Hint: Think Big Red Machine
Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Cincinnati Reds Mt. Rushmore
The salad days for the Cincinnati franchise were clearly the 1970s. Of the Reds’ 15 postseason appearances in their history, six of them came during that decade. Those were the days of the Big Red Machine, artificial turf, Riverfront Stadium and doubleknit uniforms. During that decade, the Reds averaged better than 95 wins a season and had six MVPs. But the winning actually started the decade before. From 1961-81, the Reds had just two losing seasons, going 76-84 in 1966 and 79-83 in 1971. Johnny Bench, in the discussion for best catcher all-time, and Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, are clear members of the quartet. Nos. 3 and 4 require earnest study.
Logging close to 15,000 innings behind the plate took on toll on the Hall of Fame catcher. During his Rookie of the Year season in 1968, Bench caught in 154 games, the third-highest total since World War II. He earned MVP awards in 1970 and ’72. He led the NL in home runs twice and RBIs three times. Defensively, he is considered one of the best ever. As part of his 14 All-Star seasons, he was awarded 10 consecutive Gold Gloves. Bench hit 10 postseason homers for the Reds, five in the World Series.
Charley Hustle has gained as many detractors over the years as he had fans in the 1970s, but there is no denying his impact on the franchise. As the leadoff hitter and catalyst for the Big Red Machine, Rose collected 3,358 hits with the Reds including hit number 4,192, celebrated at the time as the hit that broke Ty Cobb’s all-time record. He’s also the franchise record holder in runs, doubles and total bases.
The fourth overall pick in 1985 played his entire career in his hometown of Cincinnati. He was named to 12 All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves and was named MVP in 1995. He amassed 2,340 hits, second in team history behind Rose, and scored 1,329 runs, which ranks third in a Reds uniform.
The NL MVP in 1961 scored and drove in more than 1,000 runs while with the Reds. Robby finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times during his 10-year career in Cincinnati, including his Rookie of the Year season in 1956. A little more than three months after his 30th birthday he was traded to Baltimore in a deal the Reds would rue for years.
It’s tough to leave off a Hall of Fame second baseman with back-to-back MVP awards, but Joe Morgan was with the team for just nine seasons and his accomplishments fall just short of those of Robinson and Larkin.
An argument could be made that the demise of the Big Red Machine began with the trade of Tony Perez to Montreal in December of 1976.
One of the most charismatic, upbeat managers of all-time, Sparky Anderson led the Big Red Machine for nine seasons, winning five division titles and finishing second three times.
One of the first stars in Cincinnati, Edd Roush won batting titles in 1917 and ’19.
The shortstop of the Big Red Machine, Dave Concepcion, is second all-time in games and third in hits.
Eppa Rixey — one of the great names in baseball — is the all-time leader in wins for the Reds with 179.
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: