How Do Famous Careers End?

Recent conversations about Joey Votto’s baseball future have made me think about the career endings of other fabled Cincinnati Reds players.

This post germinated when I read a comment here on Redleg Nation about Barry Larkin playing out his contract in 2004 and walking away from being an active player without fanfare after 18 seasons. That brought to mind that the man Larkin eventually succeeded as the long term Reds shortstop, Dave Concepcion, also just finished his contract and walked away at the conclusion of his age 40 season in 1988 after 19 seasons with the Reds.

Larkin and Concepcion provided nearly 40 years of the best shortstop play in Reds history. Both were key cogs on Reds World Championship teams. Yet neither was given an official send off despite being a career long Reds player. This sent me wondering how the careers of Concepcion’s other seven fellow members of the  1970’s Big Red Machine Great Eight ended.

Meet The Big Red Machine Great Eight

The players known as the Reds Big Red Machine Great Eight were the position starters on the Reds 1975-76 back to back World Series Champion teams. In addition, 6 of the 8 were regulars on the 1972 Reds team which lost a classic 7-game World Series to the Oakland A’s (* after their names). Of these six, all but Joe Morgan and César Gerónimo were also regulars on the 1970 Reds team which lost a 5 game World Series to the Orioles. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Great Eight.

Johnny Bench* C

Tony Pérez* 1B

Joe Morgan* 2B

Dave Concepción* SS

Pete Rose* 3B

George Foster LF

César Gerónimo* CF

Ken Griffey RF

Reds Always and Forever

Davey Concepción and Johnny Bench were the only two members of the Great Eight to play their entire MLB career with the Reds.

We’ve already spoken of Davey’s quiet 1988 retirement above.

Bench announced his retirement during his final season, 1983, at age 35. After 17 seasons with the Reds, Bench said it was time to quit because he couldn’t do the things he needed to do to continue playing. The Reds scheduled an official Johnny Bench day near the end of the season. Bench gave the crowd on his day one final reminder of his once greatness by hitting a home run.

Winding Roads Lead Back Home

Two more Great Eight players, Tony Perez and Pete Rose, left the Reds but subsequently returned and retired as Reds.

Tony Pérez

Pérez was infamously traded away after the 1976 World Series to clear the 1B position for young Dan Driessen who had starred as DH in the Reds 4 game series sweep. After stints with Montreal and Philadelphia where he played in the 1983 World Series, Pérez returned to the Reds in 1984. Tony’s retirement was announced during his final season in 1986, his age 44 season. He was given an official send off day by the Reds as had been done for Bench in 1983.

Pete Rose

Pete Rose left the Reds as a free agent following the 1977 season.  Rose signed with the Phillies and played in both an additional winning and losing World Series in Philadelphia. He then moved on to Montreal from where he returned to the Reds as playing manager during the 1984 season.

While still the Reds playing manager in 1986, his age 45 season, Rose chose the quiet path to retirement. He dropped himself from the everyday lineup in mid July.  Several weeks later Rose quit calling his own number as a sub and part time starter. Through to the season’s end, he declined to answer media questions about his status despite still being on the active Reds players’ roster. After the season ended, the Reds announced Rose had filed the required paperwork to be moved to what was then called the Reserve List.

Perhaps Rose chose this route to avoid casting his shadow on Pérez’s previously announced retirement?

Family Ties Stronger Than Team Ties

Another member of the Great Eight, Ken Griffey Sr, also found his way back to the Reds late in his career. However his career ended in Seattle at age 41 playing alongside his son in 1991.

Griffey had been traded by the Reds to the Yankees in November of 1981 on the eve of achieving free agency.  He also played for the Braves before returning for his Reds encore. However, Griffey’s only postseason action came with the Reds.

