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September 14, 2013

Jim Bailey: Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine made baseball history

A week ago the eight position players from the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds reunited for the first time, celebrating Joe Morgan weekend.

Although time has done its thing as always in the ensuing four decades, the “Great Eight” appeared hale and hearty as they took the field in a televised ceremony following the Reds’ 3-2 victory over the Dodgers. It may even be remarkable that all eight starters from the 1975-76 two-time World Champions are all still alive in their 60s and 70s; only manager Sparky Anderson is gone from this realm.

The media labeled the Reds of that era as the Big Red Machine, making its way into the World Series four times during the 1970s. Ironically, the eight starters from the 1975-76 years played together as a unit only those two seasons.

The occasion was the Reds’ honoring of Morgan with a statue commemorating his Hall of Fame performance as a member of the Reds for eight prime-time years of his 22-year career.

It marked the first time all eight players have reunited officially. The occasion was obviously an emotional one for Pete Rose, the first time he has stepped onto a major-league diamond since being banned from baseball in 1989 for allegedly betting on the game, including games in which he was managing the Reds. Special permission was obtained from the commissioner’s office for the occasion.

Rose is the only one of the eight who has not been named to the Reds Hall of Fame, not to mention the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite his unmatched 4,256 career hits.

Morgan was the second baseman and Rose the third baseman in the 1975-76 seasons. Others included catcher Johnny bench, first-baseman Tony Perez, shortstop Dave Concepcion, left-fielder George Foster, center-fielder Cesar Geronimo and right-fielder Ken Griffey Sr. (Ken Jr., who surpassed his father’s stats, was still growing up in Cincinnati).

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