1984 Cincinnati Reds season

9 12 2010

At the end of the 1983 season, which saw the Reds finish the season in the cellar of the NL West, the Reds fired manager Russ Nixon. The way they hired their next manager was strange to say the least.

After being inspired by the many tributes to retiring Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski, the Boston radio show The Sports Huddle decided to do a satirical tribute to longtime baseball man Vern Rapp. Rapp planned to retire at the end of the season after five years as first-base coach of the Montreal Expos. On October 2, they proceeded with the spoof tribute to Rapp, including a bit where callers could pledge money to support Rapp’s retirement. They performed a song to the tune of “Bye Bye Birdie” called “Bye Bye Vern Rapp”.

However, a funny thing happened with the fake tribute. A St. Louis broadcaster called in and spoke admiringly of Rapp, who had spent years in the Cardinals organization and managed the team in the 70’s. They reached Rapp by phone, they performed and interview of a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization. Rapp had some history with the Reds as well, having managed in the farm system, and he had worked for Reds’ GM Bob Howsam during Howsam’s tenure in St. Louis. The Reds didn’t know Rapp was retiring, and Howsam called Rapp to discuss the managerial vacancy. On October 5, Rapp accepted the position – aided at least in part by the tribute.

The Reds had lost catcher Johnny Bench to retirement; Bench and Cesar Geronimo, who also retired from the Royals in 1983, were the first 2 members of the Big Red Machine to hang their cleats up. But they added another BRM-er to join Dave Concepcion; the club signed free agent first baseman Tony Perez prior to the 1984 season. Before the year ended, they’d add another. They also signed former MVP Dave Parker, who was coming off a downturn in production.

The team was more talented, and played .500 baseball for the first 2 months of the season. Ultimately, though, the team did not generate results; they finished second to last in the NL West and actually won 4 fewer game than the previous year. Mario Soto was again one of the best pitchers in the National League, and he was the team’s lone representative to the All-Star game. However, Soto showed a tendency to lose control of his temper. He was suspended twice curing the season; five games for shoving an umpire and attacking Cubs coach Don Zimmer in the same game, and 3 games for his part in an altercation with Claudell Washington where Soto threw a baseball into a crowd of Atlanta Braves players. Soto was still the Reds MVP – he went 18-7, leading the league for the second straight year with 13 CG.

In August, the Reds traded for former Cincy great Pete Rose after Rose had spent a half-season with the Expos. Due to the team’s poor performance, they fired Rapp and name Pete player-manager; Rose is still the last player-manager in the majors. The team played just under .500 ball for Rose, but the team had a selling point. Charlie Hustle continued his assault on the record book back where he’ started it, breaking Stan Musial’s National League record for doubles and ending the season with 4,097 hits, less than 100 behind the all-time record held by Ty Cobb.

Team MVP & Best Pitcher: Mario Soto (18-7/3.53/185, 13 CG)

All-Stars:

Soto

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