Not All Roads Lead Back Home

Joe Morgan, George Foster, and Cesar Geronimo never made it back to the Reds for a playing encore or grand departure. Nevertheless, all three have been prominent in Reds recognition activities through out the ensuing decades. Let’s see how their careers wound down after they left the Reds,

Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan departed from the Reds as a free agent following the 1979 season. Morgan retired at age 40 after spending the 1984 season back in his native area with the Oakland A’s. His retirement followed a reunion and another World Series appearance in 1983 with Pete Rose and Tony Pérez on the Phillies. The Phillies lost that Series to the Orioles. Ironically, a matching 4-1 World Series Orioles victory over the Reds in 1970 had set in motion the events leading to Morgan joining the Reds in 1972.

Joe is the only member of the Great Eight no longer among us having left this realm at the age of 77 in October of 2020.

George Foster

George Foster’s tenure with Reds ended in February of 1982. He was sent to the Mets in a trade ahead of his free agency season. Do you recognize the names, Greg Harris, Jim Kern, and Alex Trevino? I recalled 2 of 3 names as one time Reds; but not that they came to the Reds for Foster. George called it a career at age 37 following the 1986 season he split between the Mets and White Sox. The statistical records say Foster never made it back to the postseason after leaving Cincinnati.

César Gerónimo

César Gerónimo finished as a player at age 35 in 1983 after spending 3 seasons with the KC Royals upon leaving the Reds in January of 1981 in a trade for German Barranca. Geronimo did not reach the postseason with KC.

And In The End….

Hopefully we all have memories like those inspired by these eight guys to help us along  our way through our own lives. Thank you for your time.

36 Responses

  1. Redlegs1869

    Jim-thanks for the trip down memory lane, recounting how the greatest Reds of all time wound down their careers. Nicely done.

      • doofus

        What a long strange trip it’s been!

      • doofus

        JW you hit it out of Riverfront (cleared the 404 mark in CF) for a Grand Slam with these words!

      • doofus

        Hmmm? Seems like we should celebrate our own, like other top notch organizations do?!!!

  2. DataDumpster

    Excellent post, Jim. Fine way to bookend the season with your diligent research. With the Great 8, I remember most of it but am always amenable to more of it. Perhaps the Atlanta Braves could make a run to challenge the BRM historical offensive dominance of a team that relies substantially on “their 8 guys” being in the lineup almost every day but that is still a tall order to achieve. Nearly 50 years later, the BRM still stand as the NL best for sure and probably the greatest offensive show in all of the MLB since then.

    • Jim Walker

      Thanks and also thanks to my editor, aka Doug, for subbing in Great Eight over “Regular Eight” which is what we called them back in the day before they became clearly established as the Great Eight. 😉

  3. doctorrockett

    Coincidentally, I read an article on regarding the Great Eight and found this quotable piece of interest: “ But on those comparatively rare occasions when the Great Eight were in the same lineup, the results were devastating for the opposition. When postseason games are added to the regular season total, the Great Eight started a total of 80 games together in 1975 and 1976. The Reds record in those games was an astonishing 64-16, an .800 winning percentage that projected over a 162 game schedule produces a record of 130-32.”

    • Jim Walker

      Yes I saw this but wanted to talk about individuals’ journeys here.

      The thing about substitution with the 1970s BRM is that the core was so deep and Sparky Anderson so subtle in slipping subs in and tout that they were hardly noticed.

      One of Sparky’s axioms was that his subs were good enough not be noticed when he put them in the lineup but if he left them in too long at a stretch, they would “remind” people why they were subs. 😉 Can you imagine David Bell saying such a thing today about his part timers/ platooners?

  4. LDS

    That was a team. I was in college for the Reds-RedSox series in 75 and remember the “rich kid” next door in the dorm throwing his color TV out the window after the Fisk homerun. He had another TV for game 7. I hope Votto has the dignity to bow out this off season.

    And obviously, the Reds need Miami & CHicago to both lose today. 1GB in the loss column with 3 to play is possible, 2 likely not. And it still likely requires a sweep of StL in StL.

    • RedsMonk65

      Ha — great story! And color TVs weren’t so cheap back then.

      • LDS

        Nope . But his family was loaded, as he pointed out all too frequently, especially to those of us who weren’t

  5. Mark Moore

    A list worthy of statues on Mount Adams, no?

    Thanks for this, Jim. +250,000 for the work you put in on the piece and just for the back-and-forth in general all season. It’s been a wild ride.

