Thursday, April 24, 2003

Reds-Dodgers can't beat '70s show

Rivalry has lost luster over years

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The specifics of the era escape him.

But even now, bundled in Dodgers blue as the club's manager, Jim Tracy does recall what a Dodgers-Reds series once meant.

"When it got around to the month of September at Riverfront Stadium, if you didn't have a ticket for the Dodgers-Reds series you weren't going to get one," Tracy, a Hamilton native, said prior to Wednesday's game at Great American Ball Park. "You had no chance. You better have had them by the end of July."

Expansion and realignment effectively have ended what was one of baseball's best rivalries.

Whereas the Reds and Dodgers used to play 18 times a year as members of the National League West division, today's series finale is the last time the Dodgers play in Cincinnati this season.

"With L.A., it wasn't proximity or anything geographically," veteran Reds shortstop Barry Larkin said.

"It was just the fact that we were the top teams in the division for years and years and years. It was kind of a love-hate deal. You hated the other guy just because he wore Dodger blue."

From 1970, when the Reds won the World Series, until the early 1980s, the Dodgers and Reds were the top two teams in the NL West.

Cincinnati had the Big Red Machine.

The Dodgers had Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey and Yeager comprising the infield.

"You didn't need a program for a number of years," Tracy said. "It was the same faces year after year for several years."

Cincinnati won the division in 1970, '72, '73, '75 and '76. Los Angeles won it in 1977 and '78.

The Reds went on to win the World Series in 1975 and '76; the Dodgers won the championship in 1981.

"With all due respect to all the rivalries that have gone down since I came here 30 years ago, I've never seen one better than that," Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman said. "There was bad blood between the teams. They didn't like each other. They played the game like they didn't like each other.

"Both teams knew they were probably the two best teams in baseball. They just happened to be in the same division."

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