Sunday, May 24, 2020

I Love The 80s - 1982 Cincinnati Reds

This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

" . . .  by 1982 the Reds dynasty lay in ruins" -- Anthony Giacalone

"Bards of Cincinnati now prefer the Big Dead Machine" - Bob Kravitz 8/1/1982

1981 saw the Reds very nearly make the post season - they probably should have. They had a better record than both NL play-off teams, but due to the rules set following the strike, they were shut out. They were a half game behind the Dodgers in the first half, and 1.5 games behind Houston in the second half. After finishing with a first place record but still missing the post season, the wheels fell off. 

1982 was the worst performance by a Cincinnati Reds team in franchise history. For a team that keeps records back to 1876, that is saying a lot. So, what went wrong? The team had already adjusted to losing Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Tony Perez to free agency, but the Big Red Machine was just missing too many parts by 1982.v Before the season started, George Foster and Ken Griffey would also depart, leaving the team scrambling to fill their lineup. To make matters worse, their Hall of Fame Ace was having the worst season of his MLB career. 

The Cards:
Donruss #538 Mike O'Berry - The search for "the next Johnny Bench" began in earnest in 1981 when the Reds added Mike O'Berry. At the very least, O'Berry could provide superior defense to give Bench more rest. Despite his defensive chops behind the plate, he was never really able to master hitting at the MLB level. His career MLB batting average was just .191. O'Berry had a successful run as a minor league manager, winning a championship in the Appalachian League in 1992 with the Orioles. 

Fleer #57 Johnny Bench - The 1968 Rookie of the year, and 2 time League MVP, Johnny Bench was nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career in 1982. he caught 100 or more games for 13 consecutive seasons until the strike shortened 1981. Transitioned from catching to play 3rd Base for the Reds in 1982, Bench still had 13 homers good for 2nd best on the team. His 10 gold gloves as a catcher didn't translate exactly to the hot corner, where he had 19 errors, 5th most in the NL. Bench was one of the first players to have a "farewell tour" announcing his retirement before the end of the 1983 season. Though he was no longer the same player, he was definitely still Johnny Bench, which Cincinnati fans would not soon forget.

Topps #620 Ken Griffey - The outfielders of the Big Red Machine didn't necessarily get the same star treatment as the infield, but they were no less essential to the great Reds teams of the 1970s. In 1976, it was Griffey that hit .336/.401/.450 with 34 stolen bases, and scored 111 runs. He finished 8th in the MVP balloting that year. He had his 3rd All-Star season in 1980, hitting 28 doubles, 10 triples, and 13 homers to go along with 23 steals. In 1981, Griffey hit .311 as the Reds' everyday center fielder. Griffey would be traded following the 1981 season to the Yankees.

Topps #31 Tom Seaver - If you have Tom Seaver at the top of your rotation, what could go wrong? In 1982, just about everything. The 5 time NL stikeout king managed just 62 Ks in 111 innings for the Reds in '82. He would see his ERA climb by more than 3 runs and by any objective measure, the season was a disaster. What made it more shocking was that it came after a season in which he led the NL in victories and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting to Fernando Valenzuela's historic season. Seaver of course had already won 3 Cy Young awards, and would have a renaissance season with the White Sox in 1985, but his 1982 season was a perfect example of the disaster that befell the Reds organization as a whole this year.

Fleer #630 "Big Red Machine" - George Foster was now with the Mets, Dan Driessen and Concepcion however were still trying to make the Machine hum. Driessen was still just 30 years old and primarily played 1st base for the Reds in 1982. He was the team leader in homers. Driessen was usually not the big power guy like Perez and Bench, and he didn't hit for average, but he did draw a fair number of walks and was tough to strike out. In '82 he had just 64 strikeouts in 606 plate appearances. He would be moving along as well, traded to the Expos in 1984. 

Donruss #421 Dave Concepcion - Though known more for his glove than his bat, the 9 time All-Star Concepcion won his 2nd consecutive Silver Slugger award as a short stop in 1982. He also had a special day during the 1982 All-Star game, hitting the decisive 2 run homer. Concepcion played 2,488 games for the Reds, and earned 5 Gold gloves. His batting similarity scores compares him favorably to Hall of Famers Alan Trammell, Pee Wee Reese, Bobby Wallace, and his hero- fellow Venezuelan Luis Aparicio. 

Donruss #273 George Foster - In 1981, Foster finished 3rd in the MVP race, Seaver was 2nd in the Cy Young Voting, and the team finished in 1st place. In 1982, Seaver had a terrible season, and Foster didn't play a single game for the Reds. It's no wonder the season was a disappointment. Foster did play in 1982, of course, but as a New York Met. While it wasn't his best year, he would find his footing and had several more productive seasons in New York. Foster was the 1977 NL MVP with 52 Homers and 149 RBI. He led the league in those categories and runs scored (124) and total bases (388) and slugging (.631). He was the All-Star MVP in 1976. 

Topps #97 Paul Moskau - Like many of the players on this page, Moskau was playing for a different team in 1982. He was traded to the Orioles before the '82 season, but actually played for the Pirates that year after being selected on waivers. Moskau was a spot starter for the Reds in the late 70s, then used in the bullpen in the 80s. Moskau was part of the "Little Red Wagon" Eugene Emeralds minor league championship team in 1975 while the major league Big Red Machine was in its heyday. Moskau gave an interview for Haught Corner in 2018.

 Fleer #67 Ken Griffey - I just liked this card - it's like Griffey is floating in mid-air with the blue sky and fluffy clouds in the background. Just like Concepcion and Foster, Griffey was an All-Star MVP as a Red. For Griffey, the game was 1980, going 2-3 with a homer as a reserve behind Dave Kingman. Griffey would go on to hit a home run back to back with his son, the "other" Ken Griffey, in 1991. He and his son have the most career hits of any father son duo in MLB history. While he did not win a Gold Glove, he was known as an excellent defender, and compares similarly to hitters Melky Cabrera, Amos Otis, Carney Lansford and Keith Hernandez.  


  1. I think sometimes Griffey Sr gets overlooked because of Junior, but the guy had a really good career.

  2. I like how fleer didn't notice bench wearing the first baseman glove and still had his position solely as catcher even though he caught very infrequently starting in 81

  3. Great stuff. Didn't realize that the Reds were so bad or that Bench played 3rd the majority of the 1982.

  4. Great cards for a not-so-great team. The Foster Donruss pops off the page and I like the Fleer issues too, especially the Griffey. I'm not shocked that the wheels came off the Big Red Machine in '82 but that was a pretty steep drop from the year before.