Tag Archives: Cincinnati Reds

Tony Pérez was a walk-off standout

Tony Pérez had 20 walk-off hits, including 11 home runs, in the regular season, and also won a World Series game with a walk-off single (which you can read about elsewhere), so there’s a lot to choose from.

And I’m going to pick a game from a year that Pérez’s Reds didn’t win a pennant, just because it seems like it was a pretty cool baseball game.

It was Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Giants on July 25, 1974. This was a slugfest from the start, with the Giants scoring three runs in the first inning and the Reds countering with five in the second. The Giants eventually took control with a six-run fifth inning and led 12-7 entering the bottom of the eighth.

Johnny Bench’s two-run home run cut the Giants’ lead to 12-9, but the Giants got a run back in the top of the ninth inning on a home run by Bobby Bonds.

But the Big Red Machine would not consider a four-run deficit entering the ninth inning too much to overcome, not even after Cesar Geronimo struck out to lead off the frame. At that point, per Baseball-Reference, the Reds win probability was one percent.

Sometimes one percent comes through.

A single, walk, and single by Pete Rose produced one run and a ground out by Joe Morgan brought in another. This made is 13-11, but the Reds had only one out left.  Wins like this don’t come without a little help. Johnny Bench hit a ground ball to first base and pitcher Randy Moffitt was late in trying to cover the base. Bench beat the play at first. Rose scored to make it 13-12.

Moffitt (the brother of tennis legend Billie Jean King), then got ahead of Pérez 0-2. His next pitch was in the wrong spot and Pérez crushed it over the center field fence for a game-winning home run. The celebration was described in newspapers as World Series-like, with Pérez jumping around through his trip around the bases.

“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Pérez told reporters afterwards.

It’s kind of cool that Pérez’s next walk-off home run also capped a big Reds comeback, this one on June 11, 1976 against the Cardinals, who led 5-0 after a half-inning and 7-5 entering the bottom of the ninth. But Ken Griffey Sr. singled and Joe Morgan walked to start the rally. Pérez finished it with a three-run home run against Cardinals closer Al Hrabosky.

“I never saw another team that could intimidate a team like this one,” coach Russ Nixon told reporters afterwards.

When you have a guy in your lineup who can do the walk-off thing like Tony Pérez can, you can go a long way.

Tony Pérez Minutiae

– Pérez set a “record” of being the oldest player to hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run when he hit one against the Pirates on September 1, 1984 at age 42 years, 110 days. Jason Giambi broke the mark twice in 2013.

– Pérez had 19 walk-off hits for the Reds, which we’re guessing is a franchise record. It’s at least the mark dating to 1925, which is as far as Baseball-Reference goes back. Next-closest is Frank Robinson with 14.





Frank Robinson vs Bob Gibson with the game on the line

Baseball-Reference.com lists 350 instances of a player hitting a walk-off home run while trailing and his team down to its last out in the span for which it has regular season data (back to 1925).

I would say that the best batter-pitcher matchup among those was Frank Robinson versus Bob Gibson.

It came in the first game of a doubleheader on September 19, 1964. Both teams were chasing the first-place Phillies (who lost that day on a steal of home!) and in the end, each team would win once.

The Cardinals probably should have swept though. They led 5-0 after three innings with Gibson pitching. Perhaps Gibson was winded by the three doubles he hit, but he was unable to hold the lead. Deron Johnson’s three-run home run in the sixth inning cut the Cardinals lead to 5-3. Marty Keough’s home run in the eighth made it 5-4. The Cardinals failed to score despite loading the bases in the ninth inning, which gave the Reds a chance at a comeback.

Give Cardinals manager Johnny Keane credit for trusting Gibson, who allowed a double to Gordy Coleman to lead off the ninth. A sacrifice by Pete Rose(!) moved pinch-runner Tommy Harper to third. Chico Ruiz struck out looking, but Vada Pinson walked on a 3-2 pitch (newspaper reports described it as “disputed”).

Robinson was 0-for-4 in the game and had struck out representing the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. He homered on Gibson’s first pitch to win the game.

Final score: Reds 7, Cardinals 5.

A couple of postscripts:

Robinson had a lot of big hits that season (he finished fourth in the MVP voting) and a lot of big hits in his career. In fact, Robinson is the only player in Baseball-Reference’s 350-home run data set to hit three walk-off home runs with his team trailing and down to its last out. This was the first of the three.

Just shy of a month later, Gibson found himself on the mound again trying to gut his way to the finish. This would also be a game with a final score of 7-5, though the result was different and slightly more important. It was the clinching game in the Cardinals’ World Series triumph over the Yankees.

Further reading: The website “Retrosimba” did a great review of Frank Robinson’s career vs the Cardinals here

The story of Pete Rose’s last walk-off RBI

Pete Rose played in 199 walk-off wins, the most of any player for which Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index has data. That might be the most all-time, though I’m wondering about the totals for the likes of Ty Cobb. Regardless, it’s not surprising that Rose had so many given his longevity.

What I thought was most interesting in Rose’s walk-off ledger was that his 20th and final walk-off RBI was a triple as a 45-year-old player manager in 1986 for the Reds against the Phillies, a month prior to the last game of his playing career.

How amazing that someone of Rose’s age, aptly named Charlie Hustle, would continue to live up to that moniker right to his final days in the big leagues.

And then I was disappointed by an the account of one Philadelphia sportswriter, who said that Rose had been given the triple in error, that he’d never reached (or presumably come close to) third base.

Nonetheless, the scoring stands 32 years later and it’s apt that a goofy decision remains intact given the bonkers nature of the baseball game in which it happened. Let us summarize the newspaper accounts and the box score thusly:

“It was weird. And it was wild. And it was wacky,” wrote a young Jsyson Stark in the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer the next morning. “But was it baseball?”

Indeed it can be confirmed that each team fielded nine men and moments involving sticks, gloves and spheres took place on a dirt field, surrounded by greenery. So it was baseball. And it was weird.

Though the teams combined for 13 runs, each team yielded three unearned runs. A Rose error opened the door to two Phillies runs in the seventh inning, allowing the visitors to go ahead 3-2 on Jeff Stone’s two-run single.

In the ninth inning, two more Reds errors turned a 4-3 Phillies lead into a seemingly safe 6-3 cushion. Except it wasn’t so safe.

The Reds scored three runs to tie in excruciating fashion. Phillies second baseman Juan Samuel botched a potential double play grounder. The tying run scored with two outs on a passed ball by Phillies catcher John Russell.

Onwards this game went into the 11th inning. Max Venable started the winning rally for the Reds with a walk against reliever Tom Gorman (best known for allowing an 18th inning home run to pitcher Rick Camp the year before). After a force play, Rose came up. Phillies right fielder Glenn Wilson played shallow, not expecting the right-handed Rose to drive the ball to the opposite field.

But that’s what Rose did. Phillies rightfielder Glenn Wilson retreated to try to catch it, overran it, recovered, but then had the ball clunk off his body and his right hand, and fall away. The winning run scored and Rose had his final walk-off RBI. It was the only one scored a triple.