John Erardi does it again today, with a short interview with former Reds great reliever, Wayne Granger:
The Reds’ acquisition of second baseman Joe Morgan before the 1972 season is regarded as the crowning glory of the late Reds’ general manager Bob Howsam, because it laid the groundwork for the speed-and-power of the Big Red Machine.
But the forerunner of that deal – and arguably the best deal Howsam made up until that time – was before the 1969 season. He traded an aging but still popular superstar, Vada Pinson, for center fielder Bobby Tolan and relief pitcher Wayne Granger from St. Louis.
if you ask most Reds fans older than 50 what they remember of Granger, they’d probably say for giving up a grand slam to Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dave McNally in the 1970 World Series, which the Reds lost 4 games to 1. It is the only time in World Series history that a pitcher has hit a grand slam. Even Granger brought up that pitch when he was asked what were his most indelible memories from his three years as a Red, all of them pitching for the late Reds manager Sparky Anderson.
“Sparky came out and said, ‘Throw strikes,’ and so I did,” recalled Granger. “It was a strike, all right, but it was probably the worst pitch in baseball history.”
“I gave up some game-winning home runs when I was here,” he recalled. “I probably cost us the pennant in ’69.”
The 1969 NL West race was one of the tightest in major league history. With only three weeks to go in the season, a mere two games separated five teams (Reds, Braves, Giants, Dodgers and Astros) in the six-team division.
“(On Sept. 19), I gave up a pinch-hit home run to a kid named Keith Lampard of Houston, and then I gave another one up – to Houston again – to Johnny Edwards,” he recalled. “Both of those home runs beat us . . . But overall I don’t think I have any bad memories of my time in Cincinnati. I loved playing here.”
On Sept. 8, 1969, he helped the Reds to two victories in one of the more remarkable doubleheaders in modern baseball history. It came against the San Francisco Giants at Crosley Field.
“(Reds manager Dave Bristol) brought me in the ninth inning of the first game with men on first and third, nobody out and we were one run ahead,” Granger recalled. “I got (Ken Henderson) on a short popup to left and (Ron Hunt) hit into a double play. Game over.”
In the second game, he went eight shutout innings for the victory, ending the top of the 15th with a flyout of Willie Mays and a groundout of Willie McCovey.
“Other pitchers complained of sore muscles,” Granger said, “but I didn’t have any muscles to get sore.”
The Reds’ Tolan won that second game with an RBI single in the 15th. It was good work by Granger against a lineup that also included Bobby Bonds and Jim Ray Hart. The two victories that day lifted the Reds into first place, a half-game up on the Giants.
But the Braves went 17-4 down the stretch and blew everybody away.
By the way: That home run by Lampard? It was his only home run in an 84-at-bat major league career.
Granger’s last game was June 25, 1976, at age 32.
By then, he had also played for Houston, the Yankees, the White Sox, Minnesota and Montreal. His top salary was $47,500 in 1973 with the Cardinals, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
I love interviews like this; wish we could provide them here on Redleg Nation, but don’t have access to the players…so I’ll just enjoy John’s stuff.