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Winter Break's Over - RR Book Club Returns for More Machine

Pete Rose sliding into Xenon?  Sounds dangerous.
Pete Rose sliding into Xenon? Sounds dangerous.

The You Mark My Words and Genius chapters cover the '75 season from May 18 to July 28.  The BRM steamrolled the league during that stretch, shaking off a sluggish start that found them 4.5 games behind LA on May 18 to build an insurmountable 13.5 game lead on July 28.  

Mostly everything went right for the Reds while they went 47-17 during that period, but the injury to Don Gullett could have taken the wind out of their sales.  Gullett was from Lynn, Ky., and was regarded as a can't-miss.  Reds scout Cliff Alexander noted in his report: "Better at 18 than Koufax."   Gullett was in the bigs at 19 in 1970 and pitched 217.7 innings the following year with a 2.65 ERA, leading the league in W-L%.  While he did not improve on that the next few seasons, he was off to great start in 1975.  After pitching a shutout in St. Louis against an aging Bob Gibson on May 31, Sparky gushed "He's the best there is.  The very best there is."  

Gullett was pitching another gem on June 16 against Atlanta.  With the Reds up 9 -1 after eight innings, Sparky let Gullett go back out in the 9th to finish the job.  Sparky may have been known as Captain Hook, but this was still 1975.  One in five games were completed by starters then, compared to about one in forty now.  Naturally, a Brave lined a ball off of Gullet's thumb in the 9th.  The injury knocked Gullett out for two months.  Hard to blame Sparky for a line drive to the thumb, but I wonder how Gullett's health may have been managed better in general.  Maybe a more stable role would have helped.  He started 31 games in 1971 but then split the following two years between the rotation and the bullpen (in '73, he started 30 games and relieved an additional 15). 

Even with the injuries Gullet had productive if somewhat shortened seasons in '75 and '76.  After helping the Reds sweep the Yankees in the '76 WS he signed with them as a free agent, the first Red (I believe) to leave via free agency.  Posnanski provides a helpful history of free agency, which officially started after 1976 and would triple the average salary by the end of the decade.  GM Bob Howsam predicted "things will never be the same," and he was right.  

The Machine is also full of vignettes discussing current events and pop culture.  Imagine that, baseball talk devolving into pop culture quips.  Anyways, I appreciated the section on Jaws:  

A movie had never quite taken over America like this one ... but then, a movie had never before opened up in 409 movie theaters around the country simultaneously.  It was the first summer blockbuster in Hollywood history.   

Avatar recently opened in 3,452 theaters, to give you some modern perspective.  But as Posnanski describes, Jaws was an undeniable machine in its own right.  The movie appeared on the cover of Time.  Newspaper writers frequently wrote two reviews - one of the movie, and one of the audience's reaction.  It occupied America's consciousness like few films before or since.  After scoring the game-winning run against Houston on June 21, a reporter asked Pete if he had seen Jaws yet.  "I am Jaws," he replied.