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  • The 1976 Cincinnati Reds: Last Hurrah for the Big Red Machine, and: Making the Big Red Machine: Bob Howsam and the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s
  • Alar Lipping
Doug Feldman . The 1976 Cincinnati Reds: Last Hurrah for the Big Red Machine. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. 266 pp. Paper, $35.00.
Daryl Smith . Making the Big Red Machine: Bob Howsam and the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. 349 pp. Paper, $35.00.

In 1919, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series in the infamous Black Sox scandal. The Reds would appear again in the World Series in 1939, only to lose to the New York Yankees, and in 1940 the Reds won the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. In the 1961 World Series, the Reds lost to the Yankees. During the 1990 baseball campaign, the Reds went wire to wire and swept the Oakland A's in the fall classic. However, it was in the 1970s that the Cincinnati Reds established a dynasty. The Reds participated in four World Series during the decade, winning in 1975 and 1976. Two accounts, The 1976 Cincinnati Reds, by Doug Feldmann, and Making the Big Red Machine: Bob Howsam and the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s, by Daryl Smith, provide insight into the Cincinnati Reds' dominance during the 1970s.

On January 22, 1967, the Cincinnati Reds announced that Bob Howsam was hired as the team's general manager. During Howsam's tenure, the Cincinnati Reds emerged as a successful enterprise. Smith acknowledges that his biographical [End Page 135] treatment of Howsam "is first and foremost intended to be a baseball story. It is also full of leadership principles" (3). Howsam's experience with professional sport began in his native Colorado when at the age of thirty he purchased the Denver Bears for seventy-five thousand dollars in 1947. In 1950, the Denver Bears became an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During this period, Howsam became associated with Branch Rickey, who came to the Pirates in 1950 after leaving the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey took Howsam under his wing and became Howsam's mentor. In 1959, Howsam and Rickey joined reform-minded baseball owners to form the Continental League. The new league was intended to provide professional baseball in new markets such as Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, and Dallas, but the Continental League folded.

Howsam moved on to establish professional football in Denver as the American Football League got underway for the 1960 season, while Rickey was hired as a senior consultant by Cardinals owner August Busch Jr. in 1962. In May 1964, Busch fired Bing Devine as the general manager of the Cardinals, and Howsam was hired to replace him. Howsam had positioned himself to implement the organizational leadership skills that he learned from his mentor, Branch Rickey.

Howsam articulated four major objectives that needed to be exhibited in the front office: scouting talent, developing players, managing promotions such as marketing and public relations, and overseeing baseball operations, including the manager and the team's players. The goals and objectives that Howsam espoused as he assumed the general manager position of the Reds were to address the needs of fans: to produce a good team, to provide a clean ballpark, and to provide friendly service at a fair price. Indeed, Smith's treatment of Howsam is a baseball story, but there are clear articulations of leadership principles in player development and marketing the team. Dick Wagner was perhaps the most controversial hire during Howsam's administration (43-45). Wagner would eventually succeed Howsam in 1978, and the impact is covered in the concluding chapter entitled "The Machine Stops Running" along with the epilogue. The transition would have a significant impact on the decline of the Reds during the 1980s.

Feldmann's The 1976 Cincinnati Reds: Last Hurrah for the Big Red Machine reviews specific details about the front-office decisions on trades, draft picks, and player development that culminated in the Reds' dominance in the 1970s. Feldmann takes an effective approach to present his topic within the context of baseball's social and economic changes—specifically, player and owner relations that resulted in the 1972 player strike; Catfish Hunter's...