The eighth post in Red Reporter's count down of the 10 Greatest Moments in Reds All Star History. This is my attempt to rank the most memorable and exciting moments relevant to the Cincinnati Reds in the history of the Mid-Summer Classic.
July 25, 1972
In middle of 1972, Reds fans didn't yet know how big the trade that sent Joe Morgan (and Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo and Denis Menke) to Cincinnati in exchange for Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart would be. They did know that Jane Fonda had sat on top of a Vietnamese AA gun, that George McGovern would be the Democratic nominee for President - and they were starting to get a better idea of the bright future ahead.
Lee May was having a good season in Houston, slashing .287/.353/.525 at the break to join Morgan on the NL All Star team. Unbeknownst at the time, Morgan was mounting the first season in his ascent to a peak arguably unrivaled by any Red and only an elite group of players in MLB history. He held a .293/.428/.454 line at the break, playing a slick second base and on his way to digging out 58 stolen bases.
Morgan broke into the game at age 19 with the Colt .45s and was a two-time All Star when he was traded to Cincinnati. For his third appearances, he joined teammates Johnny Bench, Gary Nolan and future fellow Reds employee, current bench coach Chris Speier. The '72 vintage was held at the thoughfully-named Atlanta Stadium and featured an especially potent 1-2-3-4-5 punch in the NL order: Mogan, Mays, Aaron, Stargell, Bench.
Morgan was quiet in his first three at bats against Jim Palmer and Mickey Lolich. In the 8th inning, he had a chance to show off the patience and speed that made him such a deadly leadoff hitter, drawing a walk from Wilbur Wood and stealing second base. He was stranded there and the NL trailed 3-2 heading into the 9th. In a somewhat interesting twist of fate, Trade Partner Lee May tied the game in the NL half of the Ninth on an RBI ground-out. Ron Santo grounded into a double-play to send the game into the dreaded All Star Extras.
Possibly because he was already recognized as an irrepressible force, Morgan stayed in the entire game and was the only player to make 5 plate appearances. It would be the last one that mattered. Tug McGraw put down the AL Stars, incuding Lou Pinella, in order in the top of the 10th. The crowd, baked in the Atlanta swelter for 9.5 innings, grew restless (probably).
Dave McNally walked Nate Colbert to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Chris Speier, sensing that Astral bond between two people who would later be affiliated with the same organization, moved Colbert to second with a sacrifice. That brought up Morgan for the fifth and final time. He smacked a single to right center field to bring in Colbert and mercifully end the game before putting his magical mid-1970s peak in hypothetical Jeopardy. Seven more All Star appearances, two MVP awards and two rings were just over the horizon.