Batting Styles of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds
By Don Weiskopf, Publisher, Baseball Play America
|The Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970s are widely recognized as being among the best teams in baseball history. The Big Red Machine is the nickname given to the Reds team which dominated the National League from 1970 to 1976. Perhaps the most successful was the 1975 Cincinnati Reds team which had a record of 108-54, 20 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Managed by Sparky Anderson, the Reds were led by four Hall of Famers, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.
During the decade of the '70s, the Reds won five National League West Division titles, four National League pennants, and two World Series titles. The team's combined record from 1970 to 1976 was 683 wins and 443 losses, an average of nearly 98 wins per season.
The Reds went on to win the National League Championship Series by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in three straight games and the World Series in seven games over the Boston Red Sox.
In the year 1975, Rose earned the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated Magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" award. The following year, he was a major force in helping the Reds' repeat as World Series Champions. (Illus. 1. Pete Rose)
Pete Rose, All-Time Major League Record Holder in Base Hits
Ty Cobb, the first player in MLB history to reach 4,000 hits in 1927, remained the MLB hit leader until Sept. 11, 1985 when Rose collected his 4,192nd hit. Pete, the current record holder, finished his career with 4,256 hits. Reaching 3,000 hits is often described as a guarantee of eventual entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rose, however, was declared permanently ineligible when he was banned from baseball for gambling while managing the Reds.
A switch-hitter, Rose is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), and singles (3,215). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP Award, two Gold Gloves, and Rookie of the year Award. He also made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, and 1B).
The Line Drive Swing (Series A - Pete Rose). "The young hitter should just go for the line drive and let the home runs take care of themselves," advised Rose. "He should always try to meet the ball solidly, and not try to over swing. The shorter and more compact the swing is, the better chance a hitter has for contact. This is the secret of hitting."
Spreading his feet enough to be comfortable and on balance, Pete has his weight distributed on the balls of his feet. His hips and shoulders are kept level to the ground, with the front hip and shoulder pointing at the pitcher.
Keeping his hands about chest-high and above the toes of his rear foot, Rose has his chin tucked in close to his front shoulder to keep his head from pulling away as he swings. Rose assumes a slight bend in the knees which helps him to relax.
"I recommend a short, compact swing," said Rose. "Rather than over swing, a hitter should snap his bat and get his bat out in front. That is the secret -- hitting the ball hard. It is not how far he hits the ball. He has to hit it hard."
"I just try to take a hard, level swing," said Pete. "Getting the big barrel of the bat out in front of the plate is most important. I like to hit the ball when the front arm becomes straight. I feel the back arm is the most important of the two because a hitter does not hit the ball until his back arm locks. If he does it correctly, he will have the bat out in front."
Timing is the key to the hitting game. The hitter has to put it all together, to coordinate all the parts of the hitting swing into perfect unison, which requires perfect timing.
As the hitting swing starts, the hitter's weight should be shifted from the back foot and finish on the front foot after contact.
The front shoulder has a tendency to affect the hitter a good deal. Too many hitters let their front shoulder pull out just a fraction too early. This causes them to pull their body away just enough to get the ball on the end of the bat rather than on the good part of it.
The head of the bat should be whipped and snapped into the plane of the baseball. Keeping his arms away from him, the hitter should have both of his arms extended as he hits and completes his follow-through on the ball. He should meet the ball squarely in front of the plate.
Johnny Bench, Greatest Catcher of All-Time
Johnny Bench is considered by many as the greatest catcher of all-time. He was the premier catcher of the 1970s, displaying consistent fielding brilliance, power, and hitting ability. Named Most Valuable Player twice, Bench was a power hitter who led the league in RBI three times and in home runs twice. The 6'1", 210-pound receiver won ten consecutive Gold Glove Awards and shared the credit for leading the Reds to postseason play seven times.
Early in his brilliant career, Bench laid the foundations for a defensive reputation that was to become legendary. he led the 1968 National League in putouts and assists, and popularized a one-handed catching method that gave him greater mobility and allowed him to better utilize his cannon-like right arm. He was so overpowering that base runners were reluctant to challenge him throughout much of his prime. (Illus. 2)
During 17 seasons with the "Big Red Machine", Bench controlled the game on both sides of the plate with his hitting (389 homers, 2,048 hits, 1,376 RBI's), throwing out opposing base runners, calling pitches, and blocking home plate." Bench won Most Valuable Player awards in 1970 and '72, leading Cincinnati to the playoffs both years. In 1970, at age 22, he led the league with 45 homers and 148 RBI. His second MVP Award came two years later in 1972, after batting .270 with 40 home runs and 125 RBI. Bench's lifetime batting average was .267.
