Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine roared through Major League baseball in the 1970s and remains one of the best teams in the history of professional baseball.
From 1970-76, the Reds won five National League Western division titles, four National League crowns and back-to-back World Championships from 1975-76. Several players during that era were a part of the All-Star game, including Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, George Foster, Tony Perez and Pete Rose. Rose is most remembered for his collision at home plate with catcher Ray Fosse as he scored from second base on a single in the bottom of the 12th inning that gave the National League a memorable 5-4 victory. Morgan was the hero of the 1972 contest, while George Foster was the Most Valuable Player in the 1976 Midsummer Classic.
Ken Griffey Sr. won it in 1980 and Dave Concepcion followed in 1982, but no Reds player has stood out above the rest of the stars in the past two decades.
This year’s version of all-stars from Cincinnati includes starter Joey Votto, along with outfielder Jay Bruce and pitcher Aroldis Chapman, continuing the team’s long tradition of representation in the oldest and longest running all-star game in the history of professional sports.
When the all-star game began in 1933, it was supposed to be a one-time event and was dubbed as the “Game of the Century” at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The idea was conceived by late Chicago Tribune sports¿editor Arch Ward. Ironically, it was Babe Ruth who hit the first home run in all-star history and it was his two-run blast in the third that lifted the American League to a 4-2 victory.
It wasn’t until 50 years later that Fred Lynn connected on the first grand slam in the history of the series, giving the Americans a 13-3 victory. The first home run derby was held in 1985, and former Cincinnati outfielder Dave Parker was the champion.
The darkest moment came in 2002 when current Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig called the game with scored tied 7-7 in the 11th inning. Both teams had no pitchers left and Selig made the unpopular call to pull the plug, making only the second time in history the contest ended without a clear winner. The 1961 contest ended in a 1-1 deadlock and was suspended in the ninth inning because of rain.
To add spice to the contest, Selig decided to award the league winner with the home-field advantage in the World Series following the 2002 debacle one year later in 2003.
Since the first classic was played 79 years ago, things have indeed changed. The majors introduced interleague play in 1997, while the stakes are much higher, with the winner earning the home-field advantage in the World Series. Despite the changes, the contest remains one of the best and highest ranked sporting events of the summer.
That’s when the stars come out and fill the July sky.