Fresh off of 2 straight World Championships the Reds were poised to "3-peat". Early on the Big Red Machine started to leak oil. Most of that leakage occurred in the starting rotation. Jack Billingham's ERA ballooned to 5.23. Pat Zachry who had a fantastic rookie campaign in '76 was suffering from the sophmore jink (3-7, 5.04). Woodie Fryman, who was acquired from the Expos in the offseason along with Dale Murray in a deal that cost Cincy their inspirational leader Tony Perez, had a 5.38 ERA. Murray was 7-2 out of the pen but only had 4 saves and an ERA a few points under 5.00. Basically for half the season Fred Norman was their only reliable starter toeing the hill for Dr. Hook. On June 15th with the team just 5 games over .500, a blockbuster deal was made with the Mets. Spare parts like Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson (who was in the minors) and Dan Norman were traded to the Mets for Tom Seaver. The greatest offensive team of the 70's now had the greatest pitcher of the decade. How could they not rebound and win the division ? Well Seaver kept up his part going 14-3 with a 2.34 ERA in his 20 starts in Cincy. The rest of the staff still stunk and finished with a 4.21 ERA (10th in the league.) Take Seaver's numbers out of the mix and the team ERA would be well over 4.60.
The offense was 2nd in the league, which is really good, but not in comparison to where it was the previous two or three seasons. Joe Morgan's average dipped below .300 and his home run and stolen base totals dropped as well. At 33, the reigning 2 time MVP was starting to decline. Bench rebounded to have a monster years. Rose was still Rose, a doubles machine, who was the ultimate competitor. No regular hit below .266. The real story was 28 year old George Foster finally coming into his own and having a career year with 52 homers and 149 RBI to go with a .320 average. Triple crown type numbers if I have ever seen them. If Dave Parker doesn't hit .338 to win the batting crown, maybe Foster gets the triple crown to go along with the MVP Trophy. The bench was well below average. Bench was backed up by a .137 hitting Bill Plummer. Johnny sat out 20 games, which meant a huge drop off in productivity. In 30 other games he played in the field, so another regular would have to sit for Plummer. Mike Lum hit .160 as the primary lefty pinch hitter. Only a young Ray Knight would hit over .261 and come off the bench. In the end this great lineup did not have enough pitching to compliment it. The Reds won just 88 games and finished 10 games back of the Dodgers.
In 1976 Fryman had a 13-13 record with a 3.37 ERA on a 107 loss Expo team. Popular theory was that if he could be that good on such a miserable team he could be a Cy Young candidate on a 2 time world champion. Well affter throwing 216 innings at the age of 36 Fryman's arm was worn out and his days as a starter were done. By the end of the season he was gone. He wound up with the Cubs and was terrible over there as well. Popular thought said that at 38 he was done. Once again popular thought was wrong. Fryman wound up back in Montreal and had the 5 best consecutive seasons of his life as a reliever, where he did what Ponce de Leon could not do: find the fountain of youth. As outlined in the previous post this card was created off of an airbrushed 1978 Topps Cubs card. I cut and pasted a batting helmet from Cesar Geronimo's 1981 Topps card after changing the color of the jersey piping. Fryman hit .318 in '77, so wearing a batting helmet was probably the high point during the season.
In 1977 Ray Knight was a 24 year old fighting for a spot on a roster that almost had a HOF'er at every position. With Pete Rose ahead of him at 3rd he was used as a utility man in 80 games. Knight hit a credible .261 without the benefit of regular play. The same scenario would repeat in '78. Finally in '79, with Rose moving on to the Phillies, he got his big chance to start and turned in a season that would net him 5th in the MVP voting. At 26, Knight was an "overnight" (all puns intended) sensation. After the '81 season the Reds were in cost cutting mode and Knight was traded to Houston for an over the hill Cesar Cedeno. After a few years in Houston he wound up with the Mets, where he was the 1986 World Series MVP. Knight had a cup of coffee in '74 with the big club then spent the next two seasons in the minors, so Topps didn't even issue him a Rookie Panel card. This new '77 card uses an action photo that I found while searching Google. I liked it because it had him wearing a home uniform, which we only saw for a handful of teams during this era.
Rick was the ultimate utility man. In his one full season of action as a starter (1972 Milwaukee) he hit .218 in 153 games, which branded him as an all glove no hit middle infielder. Aurebach eeked out an 11 year career as a utilty guy and all around good teammate. In '77, his first year with the Reds, he appeared in 33 games and hit .156. His true value was spelling Morgan and Concepcion, so they could rest their aging legs. The photo for this card came from a signed 8x10 gloss found on ebay. Bidding peaked at about $4.50, the shipping was actually more !
