followed by Rose after the 1978 season.
But while the "Great Eight" graced the field during their playing days in Cincinnati and across the country, they were dominant, winning 108 games in 1975 and 102 in 1976 en route to winning World Series titles against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The "Great Eight" are immortalized in the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum with a life-size, in-action exhibit directly across from the Reds' World Series trophies of 1975, 1976 and 1990.
The appearance of baseball's all-time hits leader -- Pete Rose -- at Great American Ball Park is not an unusual sight. He frequents games often and talks with many of the Reds' current players. His on-field appearance for the "Great Eight" tribute after Friday's game is a different matter.
Due to Rose's banishment from baseball for gambling on his team to win while managing the Reds, Rose has to receive permission from baseball commissioner Bud Selig to participate in any event requiring MLB sanction. Had the reunion fallen outside of the Joe Morgan Tribute weekend, there's a good chance that the "Great Eight" would have never been allowed to have an on-field reunion at the home of the Reds. Clearly, the wish of Morgan to have Rose included in the ceremony had its pull in obtaining consent from MLB for the event.
The inclusion of Rose in the Big Red Machine reunion probably shouldn't be construed as a loosening of the baseball death grip the commissioner's office still has on Rose, but it most definitely should be viewed as a testament to the greatness of Morgan, who remains as respected for what he's done on the field as well as off of it.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds' season here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Reds
- Big Red Machine
- Joe Morgan
- Pete Rose