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1947, Bench grew up in the tiny town of Binger, where his father had worked to develop his skills and impart the love of the game to John. The first time Johnny can recall receiving a thrown baseball, he was three years old. His father, part-Indian Ted Bench, whose own ambition to become a big league catcher were frustrated by overseas service during World War II, did the throwing to Johnny, the third of his sons.
An outstanding high school athlete, Bench was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round of the 1965 draft. Following two successful seasons in the minors, he was promoted in 1968 to the parent club. He responded by being selected as the Rookie of the Year with a .275 batting average, 15 homers, 82 RBI, and catching 154 games, which stands as a record for a first-year catcher.
"The old pros said they had seldom if ever seen a youngster as poised, tough, self-reliant and full of leadership as Bench," wrote Al Stump in SPORT Magazine. "He didn't make mental mistakes, and his proficiency at hitting, fielding, directing pitchers, picking off runners and running the bases was staggering for any catcher, never mind one who was just 20 years old."
When he retired after the 1983 season, Bench rated near the top in many defensive categories. In the 1976 World Series, he led all hitters with a .533 BA and six RBI. As a hitter, Bench had 20 or more home runs in 11 seasons, drove in more than 100 runs six times. He was chosen to play in the All-Star Game 14 times, compiling a batting average of .370. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989.
Bench helped change the way the catcher's position was played," wrote John Mehuo, author of The Chronicle of Baseball. "John was gifted with large hands and perfected the knack of receiving the ball with one hand. He used a large hinged glove and kept his throwing hand behind his back to protect it from foul tips. He was quick enough to bring his hand up if he needed to make a throw." During his last three seasons, however, Bench played more games at first and third to extend his career.
The Power Swing (Series B - Johnny Bench)
Batting power is the result of a smoothly coordinated, well-timed hitting swing. Everything -- shoulders, arms, hips, wrists, and hands -- are put together in perfect unison to send the ball soaring for the fences. Popping his wrists with explosive quickness, Johnny whips the big end of the bat with maximum drive.
Quickness with the hands and wrists is a most important phase of hitting. The ability to be quick with the hands, wrists, and arms will determine just how good a hitter he is going to be. If a hitter can develop quickness with his hands and wrists, he will be able to wait longer for the pitch. (Illus. 3)
"I try to aim my left shoulder right at the pitcher," said Bench. "By aiming the front shoulder, a hitter is prevented from dipping his back shoulder and he does not pull his head out there. As long as the shoulder stays in, a hitter cannot pull his head and take his eye off the ball."
If the shoulder pulls out, everything else follows. The face of the hitter will follow his shoulder out, and he will wind up dipping his right shoulder.
As he swings his bat, Bench pushes off with his rear foot so his hips will come around against a firm front stride. Good hip rotation is what produces bat speed. Paul Waner, like his brother, a great hitter with the Pittsburgh Pirates, called it the "quick belly button." What he was referring to was the speed in the rotation of the hips.
But what helps the batter with that speed is the manner in which the bat is thrown out. It makes him quick in the hips, which means a quick pivot.
The ball is met with the power end of the bat in front of the plate, just before he breaks his wrists.
Hip Action Along with the wrists, hands, and arms, batting power comes from rotating the hips. This rotation, in which the hips are able to get out of the way and let the momentum and power of the body come forward into the hitting swing, is one of the most important points in hitting.
Series B of Bench is an excellent example of a fully extended power swing. His hands move the bat through the hitting area as his hips are opened up. From the stance to the completion of the hitting swing, the hands and forearms supply the direction. The bottom hand holds the bat as though it were a hammer. His wrists do not roll.
Hip cocking is as important as wrist action. Without hip action, a player is strictly an arms and wrists hitter. The hips and hands should cock as the batter moves his lead foot to stride, and the front knee turns in to help the hips rotate back. He is cocking his hips as he strides.
With his hands still leading, the hitter's arms are extended, thus increasing the arc of his swing to bring the fat part of his bat up into the pitch.
Contact is made well out in front of the plate. As the hitter pulls the ball, he continues his swing through in a smooth follow through. His weight moves in the direction of the flight of the ball.
