Big Red Machine is a nickname for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team that dominated the National League from 1970 to 1979 and is widely recognized as being among the best in baseball history. The team won six National League West Division titles, four National League pennants, and two World Series titles. Its combined record from 1970-1979 was 953 wins and 657 losses, an average of more than 95 wins per season.
The core of that Reds team had the best record in the Major Leagues in 1981, but did not make the postseason because of Bowie Kuhn's split-season playoff format due to the player's strike.
The nickname was introduced in a July 4, 1969 article by Bob Hertzel in The Cincinnati Enquirer, but gained prominence in reference to the 1970 team, which posted a regular season record of 102-60 and won the National League pennant. Rookie and future-Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson headed the team, which at its peak featured Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Pérez, and was supported by Dave Concepción, George Foster, César Gerónimo and Ken Griffey, Sr. The Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s garnered more World Series appearances than any other team during that decade, with an overall record of 953 wins and 657 losses. They are the only National League team during the last 75 years to win back-to-back World Championships. Before them, the 1921 and 1922 New York Giants were the last NL team to accomplish this feat.
The eight players most frequently referenced as members of the Big Red Machine include baseball's all-time hit leader in Rose; three Hall of Fame players in Bench, Pérez and Morgan; six National League MVP selections; four National League home run leading seasons; three NL Batting Champions; 25 Gold Glove winning seasons, and 63 collective All-Star Game appearances. The starting lineup of Bench, Rose, Morgan, Pérez, Concepción, Foster, Griffey, and Gerónimo (collectively referred to as the "Great Eight") played 88 games together during the 1975 and 1976 seasons, losing only 19.
|1970||102-60||1st (West)||Won NLCS vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0|
Lost World Series to Baltimore Orioles, 4-1
|1972||95-59||1st (West)||Won NLCS vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2|
Lost World Series to Oakland Athletics, 4-3
|1973||99-63||1st (West)||Lost NLCS vs. New York Mets, 3-2|
|1975||108-54||1st (West)||Won NLCS vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0|
Won World Series vs. Boston Red Sox, 4-3
|1976||102-60||1st (West)||Won NLCS vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 3-0|
Won World Series vs. New York Yankees, 4-0
Dan Driessen took over at first base for Tony Perez in 1977. Although some of the original players departed the team, some extended the Big Red Machine nickname for two more years until the departures of Anderson and Rose following the 1978 season. The Reds turned around to finish in second place in 1977 and 1978. Ray Knight replaced Pete Rose at third base for Cincinnati in 1979 and the rest of the Reds starting lineup still included six of the great eight: Bench, Morgan, Foster, Concepcion, Griffey and Geronimo. The Cincinnati Reds won another division title in 1979, but lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS.
The Big Red Machine had one last great run in 1981 when they finished the strike season with the best record in baseball. Only three of the great eight remained in the starting lineup: Foster, Griffey and Concepcion. Bench had an injury plagued season and was moved from catcher to third base. Tom Seaver had a win-loss record of 14-2 and an ERA of 2.54 while starting only 23 games in the Reds' strike-shortened 108-game regular season. Despite that, the Reds finished second in the National League West in both halves of the season, making them ineligible to compete in the postseason despite having the best overall record in baseball.
The Big Red Machine's archrival were the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two teams often competed for the NL West division title and finished either first or second in every year from 1970 through 1979 with the one exception being 1971. Reds manager Sparky Anderson once said, "I don't think there's a rivalry like ours in either league. The Giants are supposed to be the Dodgers' natural rivals, but I don't think the feeling is there anymore. It's not there the way it is with us and the Dodgers." The rivalry ended when division realignment moved the Reds to the NL Central. However, they did face one another in the 1995 NLDS.
The Big Red Machine was also part of the rivalry with the two Pennsylvania teams. All of the Reds' four pennants in the 1970s came against these teams (Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970, 1972, and 1975, and Philadelphia Phillies in 1976). In 1979, Pete Rose added to the notion of the Big Red Machine being part of the rivalry when he signed with the Phillies and helped them win their first World Series championship in 1980.
That tiresome nickname of the summer of 70 is catching on again.