June 30, 1975: On this day, Johnny Bench clubs a 12th-inning three-run home run to beat the Houston Astros, 9-6, in Cincinnati. Bench’s homer marked the third game within four days that the Reds won a game on an extra inning home run. It was the kind of weekend that sparks legends and makes every small kid dream of winning the big game with the home run, and the Reds made it look easy.
The extra inning heroics began on Friday, June 27. The Reds are playing the San Diego Padres in Riverfront Stadium and are trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Reds manager Sparky Anderson has decided to start his ace reliever Clay Carroll, an unusual move to us today, but something Sparky would do 2-5 times a year for the Hawk. Carroll had pitched three innings to start, Fred Norman had pitched four innings in relief, and Pedro Borbon was now holding the fort for the Reds, soon to be replaced by lefty Will McEnaney. Dave Freisleben had gone the distance for the Padres when Joe Morgan led off the Reds’ half of the eighth with a home run to tie the game with the game eventually going in to extra innings. The Padres’ Danny Frisella was pitching in relief and had retired the first two Reds hitters to start the 12th when Morgan singled to right field and promptly stole second base. Johnny Bench was intentionally walked, and Dan Driessen followed with his second home run of the year to give the Reds a 5-2 victory.
The Reds and Padres played again the next night and the game was tied 3-3 through seven. The Padres took the lead when they pushed across a run in the top of the eighth on a sacrifice fly by pitcher Joe McIntosh, scoring shortstop Enzo Hernandez. The Reds tied the game in the eighth when Morgan beat out an infield hit to the left of McIntosh and then stole second base. Driessen singled to center to score Morgan to tie the game before a scoreless a ninth inning sent the game into extra innings. The Padres threatened in the top of the tenth when pinch hitter Dick Sharon reached on a one-out single to center field. One-out later, Tito Fuentes doubled into the left center field gap and Sharon was sent to the plate only to be thrown out at home following a throw from Cesar Geronimo and a relay from Dave Concepcion. The Reds won it in the bottom of the tenth when Morgan drew a one-out walk and (again) stole second base. Bench fouled out and the Padres called on pitcher Bill Greif to replace Dave Tomlin to pitch to George Foster. Foster greeted Greif with a game winning home run to provide the Reds a 6-4 winning margin, their second consecutive game won with an extra inning home run.
The Reds and Padres split an “uneventful” doubleheader on Sunday, June 29. The Reds won the first game, 4-1, with Jack Billingham pitching 8 2/3 innings before McEnaney came on to retire potential-tying run Bobby Tolan (with two runners on base) on a foul popup to end the game. The Reds had scored all their runs on home runs off the bats of Morgan, Foster, and Merv Rettenmund. The Padres won the nightcap, 4-3, after the Reds had closed the gap to one-run in the eighth on a two-run homer by Foster, ending the the Reds’ seven game winning streak.
The Astros came to town on Monday and were leading the Reds 6-2 through the middle of the eighth inning. Concepcion led off with a single, but was forced at second base by Foster. Ed Armbrister delivered a pinch single, and Pete Rose had a bunt single to load the bases with one out. Ken Griffey, Sr., then cleared the bases with a triple to left field, bringing the Reds within one, 6-5. Griffey was thrown out at home (first base to pitcher according to the play-by-play) on a grounder by Morgan before Bench grounded out to end the threat. The Reds tied it in the ninth when pinch hitter Bill Plummer scored Driessen on a sacrifice fly. The Reds won it in the 12th when Griffey doubled with two outs. Morgan was intentionally walked, and Bench followed with the three-run homer giving the Reds a 9-6 victory. It was the third game within four days that the Reds had won an extra inning game with a walk-off home run.
The next night, July 1st, the Reds-Astros played another extra inning game. Late heroics also won this game for the Reds. Trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Morgan homered to make the score 7-4. Foster opened the Reds half of the ninth with a single, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Rettenmund walked and Geronimo greeted reliever Ken Forsch with a double down the left field line, scoring Foster with Rettenmund stopping at third. Rose walked to load the bases, and Griffey scored Rettenmund with a sacrifice fly. Geronimo moved to third on the play with the Reds now trailing 7-6. Morgan walked to reload the bases, and Bench greeted another reliever, former Reds closer Wayne Granger, with the Reds’ second sacrifice fly of the evening to tie the score at 7-7. The Reds won it in the 15th when Rose drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a single by Griffey. Morgan singled to center to score Rose, and the Reds had their won their fourth extra inning game in their last at bat within five days.
The Reds won the next day in their usual way: a three-run sixth inning homer from Foster to erase a 3-1 Astros lead with Rawly Eastwick pitching four innings of relief shutout baseball to win the game.
Thus the legend of the Big Red Machine…and you may have noticed, everyone seemed to contribute.