Book takes look at Big Red Machine
Author Posnanski examines 1975 Cincinnati club
The 1975 Cincinnati Reds are regularly regarded as one of baseball's best all-time teams, sporting three Hall of Fame players in Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, a Hall of Fame manager in Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose, who, if not banned 20 years ago from the game for betting on baseball, would also have had a plaque in Cooperstown.That Reds team won the National League West by 20 games with 108 victories, swept past the Pirates in the National League Championship Series and beat the Boston Red Sox in what a great number of baseball historians and fans agree to be one of the greatest World Series ever played.
Author Joe Posnanski examines the creation of the Big Red Machine and its magical season in his new book, "The Machine," which is now in bookstores. Though there have been other books written over the years about this group of players, Posnanski felt a need for further examination into what made The Big Red Machine run."For me, that team was just really fascinating," said Posnanski, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and award-winning sports columnist for the Kansas City Star for the past 13 years. "I just thought they were an interesting group of characters, and the more I looked into it, the more interesting it became. "I think the basic story people probably know, but there was a whole lotta stuff that I didn't know about this team -- how they struggled that year, how difficult it was to get going, some of the inner-dynamics of that team. I'm a pretty big baseball fan and I figured if I didn't know, other people wouldn't know either. It was a really neat project to work on." The 1975 Reds were the last championship team before free agency would change the face of baseball forever. Posnanski believes it would be nearly impossible to keep a team like the '75 Reds together for an extended period of time in today's market. "There is no way it could happen today," he said. "The reason is that this team had already been together for many years by 1975. Rose and Bench were probably the best known players in baseball. Joe Morgan was probably the best player in baseball at that time. Tony Perez had knocked in 90 or more runs for nine straight years. They were already established superstars, and they were able to keep them together in Cincinnati. That could never happen today. "I don't think the New York Yankees could afford to keep that team together, where you maybe had the three best players in the National League and a Hall of Famer like Perez. To keep all those guys together would be pretty staggering, which is one of the things that makes this team so unique." As good as the team was, it took another squad -- the Boston Red Sox -- to help elevate the Reds to mythical status with a seven-game World Series that has become legendary. "That World Series changed everything," said Posnanski. "There were several rain delays during that series, and there was so much expectation for Game 6 because of the rain delays leading up to it. Everyone was watching the game, that, of course, goes on and on and not only does Carlton Fisk hit the great game-winning home run, but there is the great shot of him waving the ball fair. There is no question that series was a landmark for the game." All the players are important parts of "The Machine," but one player epitomized the team and the game of baseball in the 1970s, and he was Posnanski's guiding light. "Pete Rose was really a driving force for me to write this book," he said. "Everybody thinks of Pete Rose a certain way -- and not wrongly -- Pete brought a lot of things upon himself. To me, the conversation seems to forget what a unique player he was. In 1975, they win the division by 20 games and yet he played every game -- all 162 of them -- because he refused to rest and he wanted every at-bat he could get. "He was just hungry in a way that was unique, even at a time when there were hungry players. When you think of Pete Rose, he was the guy that parents would point to their kids and say, 'That's the way you play the game,' and I think that part of him has been forgotten or not even known by a younger generation, and I would love people to know that Pete Rose, because that was a big part of his story." In the end, Posnanski, who also authored the acclaimed 2007 book, "The Soul of Baseball," about Negro Leagues player and manager Buck O'Neil, has a very simple goal for "The Machine." "For me, the single thing I'd love is for people to finish the book and say, 'That was a lot of fun,'" said Posnanski. "That, to me, is what the book is all about. I just think it was a lot of fun, that season was a lot of fun, the characters were a lot of fun and that's what it's all about." "The Machine" is published by William Morrow Publishing.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.