Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1976 World Series: The Machine

The Teams
National League: Cincinnati Reds (102-60) - Eighth World Series (Won in 1919, 1940, 1975)
American League: New York Yankees (97-62) - 30th World Series (Won 20 previous times)

What Happened
The Reds had spent most of the 1970s compiling the pieces that would become the Big Red Machine. After a series of postseason near-misses, the pieces all came together in 1975, as the Reds won the World Series in seven classic games against the Red Sox. They came back just as strong in 1976, looking for a chance to establish themselves as a dynasty.

Waiting for the Reds in the World Series were the Yankees, who ended a 12-year postseason drought in 1976, the longest drought the franchise had gone through since purchasing Babe Ruth. Their fans were desperate for a World Series championship, and they thought they had the team that could take down the Reds.

It wasn't even close. The most notable part of the 1976 series was that the Reds became the first team to not use a bench player. Because the DH was used in all four games, the Reds had no use for a pinch hitter, and they used only nine hitters all series long. They were truly a machine.

As good as the Reds were, the Yankees showed some fight, keeping a couple of the games close. The Reds won Game 2 on an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth, and Game 4 was a one-run game until a Cincinnati explosion in the top of the ninth. But unlike the incredible series the previous season, this series was lacking any real drama. The Reds were simply too good.

Defining Game
Game 4. The heart and soul of those Reds teams was Johnny Bench. Widely considered the best defensive catcher of all time, Bench was also a power threat with no peer at his position. He flashed his brilliance in Game 4, picking off a runner at second base and hitting a two-run home run in the fourth that gave the Reds a lead they wouldn't relinquish. But it was his three-run home run in the top of the ninth that put the game - and the series - away. It was the final argument in Cincinnati's claim to the title of best team in National League history.

Bench. His Game 4 performance was just the icing on the cake. He batted .533 for the series, and the Yankees didn't even try to steal a base off him until the final game.

(Home team in Bold)

New York 1 3 2 2
Cincinnati 5 4 6 7

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here's the ones I've done so far:

100. 1976 - Cincinnati (N) def. New York (A) 4-0
101. 1907 - Chicago (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-0 (1 tie)
102. 2007 - Boston (A) def. Colorado (N) 4-0
103. 1938 - New York (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-0
104. 1998 - New York (A) def. San Diego (N) 4-0
105. 1989 - Oakland (A) def. San Francisco (N) 4-0
106. 1928 - New York (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-0
107. 1919 - Cincinnati (N) def. Chicago (A) 5-3

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