Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Other 1968 Reds


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Steve Schubert of Bradenton, FL who correctly identified Steve Barber as the pitcher who gave up Roger Repoz's first home run. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

NEW TRIVIA CONTEST:  By answering the TRIVIA QUESTION CORRECTLY you are automatically entered into a weekly drawing for a Starbucks Gift Card.  YOU MUST ENTER VIA THE EMAIL AT THE END OF THIS COLUMN. Don't forget to put your mailing address in with the answer so if you win we can send you the gift card in the mail.

NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: He pitched for six teams in nine years but in 1968 he tossed a no-hitter for the Reds. Who was he? 
ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column:
Steve Barber gave up the first major league homer ever hit by Roger Repoz.

You can look at the 1968 Cincinnati Reds and realize they were the "Big Red Machine" about to happen. They had not yet acquired Joe Morgan but the rest of the pieces were there. Rose, Bench, Perez, Helms, Cardenas, Lee May, Alex Johnson and Pinson. They were about to become a mini-dynasty despite the fourth place finish of 1968. This column however is about the bench.

                   (Gary Nolan and Johnny Bench the Youth of 1968)
Rarely if ever does a team possess a bench of guys who either did, or would be feared sluggers in their own right. Just run down the names the likes of Mack Jones, Don Pavletich, Fred Whitfield, Hal McRae, Bob Johnson, and even Woody Woodward deserves a mention. These six players combined for 18 home runs and roughly about a .260 average that season. 

Jones his 133 homers in his career including 31 for the 1965 Braves. He was a powerful left-handed bat who in his hey day was a strong defensive player as well. Jones played in 103 games for the Reds in 1968 and belted 10 home runs. Pavletich never batted more than 235 times in a season but hit over .300 once and hovered near it another time. His best was 12 home runs but he could really drive the ball.

Whitfield did most of his damage in the AL with Cleveland. The big first sacker would hit 108 homers in his career and three times better the 20 homer mark in a season. He hit 27 in 1966. McRae's best years were to come. With 191 life time home runs he led the AL in RBI in 1982 with 133 for the Royals. McRae several times was in the running for the league MVP.

Bob Johnson was known as a guy who could get out of bed on Sunday morning and pinch hit a single. Three times over his 11 years in the big leagues he batted over .300 with a .348 mark in 1967. A lifetime .272 hitter he played for eight different teams.

And then there was Woody Woodward. He only gets a mention here because he went almost his entire major league career without hitting a home run. Woodward broke into the big leagues in 1963 with Milwaukee and played regular shortstop for several years but also played a lot of games in those non-starting years. It wasn't until 1970 he got his first and only MLB home run. 

Over 2400 times he came to the plate and finally on July 10, 1970 belted the homer off former teammate Ron Reed and the Braves. The Reds had one of the most powerful starting line-ups at the time and in 1968 they had an outstanding bench.

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