1975 Cincinnati Reds
108 – 54 (0.667)
By 1975, “The Big Red Machine” had been chugging along for several years. One of the most diverse offensive teams of any era, the Reds combined power and speed in a way baseball had rarely seen before, compiling a combined 292-186 (.611) record in the previous three seasons, including two first-place finishes in the NL West and one NL pennant. Yet for all of their success, the Reds had yet to win a championship and continued to search for a winning combination.
Hoping to fit Ken Griffey and George Foster into the same lineup by moving Pete Rose from left field to first, Cincinnati tried to trade 33-year-old first baseman Tony Perez for a third baseman in the off-season. Unable to swing a deal, they then asked Rose to learn a new position — third base.
Whether due to these shifts or in spite of them, the Reds won 108 games — the most in franchise history — and won their first of two consecutive championship trophies, sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS and then defeating the stubborn Boston Red Sox in a memorable seven-game World Series. They outscored their closest competition by over 100 runs, led the league in stolen bases and committed 25 fewer errors than any other team.
Replacing the defensively-impaired Dan Driessen at third, Rose proved a quick study at his new position. Leading off a balanced Reds attack which led the majors with 840 runs and ranked second in the NL with a .271 team batting average, Rose drew 89 walks and hit a creditable .317 for the year. (Ironically, Rose was the only Reds regular without a stolen base.) He continued to hit in the post-season, recording a .370 average in the World Series. With his team behind 3-0 in the decisive Game Seven, Rose’s intensity inspired his teammates. Writer Peter Gammons wrote that by the sixth inning, “Rose was stomping around the dugout like a whiffling Che Guevara.” Later that inning, he singled and broke up what would have been an inning-ending double play that kept the Reds alive for a Tony Perez home run. Not surprisingly, Rose took home Series MVP honors.
Batting second, regular-season MVP Joe Morgan led the league in walks and led the team with 67 steals. A talented outfield had it all — speed (Griffey), power (Foster) and defense (Geronimo). Up the middle, the Reds’ had four Gold Glove winners — center fielder Geronimo, shortstop Dave Concepcion, second baseman Morgan and catcher Johnny Bench.
The Reds strong defense and reliable bullpen masked a mostly mediocre and unmemorable bunch of starters. The Reds’ team ERA was close to half a run higher than the league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. But manager Sparky Anderson (dubbed “Captain Hook” for his numerous pitching changes during ballgames — 277 all told in 1975) did a masterful job of making the most with what he had; six Cincinnati pitchers managed double-digit win totals. Staff ace Don Gullett‘s 2.42 ERA was fourth best among NL starters, though a broken thumb caused him to miss nearly half of the season. Number-two man Gary Nolan gave up the fewest walks per nine innings (1.24) of any pitcher in the major leagues.
While their powerful offense scored well over five runs a game, manager Sparky Anderson used his talented bullpen to wrap up one victory after another. His Reds tossed the fewest complete games in the NL, but led the league in saves by a wide margin.
(At one point in the season, the Reds set a record for most consecutive games without a starter going the distance. When Pat Darcy endured oppressive heat for nine innings to record his first complete game of the year, breaking the streak, he was asked if he knew people were fainting in the stands. “Because I pitched a complete game?” he replied.)
Clay Carroll was the bullpen ace, but 24-year-old stopper Rawley Eastwick‘s 22 saves tied for the lead in the National League with Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky. Co-closer Will McEnaney put together a string of 52 appearances without allowing a home run. Though not used to the pressure of pitching in big games, Eastwick also won two World Series games and saved another.