Tony Perez, The Best Clutch Hitter
Tony Perez is considered one of the greatest Latino baseball players to ever play the game, wrote Latino Legends in Sports. The Cuban born slugger began his distinguished 23-year career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1964 and soon after was known as one of baseball's best clutch hitters and RBI-men of the 1970s.
At the age of 17, Perez signed with the Reds while he was still in Cuba, receiving no signing bonus, but got a plane ticket plus $2.50 for an exit visa. Never having been away from his home before, his mother didn't want him to go, because of her love for Tony.
But he wanted to make it in baseball and be great at it like his favorite player, Minnie Minoso who was idolized in Cuba back in the 1940's and '50's.
Perez's rough times included adjusting to a new culture. There was a language barrier which made his love for baseball suddenly become foreign when he played in the U.S. "To hear words like 'cutoff man,' 'go to first,' 'Go to third,' simple things like that...I had to learn how to play the game all over again in English," said Perez.
Once Perez reached the majors in 1964, after hitting .348 with 160 hits and 132 RBI's in the Penn League (AAA) one season, Dave Bristol, one of his first minor-league managers who later managed Cincinnati, taught him how to win. He also learned a lot when he saw the sights of Frank Robinson's daily hustle and "Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose" approach the game like there was no tomorrow. (Illus. 4)
During his 23-year career with Cincinnati, Montreal and Philadelphia, Perez batted .279 with 379 career home runs and 1,652 RBIs. A seven-time All-Star, Perez was the offensive anchor of the Reds during the 70's and had more RBIs than any other Latin American player ever. In 1970, Perez finished with his best overall season, hitting .317 with 40 homers and 129 RBI's.
The 1975 season was by far Tony's most memorable year. The Reds made it to the World Series and it went down to a final Game 7. Tony, Mr. Clutch, hit a home run in the sixth inning against Bill Lee and the Boston Red Sox to help the Reds rally for a 4-3 victory and win the World Championship. (Illus. 5)
During the 1984-86 seasons, Perez returned to the Reds and finished off his career there. On October 4, 1986, one day before his retirement, Perez hit his 379th career home run, tying Orlando Cepeda for the most career home runs by a Latin-American player.
On July 23, 2004, Perez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association at Cooperstown, N.Y. "I've been waiting for this time," said Perez, who shared the news with his 88-year-old mother in Cuba. "It has come true and right now it feels so good."
A Smooth, Well-Timed Hitting Swing (Series C - Tony Perez). The quick hands and wrists of Tony enables him to hit the ball out in front of the plate. He crouches a little so he can judge the strike zone better, especially the pitches that are down low. By crouching slightly, Perez can hit the low ball more consistently. He likes to stand a reasonable distance away from the plate, without overcrowding or getting too far away from the plate.
Tony keeps the bat away from his body. If a hitter holds his bat in close, he will tie himself up and will not be able to come around effectively on an inside pitch.
In pulling the ball, Perez likes to hit the ball well out in front of the plate, giving his swing maximum power. In pulling the ball, he uses strong wrist action and gets out in front of the ball. Hitting it out in front gives his swing maximum power and enables his eyes to judge the ball better. Perez opens up his front hip and turns quickly to enable him to get around on the ball.
As Perez gets out in front of the ball, his level swing shows both arms are in a perfect angle, because impact with the ball is well out in front of the plate.
The hitting swing of Tony Perez continues on and around a good follow-through, which provides power to the swing and gives distance to his hits.
Joe Morgan, A Speedy Second Baseman with Power
Joe Morgan was a rare commodity. The 5'7", 150 pounds Little Joe was also one of the smallest number-three hitters in recent baseball history. Morgan is the only second baseman to win consecutive MVP awards, in 1975 and 1976 with the Reds. He became a major component of the Big Red Machine.
In the batter's box, Morgan would flap his front elbow distinctively as a timing device. Early in his career, he had difficulty with his swing because he kept his back elbow down too low. His teammate Nellie Fox suggested to Joe that while at the plate he should flap his back arm like a chicken to keep his elbow up. Morgan followed the advice, and his flapping arm became a familiar sight to baseball fans.
Although Morgan played with distinction with Houston, the Astros wanted more power in their lineup. As a result, they traded Morgan to Cincinnati as part of a nine-player deal in the 1972 season that sent Lee May to the Astros. Morgan's power was shown to better advantage in Riverfront Stadium. Morgan doubled his home run output in two seasons.
