When comparing the 1929 Athletics to the greatest teams of all-time, we started with the 1927 Yankees. A close second has to be the offensive juggernaut known as “The Big Red Machine”. The 1976 Cincinnati Reds are thought of as one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Just like the Yankees of 1927, the ’76 Reds are one of those teams that every great team of this generation gets compared too. With that said lets do some comparison once again using our 1929 Philadelphia Athletics.
The 1976 Cincinnati Reds were very potent offensively, featuring the bats of Ken Griffey Sr., Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench. Although they were the big names that every one remembers none of them led the team in homeruns or RBIs. A man by the name of George Foster was the team’s biggest power bat and run producer with 29 homeruns and 121 RBIs. Foster was a career journey man who had a dominant run with the Reds from 1975 to 1981 that included one MVP award and two other seasons where he was the top 3 in votes received. All and all, even with Johnny Bench having the worst statistical season of his career the Reds still had impressive offensive numbers. Sporting a .295 team batting average with an average of 14.75 homeruns, 81.5 RBI’s and 68.75 walks.
Mostly remembered for offense, few people ever talk about pitching when discussing the Big Red Machine. Led by work horses Gary Nolan and Pat Zachry the 1976 Reds staff did not have a single starter with a losing record. The most important job for a Reds starter was to keep the team in the game and get the ball in the hands of their closer Rawly Eastwick. With Nolan and Zachry both pitching 200+ innings a piece and guys like Fred Norman and Jack Billingham not to far behind them with 180.1 and 177 inning respectively, the Reds managed to get the ball in Eastwick’s hands for 71 appearances. With those 71 appearances only came 26 saves; but nevertheless, he shut teams down with an impressive 2.09 ERA. The Reds staff had 12.8 wins over 186.44 innings with a 3.66 ERA and a rather surprising 105 strikeouts.
The Philadelphia A’s were not exactly known for their ability to hit the ball. Because of this big time players like Jimmie Foxx tend to get forgotten. People also forget that the ’29 Athletics might have assembled on of the best outfields in the history of baseball made up of Al Simmons, Bing Miller and Mule Haas; all of them had batting averages over .300 and knocked in 80+ RBI’s. Miller also led the team in steals with 24. Another stand out performer rarely remembered is Jimmy Dykes. Dykes played most of his 21 year career with the Athletics, primarily at first base. In 1928, Dykes was moved to the bench to make room for young star Jimmie Foxx. Even without a guaranteed spot in the lineup, Dykes and the Athletics were not willing to part ways. Over the course of the season he showed his versatility – making appearances at first, second and third base while batting .327 with 13 homeruns and 79 RBIs. Although Dykes didn’t factor into our scoring (starters only), the A’s overall put up a .307 average with 13 homeruns, 83.5 RBI’s and 55.6 walks.
A’s pitching in the ’29 season was plagued with injury. While bolstered by Lefty Grove, guys like Bill Shores and Eddie Rommel stepped up at the back of the rotation filling in for Howard Ehmke who was originally slated as the fifth starter that season. Rommel and Shores combined only started 19 games but were key contributors with a grand total of 71 appearances and 266 and a third innings pitched between the two. Overall the A’s pitchers had 16.8 wins with a 3.45 ERA, 221.94 innings and 100.6 strikeouts. In the end the Athletics find themselves in the win column with a 5-3 victory in categories over the Reds. While close throughout, A’s pitching came up big taking three of the four categories.
With all of that said do you believe the 1929 Athletics are one of the greatest teams ever? Be sure to look out for the next part in our series featuring the 1970 Baltimore Orioles.