Where did the phrase “Big Red Machine” come from?

AUGUST 4, 1969 | PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA • The powerhouse Cincinnati Reds of the 1970’s was known as the “Big Red Machine,” but who coined the phrase and exactly when are up for discussion. Tim Crothers, the author of Greatest Teams, published by Sports Illustrated in 1998, claims “Big Red Machine” first appeared in print on this date in 1969 after the Reds and Philadelphia Phillies slugged it out the night before.

The Reds survived 19-17. Pete Rose was quoted in the August 4th papers saying, “We scored so many runs and it was still a close game, but the Big Red Machine did it again and we’re in first place.”

Crothers said Rose was inspired by a 1934 Ford he once had which he called “Little Red Machine.” The story the Associated Press told on August 14, 1969 was that Big Red Machine was coined by Reds Manager Dave Bristol.

Regardless of its origin “Big Red Machine” remains the moniker of teams that performed with business-like precision from 1970 to 1976. With manager Sparky Anderson at the helm during that time, the Reds went 502-300. They won four division titles, three National League Pennants and two World Series.

They did it with the talents of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, George Foster, Dave Concepcion, and others.

It’s odd that the Big Red Machine has a reputation of being the best team of the 1970’s though in fact it was the rambunctious, rebellious Oakland A’s – the antithesis of the buttoned-up Cincinnati Reds – that won three World Series in a row (’72, ’73, ’74), including defeating the Big Red Machine in ’72.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Greatest Teams: The most dominant powerhouses in sports, by Tim Crothers, published by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 1998
Associated Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 4, 1969.

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