this post covers the 1976 cincinnati reds and cards numbered 127 to 135 in the set. here are the fronts:
what team is this?: the back-to-back world champion 1976 cincinnati reds
why this team?: the 1976 reds successfully defended their title by beating the yankees in the world series. they won 102 games in the regular season, and were a perfect 7-0 in the postseason.
which players are featured?: pedro borbon, dave concepcion, don gullett, george foster, joe morgan, johnny bench, ken griffey sr, rawly eastwick, and tony perez.
why these players?: let's see what these guys did in 1976.
pedro borbon pitched in 69 games for the reds during the regular season. he was 4-3 with 8 saves and a 3.35 era in those appearances. he pitched in 2 games during the nlcs, earning a 4-inning save in game 1 and retiring the only batter he faced in game 2. in the world series, borbon pitched only in game 1, closing out the reds' victory with a perfect 1.2 innings of work.
dave concepcion won his third gold glove and started at shortstop for the nl all-star team for the second year in a row in 1976. he was solid at the plate, too, putting up a slash line of 9/69/.281 with 74 runs scored. concepcion scored 4 runs in the nlcs and hit .357 with 3 rbi in the world series.
don gullett was 11-3 with a 3.00 era for the reds in 1976. he started 20 games and relieved in three others, earning a save in one of his relief appearances. he won each of his postseason starts - one in each series - and shut the yankees down in game 1 of the world series by allowing just one run in 7.1 innings of work. the bronx bombers must have liked what they saw, because they signed gullett to a free agent deal later in the fall.
george foster finished second to teammate joe morgan in the 1976 nl mvp vote. he hit 29 home runs and led the league with 121 rbi. he was voted to the all-star team for the first time, and his 3 rbi in the game earned him mvp honors. he hit just .167 in the nlcs against the phillies, but both of his hits were home runs. then, in the world series, he was held homerless, but hit .429 in the four games.
joe morgan's 1976 season saw him become the back-to-back nl mvp award winner thanks in large part to his .444 obp and .576 slugging percentage, both of which led the league. he also drove in 111 runs (the only time in his career he topped 100) and stole 60 bases. in the postseason, morgan was held hitless in the nlcs but hit .333 in the world series.
johnny bench had a memorable moment in 1976, apparently, but i am pretty sure it wasn't during the regular season. bench was able to stretch his string of consecutive gold gloves and all-star game appearances to 9, but he hit just .234 on the season. his home run total dropped to just 16, the fewest since his 1968 rookie season, and he drove in only 74 runs despite playing in 135 games. he did steal a career high 13 bases, though. still, upper deck is right - bench's display in game 4 of the world series against the yankees was an awesome display. overall, he was 8 for 15 with a double, a triple, 2 home runs and 6 rbi in the four game series with a whopping 1.667 ops, earning the series mvp award. in game 4 alone, bench hit both of his home runs and drove in 5 of his 6 runs as the reds finished their sweep of the yankees in new york.
ken griffey sr was the right fielder for the big red machine, so it's nice to see him appear in the set with this team. in 1976, griffey hit .336, just .003 points behind league leader bill madlock. he scored 111 runs and stole 34 bases. griffey made the all-star team for the first time, and finished 8th in the league mvp vote. while he hit .385 in the nlcs, griffey was just 1 for 17 (.059) in the world series.
rawly eastwick's 26 saves in 1976 allowed him to lead the league in saves for the second year in a row. he pitched in 71 games and had a record of 11-5 with a 2.05 era. he finished 5th in the cy young voting and even earned some mvp votes as well. he got the victory in game 3 of the nlcs against the phillies, but he didn't pitch remarkably well in that game or his other nlcs appearance that year. eastwick did not pitch in the world series against the yankees.
tony perez went 19/91/.260 in what turned out to be his last season in cincinnati for a while. he made the all-star team and was 5 for 16 with a double in the world series against the yankees.
the stadium on the back is...?: that's riverfront stadium, home to the reds from 1970 through 2002.
did upper deck get it right?: i was a little surprised that the reds are the only team from 1976 to be featured in the set. the other playoff teams - the phillies, royals, and yankees - would all have made sense, especially the phillies and yankees as they have other teams in the set. but, if you are only going to choose one team, it makes sense to pick the champion.
pete rose and cesar geronimo are still missing, and gary nolan would have made sense, too, but the addition of ken griffey kind of makes up for some of that. otherwise, the players upper deck chose are a good representation of the team.
as for the photos, only pedro borbon's is obviously not from 1976. his uniform tells us that the photo is from 1970 or 1971. even though the uniforms match the year in the other photos, i still suspect that don gullett's photo and tony perez's photo are definitely from other years. gullett's looks like it is from earlier in the decade, and as for tony perez, i would guess that upper deck used an image from his second tour of duty with the reds, which was from 1984-86.
is this team timeless?: a repeat world champion and a yankee killer? yes!