Welcome back. Are you ready for Opening Day yet? Sent your Opening Day cards, put up your Opening Day tree, made your roster transaction list? Me too!

We’re close to the end of an exploration of each time a Red has appeared on the cover of the now-defunct Sports Illustrated. In case you’ve missed the others, here they are, although at this point I don’t think you deserve to catch up.

When I thought I could do them all in one post

The first time I noticed there was a conspiracy afoot to cover Johnny Bench’s face from every possible angle

The ’90 World Series

We’re so awesome we have our own series of spring training issues

With love from Marge

The One Where SI Made Me Do Math

The Kings of Crosley 

Pete in a Post

I expected to find the glut of Sport Illustrated attention clustered around the Big Red Machine, and I was not wrong– although as a team, the Machiners appeared on half as many covers as Pete Rose alone. (There’s a reason for that, and it’s not necessarily a good one.)

Some of these are covers scattered elsewhere in this series, but for the most part, we get the band back together here:

March 11, 1968. A little early, but the pieces were starting to assemble.

I don’t know about this catcher, you guys. Seems weak.

July 13, 1970. The return to the cover and the beginning of the great conspiracy to undermine Johnny Bench being awesome. They had no weapon against him. They tried to bring him down via unflattering camera angle. They would fail.

Again: March 13, 1972. Why so angry? Why is he always so angry?

October 20, 1975. I don’t know about you guys, but at this point I started to take it personally. Also I’d like to have a discussion with the copy editor about the apparent inability to find a better way to live life than “Tiant Beards the Reds.” (But then, “Bench Blocks the Sox,” so… everybody loses, I guess.)

November 3, 1975– Here’s our Johnny again, probably with a delightful expression, which is why we are made to look at his butt.

April 12, 1976. Have you heard of this guy Morgan?

October 11, 1976: Sometimes George Foster got to play, too. But this was the only cover for the year, when the Reds only swept the Yankees in the World Series, that’s all. Salty New Yorkers.

There was no Reds cover in 1977, when the Reds finished second. However, as this was the year I was born, I assume the world’s attention was otherwise occupied. Also George Foster was MVP in ’77 but I think we all know which event was more important here.

April 10, 1978– Foster again, but as it seemed the party was winding down at this point, he had to share with Rod Carew. The Reds finished in second place this year, too.

There was no SI cover in 1979, but there was one last push from these ol’ machiners. The Reds were back on top in the division, but lost to the friggin’ Pirates in the NCLS. It was an odd season… John McNamera was now the skipper, Rose had defected to the Phillies, and GM Bob Howsam was in retirement. He was replaced by Dick Wagner, who was by now really digging into the office, and we all know what became of that.

There was nothing left but the fire sale, but as Johnny Bench was still hanging around, Sports Illustrated didn’t dare provoke him from their front porch again.

He’d made his point.

15 Responses

  1. Oldtimer

    The Reds had the best W-L (%) record in MLB in 1981 but did not make the playoffs. That was the last gasp for the BRM. 66-42 (61%) record.

    1B Driessen/Bench 2B Oester SS Concepcion 3B Knight C Nolan (Joe, not Gary) OF Foster Griffey Collins P Seaver Soto Pastore Berenyi LaCoss and CL Hume RP Bair Price.

    • Mark Moore

      +50,000 for that memory. What a fiasco to shut them out. It was my HS senior year and I was so disappointed.

    • Melvin

      Yeah. History tells us the next year is when they lost 100 games after losing Foster, Collins, Griffey, and Knight for various reasons. To top it off Bench quit catching and started playing 3B which he couldn’t handle on a regular basis at that point in his career. Still though the 70s were a good time for the Reds and Sports Illustrated. Good series.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yep, the 81 season would have been a winner, but the split records stand as 2nd, which meant no playoffs– that’s what I was going by. 81 was such a weird year. I classify it with 2020 as “everybody just had their hands in the air.”

  2. LDS

    Wasn’t there an SI cover of Bench holding a bunch of baseballs in one hand? Maybe it was Sporting News. Who remembers? The BRM was a lot of fun. Despite having not been in the World Series for over 30 years, they are still riding that nine game World Series winning streak. Maybe somewhere down the line, they’ll get a chance to add to that. Sadly, won’t be this year.

    • Mike Adams

      May be wrong but I thought he held the same number in each hand, at least 5 times two

      • Oldtimer

        Bench held seven baseballs in his hand.

      • Mike Adams

        Oldtimer, you are correct.
        I googled “picture of Johnny Bench holding baseballs” and several photos of him holding 7 in one hand (his right) were shown

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I know exactly that picture! But what I found was that it wasn’t an SI photo– or if it was, it wasn’t a cover. Should’ve been, though.

  3. Mike Adams

    Thanks much for this series, Mary Beth. Brings back memories and reminds me that I ain’t no spring chicken no more. More like a pullet ready for frying!

  4. Mark Moore

    Great series, MBE!! That seep of the Stankees was very memorable since I was living in Upstate NY in the midst of their fans at the time.

    I’m ready for the 2024 season, warts and all.