    • Jim Walker

      Thank You Mark and sorry I bury some of my attempts at sports truisms in OSU football and CBJ hockey.

  6. MK

    Not completely true about Concepcion as after his Reds contract expired he signed with the Angels and tried to make their club the following spring, unsuccessfully. There was even a Dave Concepcion m, Angels Topps baseball card that year.

    • Jim Walker

      oops! That’s a new for me. I wasn’t following the Reds day to day at that time; but, I cross-checked my memory against BBRef and saw he had no other MLB appearances which squared with what I recalled.

      I do recall some late season jostling in 1988 with Davey quoted as saying that 20 years with the Reds would be nice’ and, he would give it a shot if they offered him a contract. However, he wasn’t going to beg for it.

      Regardless, he did only appear as a Reds player in MLB.

      • Jim Walker

        Thanks for the LAT link. I guess it was a mutual parting of the ways based on Rose’s comments in that article.

        I have read elsewhere that dating back to before Rose himself retired that he seemed obsessed with whether Concepcion was “losing it”. Reds players/ coaches at time have said that Rose kept asking folks if they saw slippage in DC’s game and saying that he had seen people “lose it” literally overnight.

        Meanwhile, at least some of these people admitted that at the time Rose was asking these questions they were thinking the same about him as he wondered about DC.

  7. Rob

    Between his stints in Montreal and Philadelphia, Pérez also played three seasons with the Red Sox.

    • RedsMonk65

      Yes, he did. I remember that as well. Perez was my favorite player.

    • Jim Walker

      Yes, Tony did play with the Red Sox; and, Joe (Morgan) played for the Astros and Giants (actually winning the 2B Silver Slugger award with them in 1982) before he reunited with Perez and Rose in Philadelphia in 1983 to play in his 4th World Series.

      In the interest of brevity, I wanted to include how folks left the Reds with their first stop or any high points away from the Reds.

  8. RedsMonk65

    Thanks, Jim.

    In a way, we Reds fans were spoiled in the 1970s, or at least I was. I attended my first MLB game (age 8) in October 1973 — the classic Reds-Mets game in the NLCS when Pete Rose and Johnny Bench quickly dismantled an otherwise dominating performance by Tom Seaver in the 8th and 9th innings. From that moment, I was hooked.

    The Reds were so dominating in that decade, I just assumed (naively) that that’s the way it would always be. Then came the 80s….. and, well, you know the rest. Few teams (perhaps some of the Yankees of lore) have put together such a 10-year run. A brief synopsis:

    1970 — World Series (lost)
    1971 — Losing record, no playoffs
    1972 — World Series (lost)
    1973 — NLCS (lost)
    1974 — No playoffs — despite winning 98 games!
    1975 — World Series (won)
    1976 — World Series (won)
    1977 — Winning record, no playoffs
    1978 — Winning record, no playoffs
    1979 — NLCS (lost)

    From 1970 through 1976, especially, the Reds were IT. Must-see TV, as they say. Can you imagine FOUR World Series appearances in a seven-year span? In recent years, only the Astros have achieved that (and they cheated!).

    Doesn’t make up for the collective misery of the last 30-plus years, but still, THOSE WERE THE DAYS. And, yes, we were spoiled by them! May there be even better days ahead….

    • Jim Walker

      Thanks and a good reprise of “the team of the 1970’s” 😉

      Generations of Reds fans have been so beaten down that they are relieved by mediocrity and accept it as a step up from even worse. It is the job of those of us who recall better times to never let it be forgotten that things don’t have to be like they have been for all but a brief handful of the past 30 years

      • Daytonnati

        Great post, Jim. My older brother became a fan of Reds in the mid to late 50s. I came online in the 60s (first game at Crosley, July, 1962 – Houston Colt .45s). I remember him telling me over and over during the Big Red Machine era, “Don’t take this for granted.” And his other line, I well remember was “Finally, WE are the Yankees!”