His first year in Cincinnati, Morgan made the All-Star team, and was named the game's MVP when he singled in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth. He ended up leading the league in walks with 115 and runs scored with 122. (Illus. 6)
In 1975, Morgan led the NL in walks for the third time with 132, while combining a .327 batting average with 17 home runs, 94 RBI's and 67 stolen bases.
Morgan's MVP season sparked the team into the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox, one of the most exciting Series ever played. In Game Three, Morgan drove in the winning run with a single in the 10th inning.
In Game Five, Joe drew 16 pickoff throws at first just prior to a single by Bench and a three-run homer by Perez. In the seventh and deciding game, Morgan's RBI single in the top of the ninth gave the Reds their first World Championship.
In 1976, Morgan topped his previous power totals with a career-high 27 home runs. He became only the fifth second baseman to drive in more than 100 runs (111), and led the league in slugging average at .576. He also batted .320, stole 60 bases, and had an on-base average of .516 to earn his second straight MVP. The Reds then swept the Yankees in the Series. (Illus. 7)
While his lifetime batting average was only .271, Morgan hit between .288 and .327 during his peak years with the Reds, and drew a great many walks throughout his career, resulting in a superb .392 on base percentage. He also hit 268 home runs and 545 doubles and triples, excellent power for a middle infielder of his era, and was considered by some the finest base stealer of his generation (689 steals at greater than 80% success rate).
Besides his prowess at the plate and on the bases, Morgan was an exceptional infielder winning the Gold Glove Award from 1972 to 1976. After his playing career was over, Morgan was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1987, along with the retirement of his number 8.
Hitting to the Opposite Field (Series D - Pete Rose)
If the pitch is on the outside corner, the hitter should step toward the plate, pointing his toe toward right field. The best way to hit the inside pitch to the opposite field is to bring the hands on across the front of the body a little sooner, so that the big end of the bat will get on the ball. It is a downward, inside-out swing.
The inside-out swing enables pull hitters like Tony Perez to go to the opposite field, even on inside pitches.
In executing this push-style swing, the hitter should try to get on top of the ball. The arms should never be fully extended, and contact is made ideally at a 90 degree angle from the direction of the pitch. The hitter should keep his hands ahead. In fact, even after impact, his wrists should still be unbroken.
"It is difficult to defense a batter who hits the ball to all fields," said Rose. "The important point in hitting the ball to the opposite field is just to go with the pitch. If the pitch is thrown outside, the hitter should not break his wrists. His main concern is putting his bat on the ball and snapping it out there. He should not turn his wrists over. His hands have to lead the way and do all the work. The bat and hands must go get the ball."
"The main thing is to hit the ball squarely," explained Pete. "If necessary, the hitter should push or punch the ball. Although the batter completes his follow-through, the weight of his body should lean toward the opposite field."
"During batting practice, I make it a point to practice hitting to the opposite field," said Rose. "To hit effectively to the opposite field, a hitter has to acquire the knack of moving toward the ball."
"The good hitters hit the ball to all fields. if a ball is inside, I will try to pull the ball. If it is right down the middle, generally I will try to hit it up the middle, and if it is outside, I will try to hit the ball to the opposite field."
Batting Tips from Pete Rose "To become a good hitter, a player needs good eyes and strong hands," said Rose, "and he has to have a bat that feels comfortable. In the big leagues, nine out of ten of the good hitters know the strike zone. It is always easier to hit strikes than it is to hit balls."
"Practice is so important in hitting success. No one can take four, five or six swings a day and expect to be a good hitter. I will take from 25 to 30 swings every day." (Illus. 8)
"I do not think that young players today practice enough. In addition to their team workouts, I would recommend that they practice on their own. To be an effective hitter, they must work out on their own. I am sure they do not get enough hitting during their regular practice sessions."
"A hitter should know what the pitcher's hardest pitch is. I try to look for a fastball every pitch. If he throws something off-speed, I can always adjust to it."
"I think a batting coach often tells a hitter too much. When I start thinking about hitting, I do not want to worry about whether or not my hands are right or if my feet are positioned properly. Some hitting instructors make the mistake of getting their hitters to think about all of these things. All I try to do is just see the ball and get my hands and the fat part of the bat out in front."
