I received Joe Posnanski’s new book “The Machine” Friday night and finished the entire book by Saturday evening, all 280+ pages. As a child of the Big Red Machine era, I could not put the book down and found it fascinating.
What I found most interesting was Posnanski’s tellling of the Machine personnel’s emotions during the season. Posnanski blocks the season into groups of games and it works perfectly in describing the rollercoaster of emotions for that championship season.
What’s most telling for me?
— Sparky Anderson’s daily worry about the success of his team and his desire for genius. Much time is spent worrying about the ineptitude of third baseman John Vukovich’s hitting prowess at the plate. I found that somewhat surprising…I was 13 when the Reds acquired Vukovich and I knew he couldn’t hit his weight even then. GM Bob Howsam apparently envisioned a line up with two non-hitters (Vukovich and Cesar Geronimo), hoping their defense would support the outstanding hitters at other positions. It was a lesson that Howsam didn’t seem to learn from the 1970 season when the incredible hitting machine couldn’t overcome the two offensive black holes at second base and shortstop. It’s hard to win with 2/3 of a line up. I felt genuinely sorry for Vukovich in reading the story.
–A surprise to me…Posnanski seems to say that Sparky did not initially approve of the Lee May-Joe Morgan trade. I’m reading another book right now, too, “Making the Big Red Machine” by Darryl Smith which focuses on Bob Howsam and his management/leadership techniques, and that book strongly suggests that Sparky Anderson really wanted Morgan and getting Morgan was the Reds’ priority following the 1971 season.
–I feel more could have been said and developed about Ken Griffey, Sr., in the book. The book openly states that Griffey was extremely unhappy, or at least felt extremely unappreciated, yet it’s happy memories that Junior has about those days when his dad was a Red and those memories played a major factor in Junior’s yearning to play here.
–I felt that Tony Perez was portrayed somewhat as a victimized hero in the story. I do understand where he was the “clearinghouse” of clubhouse chemistry for the team….a role that would be missed after his trade. However, it also seems clear that he was in constant fear of being the odd man out, which turned out to be true.
–I would have liked to have read more about the Johnny Bench-Pete Rose relationship. May be no one would tell more; but there’s lots of hints of a symbiotic love-hate relationship that’s screaming for an explanation.
—Joe Morgan tells his story well and Posananski does a fine job in portraying Morgan’s role as the best player in baseball in the mid-1970’s and the impact he had on the team.
–The hardest part of the story for me to read was the interview with Pete Rose at the end of the book. Posnanski portrays Rose in a most feeble, almost sad view, as he makes his living promoting himself in Las Vegas as the Hit King. I agree with Posnanski’s views; in fact, as I finished reading the book, I felt that Posnanski’s orginal story was to be about Pete himself, and that the story morphed into being about Pete being the motor for “the machine” so Posnanski decided to included the whole ballclub in his telling of the story. It was somewhat of a dark ending to a well-told happy story about the 1975 championship season.
–I feel it necessary to warn you…this book is not for children. My 10-year-old son wants to read it and I won’t let him…the language is extremely crude and harsh. I was surprised at this; not that the language was used, but that it was used so liberally in the book. The words and phrases are written as quotes and they definitely make the scenes vivid and intense, but the language is extremely strong.
Obviously I found the book fascinating. I think you will, too.