    • RedsFanInFL

      Reds and Dodgers were a great rivalry during the 70s. Unfortunately, the 2 best NL teams happened to be in the same division. 3 times Reds were 2nd in NL west (74, 77, 78) the Dodgers won the division and NL pennant. 7 of the 10 years either Reds or Dodgers represented the national league in the WS including 5 straight years (1974-1978). Imagine having a wild card teams during the 70s – Reds would’ve been the playoffs every year other than 1971

  9. doofus

    Nice ride down memory lane.

    I am reminded about the number of games and innings pitched by Clay Carroll, Pedro Borbon, Rawly Eastwick, Will McEnaney, Tom Hall, et al during the BRM days. Remembering that Captain “Hook” was the manager.

    Whenever I read comments/concerns about how many games/innings this season’s bullpen pitchers have pitched, I think back to the BRM’s bullpen pitchers and chuckle.

    • Jim Walker

      Pedro was one of those “rubber arm” guys who seemed like he could always go. And if his pitches didn’t get you, his voodoo might get the job done 😉

  10. Rob

    It’s always great to reminisce about the Big Red Machine era, but whenever I do, I end up thinking about this:

    The 1970s Reds made the playoffs six times — that’s six in 10 seasons. It took more than four times that many seasons — 41 (or 40 if you exclude 1994) — for the Reds to make the playoffs another six times. Other than 1990, there’s been very little to reminisce about since the 1970s.

    When the Reds beat the Red Sox in 1975, I was 22 and just out of college. Today I’m 70 and five years retired. It’s been a long, long stretch of mostly unmemorable Reds seasons.

    Maybe this young bunch of current Reds can give us something to reminisce about some day. And hopefully I can live long enough to do so.

  11. Votto4life

    The best team ever. So grateful I had the opportunity to watch them play.

  12. Old timer

    Thank you, Jim. It’s a memorable article. In 1975 I was ten years old and became hooked up with the BRM while living in the same state as Davey Concepcion in Venezuela.I live in Baltimore now but it is hard for me to find people who remember and admire the Great Eight as we do in this comment list.

  13. Rednat

    thanks Jim for the trip down memory lane.
    I always said Davey was the most underrated player of the great 8
    i felt he really improved his offense as his career progressed. next to Perez, I say he was the best clutch hitter on the team. I AM SURE THERE ARE STATS TO DISPUTE this but it seemed like when the game was on the line he always came through with the big hit. ( just think of Soto’s near no hitter in 85, Davey drove in the winning run)
    He made the early 80’s at least watchable as a reds fan.
    he was the antithesis to Joey in a way. Concepcion was a great short stop that could hit as well and Joey was a great hitter that could play first base well.
    i feel they both need to be in the hall for good citizenship at least

    • Daytonnati

      Roger Angell, the legendary baseball writer, also felt Davey Concepcion was the underrated, necessary cog in the machine. In his book, “Five Seasons” he identified Concepcion as an defensive innovator at shortstop and the inventor of the one-hop throw on to first base on the artificial surfaces – which accelerates the speed of ball.

  14. Rick

    Good stuff JW, as always. You are one of favorite posters along with Melvin, Mark Moore, VRFan, RandyChatt, Redvol, LDS and OS. Sorry if I forgot any from my top favoite posters.
    I had a bunch of favorites from the Reds big 8. Pressed to pick one was Johnny Bench. I loved Joe Morgan, Started with Rose as I was 8 and his doubled card with Helms. I liked Morgan, Perez, Davey Concepcion, Foster 6 total Championship Rings. I thought I was getting old seeing my legends retiring! I was 28! Still pooping green!!

  15. Fanman

    Thanks Jim for good article! My earliest memory was 1972 against the A’s. I was 7. In 1973, I cried when Reds lost in playoffs to the Mets. 1974 started my best memories listening to Marty and Joe. Like poetry in motion. Marty painting an indelible image of events, describing in detail the play on the field..

    • Jim Walker

      Thank you and I agree about Marty and Joe; but, I had about a 15 year head start on you. I was at the infamous Friday night triple play4-3 loss at Crosley Field by the Reds to the Phillies on Oct 2, 1964. I was already too old to cry over baseball and much too upset to laugh about it, even today 59 years later 😉