"I feel being a switch-hitter has helped me the most. When a player is hitting from both sides of the plate and has the curveball, a tough pitch, coming in at him, it has to be easier to hit when it is going away from him." (Illus. 9 and 10)
"Would I recommend switch-hitting to the average ball player? Yes, I would recommend it to any young player, particularly if he has good speed. First, he has to take a great deal of practice, and when he begins, he has to expect that he will make many outs. My dad started me switch-hitting when I was nine years old."
"I definitely feel a ball player should be aggressive when he is up at the plate, until he has two strikes on him. Then he has to shorten up on his swing but still be aggressive. For a hitter, aggressiveness is going after and getting the ball -- not letting the ball come and get him. It is important for him to get the bat out in front and hit the ball on the fat part of the bat. That is how the good hitters sting the ball hard and hit it a long way. They get the big barrel out in front of the plate."
"As for hustle and aggressive play, I think a player who is aggressive and is a hustler, will take a number of extra bases and prove to be a heads-up ball player. Any time a player can hustle and run fast, more pressure is placed on the defense. When a ball is hit, the fielders know they must go get the ball in hurry and get it over to first base."
Sparky Anderson was named manager of the Cincinnati Reds on October 8, 1969. Headlines on the day after his hiring read "Sparky Who?" None the less, Anderson led the Reds to 102 wins and the National League pennant in 1970, losing the '70 World Series in five games to the Baltimore Orioles. (Illus. 11)
During this season, the Reds came to be widely known as The Big Red Machine, a nickname they carried throughout Anderson's tenure. (Illus. 12)
After an injury-plagued 1971 season in which the team finished fifth, the Reds came back and won another pennant under Anderson in 1972, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games in the NLCS, but losing to the Oakland Athletics in seven games in the World Series. The Reds took the National League West division title again in 1973, but lost to the New York Mets in the NLCS, hard-fought series that went the full five games.
After finishing a close second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, in 1975 the Reds blew the division open by winning 108 games. They swept the NL Championship Series and then edged the Boston Red Sox in a drama-filled, seven-game World Series.
In 1976, the Reds repeated by winning 102 games, sweeping the Phillies in three games in the NL Championship Series, then going on to sweep the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Over the course of these two seasons, Anderson's Reds compiled an astounding 14-3 record in post-season play against the Pirates, Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees.
During this time, Anderson became known as "Captain Hook" for his penchant for taking out a starting pitcher at the first sign of weakness and going to his bullpen, relying heavily on closers Will McEnaney and Rawly Eastwick. (Illus. 13)
When the aging Reds finished second to the Dodgers in each of the next two seasons, Anderson was fired on November 27, 1978 by general manager Dick Wagner, who had taken over for Bob Howsam a year earlier. Wagner had wanted to "shake up" the Reds' coaching staff, to which Anderson objected, leading to his dismissal as well.
Under new manager John McNamara, the Reds won the division title again in 1979, but lost three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the League Championship Series. They would not make the playoffs again until they won the World Series in 1990 by sweeping the heavily favored Oakland A's.
Anderson retired from managing on October 2, 1995, reportedly disillusioned with the state of the league following the 1994 strike that had also delayed the beginning of the 1995 season.
He finished with a lifetime record of 2,194-1,834, for a .545 percentage and the sixth most wins for a Major League manager. Anderson spent the largest portion of his career managing the Tigers (1970-78 with the Reds; 1979-95 with the Tigers), winning the World Series twice with the Reds and once with the Tigers. He is pictured here with Pete Rose at Candlestick Park (Illus. 14).
Anderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 2000. Although he managed 17 seasons in Detroit and just 9 seasons in Cincinnati, his Hall of Fame plaque has him wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform. He chose to wear the Reds cap at his induction in honor of former General Manager Bob Howsam, who gave Anderson his first chance at a major league managing job.
In his acceptance speech, Anderson gave a lot of credit to his players. His refusal to manage replacements during the 1995 strike was the "proudest moment of my career." He told reporters that he would return with the real players.
Anderson was very proud of his Hall of Fame induction. "I never wore a World Series ring ... I will wear this ring until I die."
Contributing to this story was Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; Baseball Library.com; and Athletic Journal, a magazine for college and high school coaches.
Sequence series photographs by Don Weiskopf. Photographs by Don Weiskopf; Rich Pilling; spokeo.com; Topps.com; batting leadoff.com; The Associated Press; Michael Zagaris, Getty Images.
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