In my line of work, I meet a lot of ex-players. And we talk a lot about how the game has changed over the years.
I love these guys. They're good people and, generally speaking, smart people. Many I consider friends. But on this subject, I've found that many have a blind spot -- a huge one. The idea that the game today might be superior to the game they played makes them very, very uncomfortable.
In that category, I put one of my good friends: Joe Morgan.
Joe is entitled to his opinion, and any opinion Joe has, I pay attention to. There's nobody I've met who understands baseball as thoroughly as Joe Morgan.
But Joe's human. And Joe falls into the old-timer trap. His memories of the old days tend to be rosier than the reality of the old days. I'm forever finding things from Joe's era that weren't as great as he remembers.
It happens to all of us. We remember the great plays and the great players more than the ordinary plays and ordinary players. But, in Joe's case, there's another factor: loyalty. Joe is fiercely loyal to his ex-teammates and is the biggest booster for his former teams. If you run into Joe, please ask him to name the greatest team of all time. I have a good idea what he'll say, since he's said it to me countless times: the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.
Joe may be right; the Reds of the Big Red Machine era were an awesome offensive club, one any right-thinking person would agree belongs with the very best. Whether they were the best is beside the point. I think Joe's main point is to keep alive the memories of that team and the players on that team -- Davey Concepcion, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, Johnny Bench -- that whole Reds lineup.
Joe should be a booster for the Big Red Machine. If Joe weren't waving the flag for his old buddies, who would?
But in 1976, when the idea of the Reds being baseball's greatest team was floated, there were outraged cries that the 1961 Yanks with Maris and Mantle or the 1927 Yanks with Ruth and Gehrig were far better. The '76 Reds weren't even in the same ballpark with those teams, it was said.
Copyright © 1998 by Jon Miller and Mark Hyman. Excerpted with permission.