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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.

Let’s Play Two All-star games

AUGUST 3, 1959 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA • The Major League Baseball all-star game was such a hit since it was introduced in Chicago in 1933, many people thought, ‘Let’s play two all-star games.’ For four seasons that’s what was done.

A second MLB all-star game was played on this date in 1959. Dual classics were the norm for four seasons – 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962. The American League won this contest in front of 55,105 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum, avenging a National League victory on July 7th at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. The LA Coliseum (predominantly a football .dium) was the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who came to the west coast in 1958, while Dodger Stadium was being built.

The pitchers of record for this second mid-summer classic were the starters. Jerry Walker of the Baltimore Orioles won it for the American League. Dodger Don Drysdale, pitching in front of his hometown fans, was the loser for the National League.

Jerry Walker was a 20-year old rising star with an 8-4 record at the time of the second all-star game. He never became the kind of star this all-star game foreshadowed. Walker never won more than eight games in any season and finished his eight year major league career with a record of 34 and 44.

Getting back to the August, 1959 all-star game, the highlights were LA Dodgers the introductions of superstars Stan Musial and Ted Williams who were both reaching the ends of their careers. Both would end up in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
The Associated Press, August 4, 1959, Los Angeles, CA
1959 All-star games

OTHER STUFF – An excellent series of articles on Midwest Ballparks in Chicago Magazine by Jeff Ruby: “Playing the Fields”

Thurman Munson was indestructible, until this day in 1979

August 2, 1979 | AKRON, OHIO Thurman Munson was a rock, a catcher, the face of the New York Yankees in the 1970s. Thurman Munson was indestructible, until this day in 1979.

Thursday, August 2, 1979 was a rare day off for Yankee captain. The Yankees played in Chicago against the White Sox the night before and wouldn’t play again until Friday night in New York. Chicago’s game would be Munson’s last.

He headed home to Canton, Ohio after Wednesday night’s game. Thursday afternoon Munson was practicing take-offs and landings at the Akron-Canton airport. He’d recently bought a twin engine Cessna Citation plane so he could get home to his wife and three children more easily.

At 4:02pm, while making an approach to the runway the plane crashed about 1,000 short. An investigation determined the crash was due to pilot error.

Thurman Munson played 11 years for the Yankees. He was the starting catcher for ten of those. He was a seven-time all-star who led the Yankees to three World Series – winning two of them. Munson finished his career with a .292 batting average, 113 home runs and 701 RBI. Three times he drove in over 100 runs. His leadership was immeasurable.

Thurman Munson was indestructible, until this day in 1979. Pilot error? It doesn’t compute.

Contributing Sources:
Thurman Munson Bio 

Combined no-hitters are not always pretty

July 28, 1976 | OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA Chicago White Sox pitchers Blue Moon Odom and Francisco Barrios combined to no-hit the Oakland A’s on this date in 1976. Odom started the game against his old team. Barrios relieved him in the 6th. It was the kind of performance that demonstrated that combined no-hitters are not always masterpieces.

So why would a pitcher throwing a no-hitter be lifted? Let me count the ways; 1) because he walked 9 batters in 5 innings, 2) it was a 2-1 game, 3) it was a key divisional rivalry (the White Sox and A’s were both in the American League West in 1976). The Sox ended up winning the contest 2-1.

The Odom-Barrios no-hitter was the fourth combined no-no in major league baseball history at the time. The first was by pitcher Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore. Ruth started the game in 1917. He walked the first batter, but protested the call so vehemently he was kicked out without retiring a batter. His replacement, Ernie Shore proceeded to retire the next 27 hitters for a no-hitter.

There have been seven more combined no-hitters as of this writing. Two of them required six pitchers; when the Astros no-hit the Yankees on June 11th 2003, and when Seattle beat the Dodgers on June 8th, 2012.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Combined no-hitters

The Little Giant

JULY 27, 1927 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • 18-year old Mel Ott hit his first major league home run on this date in 1927. Being that he was just 5’9” and would hit 510 more home runs in his 22-year career, Ott was referred to as “The Little Giant.”

The Little Giant arrived on the scene at age 17. It wasn’t because a lot of stars were off to war. It was 1926, the First World War had been over for several years and World War II wouldn’t start for another 15.

The Gretna, Louisiana native had many great years, but his greatest may have been at the ripe old age of 20. Here are some of his 1929 stats – before he was old enough to vote:

Batting average         .328
Home runs                       42
RBI                                   151
Runs scored                 138     

Mel Ott played his entire career with the New York Giants (today’s San Francisco Giants). He was named to 9 All-Star games. Tragically, his life came to an end at age 49 when his car was hit head-on in foggy conditions.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Mel Ott Stats