by Kevin Burton
The Cincinnati teams of the 70s, particularly in the mid-70s are regarded as the best National League teams ever assembled.
The Royals built on what they did in the 70s and came of age in the 80s with two World Series appearances and one championship in 1985.
If I ever put together 80-something teams for another simulated series, the Royals would be heavily favored. The Reds won six division titles in the 70s, none in the 80s.
For this series though, it was Cincinnati winning four games to one.
I had some fun thinking about my old 70s “friends.” I did the best job I could making decisions for both teams. I went in saying that I wouldn’t steer the games one way or the other.
I did say that if a team took a 3-0 or 3-1 series lead, the trailing team would get all the close calls. That’s because I really hoped the series would go six or seven games. So in this case I was trying to ease the Royals into game six.
That’s why a Pete Rose ground ball which could have been ruled a force play, turned into a double play. That’s why a John Mayberry fly ball turned into a sacrifice fly and RBI. But the game as it played out with the charts and cards, wasn’t close enough that those minor things made a difference.
The Reds had the better roster. But part of the Cincinnati dominance in the 70s was its defense. I didn’t have a good way of reflecting defense in my game except for the catchers’ throwing ability on stolen bases.
Speaking of catchers, here is one oddity. Cincinnati had the best catcher in Johnny Bench. But the next six best catchers, Darrell Porter and John Wathan on the A team, Bob Stinson, Jamie Quirk and Ed Kirkpatrick on the B team and Fran Healy who didn’t make either team, were all Royals.
Yes, I also selected 70s B teams for Kansas City and Cincinnati. I could play that series too. I could also play the 2015 Royals against the 1990 Reds, or the 85 Royals versus the 1976 Reds, if I wanted to do another series.
Game five on this series ended with Freddie Norman on the mound for Cincinnati, something that probably would not have happened with the real Reds. It was his only appearance.
I used to love to watch Norman pitch. Why? As I explained it to my father back in the day, “He looks like that guy on the Carol Burnett Show.”
My dad agreed, he had some resemblance to Tim Conway. Conway played a lot of older, slower and/or dim-witted characters on the show.
So here is Norman looking in for the sign and I’m imagining him as Tim Conway with a vacant stare wondering what pitch to throw.
Here’s Harvey Corman as the catcher coming to the mound to try to hurry things along.
“We just need one more strike. This guy can’t hit you. Give him a fast ball and we can win.”
Then Norman/Conway with that old man drawl, “What about the cuuuurrrrve?”
Catcher Corman, “Never mind the curve, just give us one fastball…”
Norman/Conway “It’s the swirley, loopy one,” he says and now he’s moving his hands around to indicate the flight of the ball. Maybe this ends with his finger on Harvey Corman’s nose.
Maybe you could have Lyle Waggoner, or that week’s celebrity guest star as the manager coming to the mound to get things moving, whatever, you get the point.
Neither the Carol Burnett Show nor the Big Red Machine has been duplicated in the years since. I don’t think it will ever happen.
So last night we crowned the Los Angeles Dodgers as the 2020 champions. But my thoughts are still with the boys of summers past.