Tom burst on the scene as a huge flop in '77 going 3-3 with a 7.12 ERA in 43 innings of work. Hume started 5 of the 14 games he appeared in. He would improve in '78 going 8-11 with a 4.14 ERA splitting his tim between the pen and the rotation. By '79 he went from suspect to closer and flourished in the roll posting double digit saves fof the next 4 seasons. In total he would spend 10 seasons in Cincy and make the All-Star team in '82. In '77 he would be a deer in the headlights ! This card was created from a photo found searching google. Hume's first appearance in a major league uniform was during the '77 season, which explains why he did not have a card issued by Topps.
On June 15, 1977 the Reds thought they clinched their third straight pennant with the acquisition of Tom Terrific. A 3 time Cy Young award winner, Seaver was the best pitcher in the game. In 11 seasons in New York he had to scratch and claw to win 1-0 and 2-1 games thanks to the fact that the Amazin's were incapable of hitting their way out of a paper bag. Seaver was lights out with the Reds and put up Cy Young type numbers. He won a combined 21 games that season, but he could only pitch every 4th or 5th day and that meant this team would be relegated to finishing a distant second to LA. Seaver's original card for the '77 Topps set was obviously with the Mets. This updated card uses the Sports Illustrated cover story photo announcing the big trade. It was signed by "The Franchise" himself. It looks perfect as a Topps card, because the pose is definitely in line with other Topps "dugout" looks of the era, plus the photo is a bit grainy
Torres appeared in 5 games (8 innings), had a 2.16 ERA and never again made it to the majors. It took me a while to finally find a photo to use for this card. None of the regular sources had anything. Finally I stumbled onto a Black & White Spring Training photo taken while he was auditioning for the Expos. I colorized that photo and then pasted a Reds cap on top of his 'fro. I toyed with the idea of adding a blue background, but figured that this would suffice.
Dumoulin appeared in 5 games and pitched 5 innings in '77 for the Reds. He got lit up like a Christmas tree in Rockerfeller Center in December. His 13.50 ERA and 2.813 WHIP alerted everyone to the fact that he was not ready to face major league hitters. In '78 he would get a 3 game stint with the big club and win his only major league game, while posting a 1.80 ERA. He would find his way back on the farm and never again get that call to come back up. After the 1979 season at Indianapolis (AAA) he was cut loose by the Reds organization. It was tough finding a photo to use. I found this Black and White photo via google and set out to colorize it. For some reason it was very hard getting any color to take over his facial features. Still not a bad effort for a guy who will see basically an inning or two of mop up work in September.
John Junior Summers, know better in baseball circles as "Champ" didn't get to the majors until the ripe old age of 28. After 3 mediocre years in Oakland and Chicago he was dealt to the Reds in '77, where he hit just .171 in 59 games as a pinch hitter and 5th outfielder. Somehow Summers stayed in the majors even though his stats told us he belonged somewhere else. In '79 he was dealt to the Tigers for a "player to be named later". In Detroit the lightbulb went on and in just 246 AB's he hit 20 homers and batted .313. Can you say, "Joe Hardy" ? Summers followed that up with a 17 homer season and .297 average the following year. By 1981 he was back to being the old Champ and after the '84 season he took his .185 average and headed back home. This card was made using a signed 8x10 glossy that was purposely scanned out of focus on ebay. Apparently the seller figured out that folks copy those pictures rather than buy them. The out of focus look actually suits Topps cards rather well, so in essence they actually did us a huge favor !
Murray was Montreal's closer for 3 seasons prior to being traded to Cincy. Like everyone else on the Reds staff, except Seaver, Murray's ERA was higher than it ever was. His 7-2 record was misleading, because his ERA was in the 4's and his saves were in single digits. Basically he blew some save opportunities and the Red bats saved his bacon. Early in the '78 season the Reds had had enough and dealt him to the Mets for Ken Henderson. He would eventually wind up back in Montreal, just like Fryman and resurrect his career. He would then head over to the AL and have 3 or 4 average seasons in Toronto and with the Yankees. This card was created using his 1978 Topps card.
Werner was the 3rd string catcher hoping to get some bread crumbs that Bench and Plummer left over. He played in 10 games and batted .174, which arguably was an upgrade from Plummer, who couldn't hit a ball into an ocean while standing on a pier. In '78 he was given 50 games to show his worth. Werner showed everyone that he was not a .174 hitter. He was a .150 hitter, which means he was a viable replacent for Plummer. '79 would see him head back to the farm and in 80 he hit .172 in 24 games. The Reds were done with him and he wound up in Texas for parts of two seasons before leaving baseball. This card was created using his Indianapolis Indians (AAA) minor league card. Indy wore the same colors as the Reds and the chest protector blocked the jersey logo, so all I needed to do was airbrush an "C" on his cap.
