by Kevin Burton
It’s baseball playoff time as I am sure you have noticed.
I mentioned in August how my two favorite teams came within one run of meeting in the 1976 World Series (“Trying To Get The Baseball Feeling Again,” Aug. 30) and haven’t come close to meeting since.
My bold prediction then was that given the state of the 2020 squads my dream series would have to wait at least one more year.
Well, I got that right. What I didn’t foresee was that the 2020 Reds would make the playoffs, although apparently only their pitchers were invited as their hitters failed to score a single run in their two playoff losses.
So with that very brief, feeble final contribution from the 2020 Reds, we move back to my original plan.
I have decided to take matters into my own hands. I will throw my own Reds vs Royals World Series.
I selected 25 players who played for the Royals in the 70s and 25 Reds and built two 70s super teams and will pit them against each other.
It’s the story of Johnny Bench and George Brett, Amos Otis and Tony Perez, played out with statistical charts and playing cards.
You can file this venture under nostalgia and/or keeping one’s spirits up during quarantine.
Real life again has interfered with my fun though. That lump in my throat is for Joe Morgan, one of my all-time favorite players who died Oct. 11. He obviously made the Reds all 70s team. I’ll write more about Little Joe sometime soon.
It’s embarrassing how much I overthought the process of selection of players for these teams, so please don’t tell anybody, OK?
Players who played at least six years for one of the teams during the 70s got a spot on the roster. Each team had 17 such players. A player had to play at least three years to be considered. But any player within that three-to-five year range could be added. I didn’t add all the five-year guys.
The first question to answer was the easiest; who gets Hal McRae?
Maybe you don’t remember or never knew that McRae came up through the Reds’ system and was at the plate at a key moment in team history. It was the bottom of the ninth inning of deciding game five of the 1972 National League playoffs against defending champs Pittsburgh. Game tied, George Foster was on third base and McRae at the plate facing reliever Bob Moose.
The Reds announcer then was Al Michaels. His famous call, “and the 1-1 pitch to McRae’s in the dirt, it’s a wild pitch, here comes Foster, the Reds win the pennant!”
That winter McRae and Wayne Simpson were traded to Kansas City for pitcher Roger Nelson and outfielder Richie Scheinblum. McRae played 15 years in KC, so he’ll be a Royal in my series.
In other McRae news, this will be a DH series. Having pitchers bat would have meant someone from KC not playing in the games at Cincinnati. That someone, DH Hal McRae.
I am staging these games with charts I used all the time years ago. Just to make sure I remembered how to play it, I staged a game with the B teams, the players not selected for the big World Series teams.
The Royals won that game 4-3 behind seven strong innings from starter Marty Montgomery and two timely double plays.
Some housekeeping here. In a story this summer I wrote that Lou Piniella was traded from the Royals after a year in which he hit .312 with 33 doubles and was traded for Jim Wohlford (Sweet Lou Piniella, Great For My Teams, June 23).
He was actually traded after the following year, after he slumped to .250. Also he wasn’t traded for Wohlford, but in able to make room in the lineup for Wohlford.
With that, here it is, the 1970-something World Series. Kansas City Royals vs Cincinnati Reds.
I will run the game stories on what have traditionally been off days for Page 7. Game one is Monday, Oct. 19 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Right-handers Dennis Leonard and Tom Seaver square off.