Cincinnati Reds vs. Oakland A’s
I’m back with the next installment of Eliminate The Playoffs. In 1975, the Cincinnati Reds were the best team in the Majors, hands down. At 108-54, they won their division by 20 games. The NL East division winner, the Pittsburgh Pirates, were 92-69…15 1/2 games behind the Reds. The Reds swept the Pirates, 3-0, and easily deserved to be in the 1975 World Series. In the American League, however, the best team at the conclusion of the regular season was the Oakland Athletics. At 98-64, they won the AL West by seven games and were two games better than the Boston Red Sox at 95-65. The A’s got swept in the playoffs, however, sending the Red Sox to the Series for the AL. So, how would the 1975 Oakland A’s have fared against the powerful Big Red Machine? The Red Sox pushed the Series to seven games, losing to the Reds four games to three. Let’s find out how Oakland would have done.
The series opens up in Oakland. Cincinnati sends Don Gullett (15-4, 2.42) to the mound against Oakland’s Vida Blue (22-11, 3.01). Gullett is an interesting story, and if you haven’t read up on his career, check out SABR’s biography on Gullett by clicking here. The young Gullett had been compared to Sandy Koufax, but injuries shortened his promising career. 1975 was no different for Gullett, as he broke his thumb on his pitching hand on June 16th, keeping him out for two months. By 1978, Gullett would be done in Major League Baseball, as he suffered a double rotator cuff tear which effectively ended his career at the age of 27.
The Reds waste no time getting on the board in Game 1. With two outs, Joe Morgan singles into right. Johnny Bench follows up with a 2-2 home run to left field. The A’s would get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 3rd. Trailing 2-0 with two outs and Phil Garner on second, Bill North delivers a line drive into center to score Garner. Cincinnati still leads, however, 2-1. Tempers would flare in the top of the 4th. With two outs, Tony Perez takes a 1-1 pitch 407 feet into left center for a home run, extending the Reds’ lead to 3-1. The next batter, Dan Driessen, is hit by the first pitch thrown by Blue. Driessen charges the mound and the benches clear!! When peace is restored, both Driessen and Blue are ejected from the game.
Cincinnati pads their lead in the top of the 5th after Bench’s RBI single, making the score 4-1. Oakland scores one run in the bottom of the 5th inning to make it 4-2. The Reds respond, however, in the top of the 6th. With two outs, and the count 0-2, Doug Flynn crushes the ball and sends it 437 feet and over the center field wall to push the score to 5-2. The score remains the same as we enter the bottom of the 9th inning. Reggie Jackson starts the inning off with a fly out to right. Sal Bando walks on four pitches and goes to first. Billy Williams singles to advance Bando. Bert Campaneris then singles up the middle. Bando rounds third and the throw to the plate is not in time. Bando is SAFE!! Garner grounds out to second, but the fielder’s choice allows Williams to score and Campaneris to advance to third. Reds lead 5-4. Bill North has an opportunity to play the hero, but instead plays the goat as he flies out to center for the last out. Cincinnati wins and leads the series 1-0.
Game 2 starters are Gary Nolan (15-9, 3.16) for the Reds and Ken Holtzman (18-14, 3.14) for the A’s. Oakland draws first blood in this one. With two outs in the bottom of the 1st inning, Gene Tenace homers to left. Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi both single, with both players advancing on an error by right fielder, Ken Griffey. Billy Williams then delivers a 400 foot shot over the wall in right center. Oakland leads it, 4-0. The A’s bats are still hot in the 2nd inning. Bert Campaneris leads the inning off with a base hit. After Phil Garner lines out to short, Bill North singles to center. Claudell Washington steps up and hits a double into the right field gap, scoring Campaneris and moving North to third. Tenace comes to the plate and takes a 1-2 pitch and sends it into center for a base hit, scoring both runners. At the end of two innings, Oakland leads 7-0.
The score remains the same until the 7th inning. Cincinnati manages to score three runs in the inning to cut the deficit to 7-3, but Oakland responds in the bottom half of the inning by scoring four runs on four hits, two walks and a passed ball. The A’s win this one easily, 11-3, and ties the series up at a game a piece.
As the series moves to Cincinnati, the Reds can’t help but feel confident. In 1975, they won 79% of their home games, posting a record of 64-17. The Game 3 starters are Dick Bosman (11-4, 3.52) for the A’s, while the Reds start Fred Norman (12-4, 3.73). The first two innings are scoreless, but Phil Garner breaks the tie with one out in the top of the 3rd, hitting a 418 foot home run over the left center field wall. A’s lead 1-0. In the bottom of the 4th, the Reds would respond. Pete Rose doubles to center to lead off the inning. After Joe Morgan grounds out to the pitcher, Johnny Bench reaches first on Bert Campaneris’ error at short. Rose moves to third on the error. Bench then attempts to steal second with George Foster at the plate. Tenace throws wildly to second and sends the ball sailing into center field, allowing Rose to score. Game tied 1-1.
Cincinnati would take the lead in the bottom of the 5th. Cesar Geronimo leads the inning off with a line drive into right. Two ground outs later, Geronimo is on third base. Ken Griffey works the count full, then lines the ball into right, scoring Geronimo and giving the Reds a 2-1 advantage. Oakland would come back, however, the following inning. Garner leads the top of the 6th off with a walk and advances to second on Bosman’s sacrifice bunt. Garner takes third on a balk. Bill North then strokes a single to center to score Garner and tie the game. It would be Bench’s turn to throw wildly, as the ball gets away from him when North is attempting to steal second. North advances to third on Bench’s throwing error. Joe Rudi then delivers an RBI single and the A’s retake the lead, 3-2.
The Reds weren’t done, however, and their bats were just as hot in the bottom of the 6th inning. Joe Morgan works the count full before doubling to left. Bench flies out to left, but George Foster hits it over the left field wall for a two run shot, giving Cincinnati the lead once more, 4-3. Cincinnati would add to their lead the following inning, scoring three runs in the bottom of the 7th. Both teams would plate runs in the 8th, but the Reds win the game, 8-4, and take a two games to one lead in the series.
Vida Blue returns to the mound as Oakland’s Game 4 starter. Jack Billingham (15-10, 4.11) gets the start for Cincinnati. The Reds waste no time, getting on the board in the 1st inning, thanks to RBI singles from Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey. Reds lead 2-0. Oakland would tie the game in the 4th behind Claudell Washington’s RBI triple and Reggie Jackson’s RBI single. Game tied 2-2. In the top of the 5th, Oakland would take the lead, as Sal Bando scores on a wild pitch and Bill North doubles down the first base line to score another. Oakland leads, 4-2. In the bottom of the 6th, the Reds would come roaring back. Griffey singles to lead off the inning and Tony Perez doubles down the third base line, moving Griffey to third. After Cesar Geronimo is intentionally walked, Dan Driessen grounds out to third, scoring Griffey and cutting the lead to 4-3. Dave Concepcion grounds out to third for the second out, bringing Pete Rose to the plate. Rose singles past the second baseman, scoring two and giving Cincinnati the 5-4 lead.
The Reds would add a run in the bottom of the 7th inning when George Foster hit a solo shot to left, making the score 6-4. Rawly Eastwick is brought in to pitch the 8th, holding the A’s scoreless. Eastwick returns in the 9th and gives up a lead off double to Joe Rudi. Rudi advances to third on Billy Williams ground out to second. Bert Campaneris hits a sacrifice fly to center to score Rudi, cutting the lead to 6-5. Phil Garner comes to the plate and works a full count, but goes down swinging to end the game. Cincinnati wins the game and now leads the series 3-1.
For Game 5, Oakland rests their hopes on Stan Bahnsen (6-7, 3.24). Cincinnati looks to Don Gullett to close this series out and bring the championship home. In the top of the 1st inning, Oakland scores a run, thanks to Bill North drawing a walk, Pete Rose making a throwing error and Joe Rudi grounding out to short. The A’s lead 1-0. The score remains the same, as both pitchers battled it out. In the bottom of the 7th, Joe Morgan draws a full count walk, then steals second. After Johnny Bench flies out to left, Morgan moves to third on George Foster’s ground out to the pitcher. Four pitches later, Tony Perez is on first, bringing up Cesar Geronimo. Geronimo hits a 2-1 single into right, scoring Morgan and tying the game 1-1.
In the bottom of the 8th, Gullett would help his own cause, hitting a triple into right and chasing Bahnsen from the game. Rollie Fingers comes in to pitch for the A’s. Ken Griffey takes Fingers’ first pitch and grounds it between first and second, scoring Gullett and giving the Reds the lead. The score remains 2-1 as we enter the top of the 9th. Clay Carroll (7-5, 2.62, 7 Saves) is in the game for Cincinnati. Reggie Jackson opens the inning by grounding out to first. Billy Williams flies out to center for out number two. Bert Campaneris hits a first pitch line drive into left field, breathing hope into the Oakland roster. But Phil Garner flies out to right to end the game and the series. Cincinnati wins the 1975 World Series against the Oakland A’s, 4-1.
And there you have it. The Cincinnati Reds were clearly the best team of 1975, easily defeating the Oakland A’s. Check in again soon for our next installment of Eliminate The Playoffs.