Judge Ryan Keefer quietly wonders why the Cincinnati baseball club was nicknamed for artillerymen. Or maybe it's the other way around.
See "The Big Red Machine" in one of the greatest World Series ever played!
The Cincinnati Reds have been playing professional baseball in one form or another since 1869, and through the years, they have had a variety of legendary players don the uniform one way or another, like Frank Robinson, Ted Klusewski, Johnny Vander Meer and Eppa Rixey. Under the tutelage of manager Sparky Anderson, the Reds experienced a bumper crop of talent in the early and mid 1970s. Pitchers Don Gullett, Jack Billingham and Gary Nolan each won 15 games for the Reds during their championship 1975 season, and the relief pitchers included Pedro Borbon, Rawly Eastwick and Will McEnaney.
But the Reds weren't called "The Great Red Pitching Machine," because that moniker would quite frankly sound a little bit wimpy. "The Big Red Machine" has had arguably the best starting lineup from top to bottom in the last three decades. Catching for the ball club was Johnny Bench, one of the best catchers of his era or any other and a Hall of Famer, who led the team with 28 home runs and 110 runs batted in. At first base was Tony Perez, who was right behind Bench with 20 home runs and 109 RBI, and a fellow Baseball Hall of Famer. At second base, Joe Morgan, one of the best hitting second baseman in history and League Most Valuable Player. Oh yeah, he is another Hall of Fame member. Dave Concepcion may be remembered for having a really large name on the back of his jersey, but was a solid fielder and reliable player for almost two decades for the team. At third base was Pete Rose, perennial .300 hitter and Hall of Fa…well, that's another topic for another time. In the outfield there was Cesar Geronimo, George Foster, who two years after this season would hit a then-unheard of 52 home runs and hit 348 for his career, and Ken Griffey, who hit .305 for the season, and had 6 year old son named Ken Jr. nipping at his heels.
The offensive juggernaut that was the Redlegs started a reign of success from 1970-1981 that was impressive to say the least, as the team secured seven League pennants during that time. Unfortunately, as is the case with the Atlanta Braves over the last 15 years, there have always been times where the forgone winners don't fulfill their destiny. That's why they play the games. And in 1975, the Reds (after sweeping the Pirates in three straight games) went to the World Series to play the Boston Red Sox. It would appear at first glance that they would easily beat the Red Sox, despite Boston having such players as Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans and Carlton Fisk. But hey, that's why they play the games. And the 1975 World Series for color superiority is here in all its broadcast glory, including Game 6 which many have said remains one of the best playoff games of the modern era.
Understanding that there are audio and visual imperfections because these broadcasts are over three decades old, they hold up pretty well from a quality standpoint. Dick Stockton, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek among others help guide the viewer through seven tumultuous games. The series appeared that it would be a surprise, as Boston came out in the first game and blanked the Reds 6-0 behind a five-hitter from Sox pitcher Luis Tiant. The Sox almost took two at home, as they led Cincinnati 2-1 in the late stages of Game 2, but run-scoring hits by Concepcion and Griffey gave the game to the Reds 3-2, evening the Series. Game 3 went to Cincinnati, and another back and forth contest resulted in a win for the Reds, as Morgan drove in the winning run in extra innings. Tiant came back to win Game 4 for Boston, as the Sox scored five runs in the 4th inning and held on for a 5-4 win. The Reds won Game 5 6-2 behind two home runs by Perez before the Series shifted back to Boston.
Then there was Game 6. Hopefully I won't cover too much old ground that Ken Burns didn't do in his miniseries on this, but the game was quite entertaining to watch. Tiant came back for his third start in 10 days (almost unheard of in today's play) and the Red Sox seemed to not need him, as an early home run by Lynn gave Boston a quick 3-0 start. But Tiant's fatigue (or the Reds' bats) finally got to him, and they tied the game in the 5th inning with a pair of RBIs by Griffey and another by Bench. The Reds got even more distance later in the game, as Foster drove in two with a double in the 7th and a Geronimo home run in the 8th. Down three runs, Boston seemed to be out of it, but a key pinch-hit homer by Bernie Carbo tied the game up at 6. The teams continued to battle, and the Reds almost seemed to cement the Series in the 11th inning when Joe Morgan hit a ball to right field that seemed to be a two-run home run. But Evans provided a legendary catch and double play that prolonged the drama further, until the catcher nicknamed "Pudge" hit a dramatic (and legendary) home run that gave the Sox the win, and the momentum to win the Series in Game 7.
But that's why they play the games, as it was not to be. Despite three early Boston runs (all of which from Gullett walks), the Reds battled back and got two on a Perez home run in the 6th and a Rose single in the 7th. With a tie game going into the 9th, Morgan gets redemption for the stolen homer in Game 6, driving in Griffey for the go-ahead run. Boston quietly went away in the bottom of the 9th and the Reds victory was assured.
What is great about the A&E/Major League Baseball reclamation projects is to see lost classics like this brought back again in a digital media. And you can probably count on one hand the number of people with VCRs in the late '70s. The Series had a lot of dramatic moments, and seeing this for the first time, I can honestly understand the claims by many that this is one of the greatest Series of all time. Those newer baseball fans should do themselves a favor and check this one out.
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