It stands uncontested as the most famous lineup in Reds history: Johnny Bench behind the plate, an infield comprised of Tony Perez at first base, Joe Morgan at second base, David Concepcion at shortstop and Pete Rose at third base with an outfield comprised of Ken Griffey in right, Cesar Geronimo in center and George Foster in left. It is this group that powered the Big Red Machine to consecutive World Championships in 1975 and 1976 and it is this group that made the Machine one of the greatest teams the game has ever seen.
The fabled Great Eight starting lineup was born out of a favor a manager asked of his team captain. It was May 2, 1975 and the Reds were scuffling along with a 12-12 record and manager Sparky Anderson sensed the need for a change to spark the club. Nothing had worked terribly well to that point of the season but Sparky was particularly unhappy with the weak hitting of third baseman John Vukovich. With none of the Reds hitters producing terribly well, Vukovich’s struggles were magnified. Spending far too much time on the bench was George Foster, a player Sparky felt was primed for a breakout season.
And so it was that Sparky approached Pete Rose, the player Anderson had named team captain in 1970, and asked if the two-time Gold Glove-winning outfielder would be open to moving to third base. Without hesitation, Rose agreed and the next night, after spending the better part of the day fielding grounders at the position off the bat of coach George Scherger, Pete Rose became the Reds new third baseman. The left field position he vacated was soon filled by Foster, a move that completed the Great Eight.
One of the enduring myths surrounding the Big Red Machine is that Sparky Anderson rubber stamped his lineup card before each game with the names of Rose, Griffey, Morgan, Perez, Foster, Bench, Concepcion and Geronimo and forgot about them. The reality is that from its inception on May 9, 1975 through the end of the 1976 season, the Great Eight lineup only took the field as a unit in 63 regular season games. Sparky regularly inserted different players into the lineup both to rest his stars and to keep his bench players fresh. The postseason was a different story as the Great Eight started each of the Reds’ 17 playoff and World Series games in 1975 and 1976.
But on those comparatively rare occasions when the Great Eight were in the same lineup, the results were devastating for the opposition. When postseason games are added to the regular season total, the Great Eight started a total of 80 games together in 1975 and 1976. The Reds record in those games was an astonishing 64-16, an .800 winning percentage that projected over a 162 game schedule produces a record of 130-32.
The run of the Great Eight was as brief as it was dominating. Following the 1976 season, the greatest lineup in the history of baseball was broken up when Tony Perez was traded to the Montreal Expos.
On your next trip to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum presented by Dinsmore, be sure to stop by the Great Eight Exhibit featuring bronze statues of all eight legendary players. The statues are arranged in celebration of a Reds victory, giving you the opportunity to pose for a celebratory photo amongst the most iconic lineup in Reds history.