“The Machine” by Joe Posnanski
Baseball, history, Reds
September 15, 2009
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
During the mid-1970’s, the Cincinnati Reds, nicknamed “The Big Red Machine”, were one of the best teams in baseball, winning four National League titles between 1970 and 1976, including back to back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. The 1975 season stands out as it was considered to be the finest of them by this team and also had a memorable World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Stories of this 1975 team both on and off the field are woven together in this excellent book by Joe Posnanski. Using in-depth interviews and extensive research, he not only recaps the baseball season for the Reds that year, but brings the reader into the minds of many of the stars of that team. These include Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and manager George “Sparky” Anderson.
There are some items about the team that may come as a surprise to the reader who was not familiar with the team. One such nuance is that Anderson had a caste system in place and readily stated it to the players and the media. He did play favorites with the stars of the team such as Rose, Morgan and Perez. If a player wasn’t in this category, then he had better do exactly what the manager wants or he will not be happy. This was very much the case for the third baseman that started the season with the team, John Vukovich. He was the weak link on the team in Anderson’s eyes and was demoted from the team when it was struggling the first two months.
The team caught fire after this when Anderson made out his lineup card on July 4 and from that point, the Reds were the best team in baseball. That is a fitting analogy for the book as a whole, as the stories of the players and their personalities and how they interacted with one another were terrific. Some of the baseball history written may be a little dry for some readers, but it makes for a nice balance and is mingled with the personal stories in an easy-to-read manner.
What set this book apart from most books on a particular team or season was how Posnanski was able to capture the inner spirit and feelings of the players. There were several passages about the turmoil Johnny Bench was having with an injury and his troubled marriage after only a few months. The playful insults hurled at each other provided comic relief, especially when Morgan and Rose would be hurling insults as Tony (Big Dog or Doggie) Perez. There were even poignant moments. One especially telling passage was when the author interviewed Morgan at the funeral of owner Dick Howsam. Morgan spoke about Howsam and the team he assembled, saying that “I don’t think there will ever be a team like us. We cared about each other. We still care about each other.” Posnanski then penned “He (Morgan) looked around the room. He was the only member of the Big Red Machine there.”
This is an excellent book that anyone who likes baseball and wants to learn more about The Big Red Machine should include in his or her baseball library.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
This book read very quickly as the good mix of player stories, news of the time and the baseball blended very well.
Do I recommend?
Baseball fans, especially Reds fans, will want to pick this one up if they have not already done so as it paints a wonderful picture of one of the best teams in modern baseball history.
Book Format Read: