The Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s are in the middle of any conversation about all-time great teams, largely because of a lineup stacked with all-time great players.
There’s Johnny Bench, generally regarded as the best catcher in baseball history. Joe Morgan, a two-time MVP whose all-around ability is reflected in his career WAR of 100.5 — more than Carl Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken and Roberto Clemente. Tony Perez, voted into the Hall of Fame after racking up 1,652 RBIs. Pete Rose, who had more hits than anybody who has ever played the game. The other spots in the lineup were filled by superlative players, from Ken Griffey Sr. to four-time Gold Glove winner Cesar Geronimo to nine-time All-Star Davey Concepcion at shortstop and future MVP George Foster in left field.
The Reds won Game 7 of the ’75 World Series, then crushed the rest of baseball in ’76, with Bench winning the World Series MVP in a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
But our perspective now is only looking back. What Bench illuminated in our podcast interview the other day was how easily the Reds’ legacy could have looked very different. As he said, if they had lost the ’75 World Series to the Red Sox, following Carlton Fisk’s dramatic Game 6 walk-off home run, they would have been baseball’s version of the Buffalo Bills, who lost the Super Bowl four years in a row.