One could argue it was Johnny Bench, and not be completely wrong. After all Bench was a two time Most Valuable Player during that period. Yet so was Joe Morgan, Pete Rose also took home that award once. Another Hall of Famer was the “Big Dog” Tony Perez. You could even say it wouldn’t have been possible without the manager, Sparky Anderson.
With all due respect for each and every member of that club, none was more important that another. It was probably nobody on that team could have been as successful without each other. For example Rose got better pitches to hit because Ken Griffey, Sr. was batting second. Griffey, Sr. hit over .300 5 times in a Reds uniform because he was in front of Morgan. Morgan got better pitches because Bench was behind him, and so on and on.
Still, the most polarizing name in history, not just because of his playing ability but also for the activity after his career is Rose. Rose is still banned from baseball and ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Of course this is has to include the fact Rose is the sports All Time hits leader.
Bench is hitting the field once again Saturday, May 18th at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY for the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game. The all time great will play with other Hall of Famers like Dayton’s own Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith. Check out “http://mlb.com/PepsiMAX” to find out more about the game and where to get tickets.
In our conversation with Bench last week, prior to his appearance in the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game, he acknowledged there has to be an end in someway to banishment of Rose.
“It’s been 23 years man, we need to figure this out.” Rose was put on the “Permanently Disqualified” list in 1989 for what then commissioner Bart Giamatti said was Gambling on Baseball. In the time since, Rose has admitted as such and participated in baseball sponsored events when invited by the league. Yet enshrinement into the Hall is still not within reach.
Bench says this is a story that needs to end, but Pete could have helped things along. “Pete’s had an opportunity himself to rectify things, and he’s had chances in the past few years, believe me.” Bench didn’t elaborate on what those chances were and how Rose failed to meet the expectations put in place.
It was just a few years ago Bench wouldn’t discuss the possibility of Rose entering the Hall. The pair weren’t talking and Bench didn’t hide the fact. Then in 2010 Rose, completely out of the blue, called Bench and the pair began mending fences. It was a long time coming and not something easily fixed.
Now, according to Bench, Rose must change the mind of those making the decisions about his Hall chances. Its not as easy act for Rose, yet Bench says can be done.
“If Pete changes things with his perspective to the game of baseball and to the higher ups and says my life has changed, mia cuppa mia cuppa, then that will be an opportunity to be reinstated.” Bench goes on to say “All this is on him and he has to prove everybody’s fine with it and has a different perspective.”
In other words Rose has to make amends to those who hold his Hall of Fame future In their hands. Something up until a few years ago, Rose would not do. Now, says Bench, is the time to end this controversy.
“23 years is a long time but it’s part of what the process is and he just has to go through it. With what his achievements are this is still on him.”
Bench wasn’t the only former Red to forgive Rose, most all have. Including the manager of the ball club Sparky Anderson. It took Bench and Anderson about the same time to excuse Pete’s transgressions. But Anderson was always in Rose’s Hall corner.
Bench thought of Anderson as a “man who managed men.” He called Sparky a communicator.
“Sparky managed the team, managed the game. He let you go out and play, he trusted you and made you feel respected” That trust and respect not only led to a pair of World Series titles in Cincinnati, but also one in Detroit in 1984.
When Anderson took over the Reds in 1970 he immediately made an impact on the city of Cincinnati, the club and the players.
“In 1970 Sparky came up to me in Spring Training and asked me what I felt about what we should do on the field. For the first time I felt like a professional.” With that became a closeness between player and manager that lasted until Anderson’s death on November 4, 2010.
Not only did Bench discuss Sparks and Pete, but he also spoke with “ultimatesportstalk.com” about his great moment in baseball and how he knew it was time to retire. The entire interview with Johnny Bench can be heard on the “Ohio Baseball Weekly” show Monday night at 9pm.
Dave Mitchell and Mark Donahue co-host the “Ohio Baseball Weekly” show every Monday night at 9pm on “www.ultimatesportstalk.com.”