In today's world Joe Hoerner would have been the perfect lefty specialist. Back in 1977 he was just another "well traveled" veteran trying to hold on to a fading career in baseball. Typically this type of player winds up on an expansion team and not a defending champ, but the Reds were almost as desperate for arms as the Venus de Milo. In 8 games Hoerner pitched just 5 2/3 innings. His 12.71 ERA was a tell tale sign that it was time for this 40 year old to call it a day. He finished his career with a 39-34 record and a 2.99 ERA all as a reliever with 8 different franchises. His best years were in St. Louis, during their late 60's championship run. He compiled double digit saves 4 consecutive years and had a 1.47 ERA in 1968. This card is a poor airbrush job converting his early 70's Philly card into a red card. I probably should have invested a bit more time and removed the shoulder stripe that the Phillies wore, but I figured that his mound time in ARAIG wouldn't warrant it.
Henderson pitched in 7 games for the Reds and had an 0-2 record with a 12.00 ERA. He gave up 12 earned runs in 9 innings of work, where he probably put his corner infielders in constant danger. The Reds were probably hoping to build on his '76 cup of coffee, whee he was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. No such luck. After '77 he was given his outright release never to be heard nor seen again in uniform. I used his '77 Rookie panel card photo for this card. Not many other photos were available except a minor league shot from Indy, which would have required a lot of airbrush work.
Manny had a fantastic rookie campaign in '76 out of the pen going 5-1 and sporting a 2.06 ERA. He had no decisions in '77, but saw the same amount of action and had a great 2.45 ERA. After those two seasons the Reds felt he was destined for big things, so the was given an expanded roll in 1978. Going from 40 innings to 127 innings exposed Sarmiento's limitations. He did have a winning 9-7 record, but his ERA doubled to 4.38. It got worse the following season, so he was dealt to the Mariners, who needed pitching even more desperately than the Reds. Injuries started taking a toll as well. He was out of baseball in 1981, but back in '82 and '83 with two fine years in Pittsburgh before calling it quits at the tender age of 27. This card was made with the photo from his '78 Topps card.
Soto was a 20 year old rookie who the pitching starved Reds rushed to th biggs way before he had enough seasoning. His 2-6 record with a 5.34 ERA proved that you need to let them learn their craft somewhere outside of a heated pennant race. After two more part time stints in '78 and '79 he joined the big club for good in 1980 and had a breakout year and finished 5th in the Cy Young voting. From 1982-85 he performed at an All-Star level, but in '86 he began to suffer from arm troubles and in 2 years he would be gone from baseball. Soto finished with a respectable 100-92 record with a 3.47 ERA. He led the majors in complete games twice, but he was also very susceptible to the gopher ball. I used a somewhat blurry photo that I found on google. I thought it worked well, because it had that grainy/blurry Topps feel.
Cincinnati dealt Pat Darcy to the Giants for Caldwell just before spring training ended. Caldwell spent the past 2 seasons trying to recapture the form he showed in '74 where he went 14-5 with a 2.95 ERA. In 14 games with the Reds out of the pen he logged 24 innings and had a 4.01 ERA. Management had seen enough and he was quickly dealt to the Brewers for two prospects who were more like suspects. After a forgetable '77 season he came back in '78 and almost won the Cy Young going 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA for the Brew Crew. He would spend the next 5 years as their number 2 starter and pitch in the post season in '81 and '82. He was nicknamed "Yankee Killer" by fans up in the Bronx for consistently beating up on the Bombers. '77 was just not his year and his stay in Cincy was short, but not sweet. Topps issued Caldwell an airbrushed card with him on the Cardinals, a team he never pitched for. I took that card photo and airbrushed out the Cardinal logo and replace it with the "C".
No better name for a Red than Moskau (pronounced Moscow). Ok, that joke wasn't funny when I first said it in 1977, but I figured I might as well share my dry sense of humor with you all anyway. As a 23 year old rookie, Moskau started 19 games and finished at an even 6-6 with a 4.00 ERA. That would be the pattern for him in his 5 year career in Cincy where he would be a capable 4th or 5th starter but nothing more. Teams need those guys and he filled his roll to perfection. In '82 he was dealt to BAL for Wayne Krenchicki. Baltimore sent him quickly to Pittsburh where he spent 1 nondescript season. He moved on the the Cubs for a sub par season in 1983, which would be his last in the majors. This card was created off of a scanned 8x10 autographed photo being hawked on ebay.
Capilla was a sub .500 pitcher (7-8) for the Reds in 1977. He started 16 games and appeared in 22 over 106 innings. He arrived in a trade for deposed closer Rawly Eastwick. Neither player helped the team the went to much. He would move on to the Cubs in two years and not do much there either. After the '81 season he would be out of baseball after having a 6 year career spanning 136 games with a 12-18 record. This card was made using his 1978 Topps Card Photo.