Big 1971 trade recalls shock among baseball players and fans
Reds fans couldn't believe their favorite Big Booper, first baseman Lee May could be traded.
Upon Further Review:
Looking back to the 1970s, the 8-player swap between Houston and Cincinnati had historic major league ramifications. To this day, the deal which brought second baseman Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, pitcher Jack Billingham, 3B/SS Denis Menke and speedy outfielder Ed Armbrister to the Cincinnati Reds brings up the nickname "The Big Red Machine" which won two straight World Championships, 1975 and 1976.
Lee May was one of the leading baseball players of the 1960s and 1970s, but hard luck with trades kept him from playing on a World Chhampionship. A hustling, team-player Tommy Helms played 10 seasons in the majors, Cincinnati 1964-1971 and with Houston 1972-1973 was one certainly well-regarded by fans and players. The switch-hitting Jimmy Stewart played outfield and infield during his 10 major league seasons, the first 4 1/2 for the CUbs, 1963-1967. Denis Menke , out of Algona Iowa played 12 years in the majors, the first four with the Milwaukee Braves. He compiled a .251 career-batting average in over 5000 at bats.
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Baseball Historian Biography
Joe Morgan's 'Hall of Fame Plaque' reads, ' Impact player who lifted the Cincinnati 'Big Red Machine' to a higher level with his multi faceted skills, trademark was flapping left arm as he awaited pitch. Packed unusual power into extraordinary quick 150 lb. fireplug frame. Played 22 seasons. NL's Most Valuable Player 1975 & 1976.' Joe Morgan won five Gold Gloves and is best remembered for being a leader for the World Champion Cincinnati Reds in 1975 & 1976. In 1975, Morgan batted .327, 17 HR's, 107 runs scored, 94 RBI's, stole 67 bases. He led the Reds to another playoff berth in 1979, he then moved back to Houston helping them make the NL Championship Series. He led the league four times in walks.
Joe Morgan rates as one of the top clutch hitters in baseball's history. A play to win at all costs, Joe Morgan was certainly was one top players of all time.
During this decade, Joe Morgan was emerging as a superstar second baseman and because of his wide variety of skills the Reds stayed on top for most of this period. Morgan could hit with power, steal bases, batted over .300 and played aggressive, winning baseball. In 1971, he led the NL in walks 115 and runs scored 122. Cincinnati Reds Baseball History 'Little Joe' Morgan, 5-ft 7-inches 155 lbs still ranks third all-time for career walks behind only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Morgan was a major component of the 'Big Red Machine', the first NL team to win consecutive World Titles since 1922. Joe Morgan won the MVP Awards in both 1975 & 1976 and played a big part in both Cincinnati Reds World Championships in these years.
Baseball Historian Biography
Jack Billingham - Big Red Machine - Starting Pitcher RH
A poised and durable pitcher, Jack Billingham came to the Reds in late 1971 along with Joe Morgan in a trade with Houston - the Reds sent slugger Lee May to the Astros. In 1973, Billingham led the NL in starts with 40 and in innings pitched with 293. He won 19 games and pitched a league leading 7 shutouts. Again in 1974, Billingham won 19 games. His 15-10 record, ERA of 4.11 in 1975 helped the 'Big Red Machine win the NL pennant. His accomplishments include an ERA of 0.36, allowing only one earned in 25 1/3 innings, a major league baseball record. Jack Billingham was traded in 1977 and in his career that spanned from 1968-80, he won 145 games, lost 113.
Denis Menke was an agressive baseball player whose specialty was versatility. He could play any infield position reliably and was never an embarrassment at the plate. Signed as a $125,000 bonus baby, Denis Menke batted .336 in his third professional season with Yakima of the Northwest League, hitting 28 homers and driving in 103 runs. After 50 appearances in 1962, Milwaukee brought him up for good in 1963, and he played 146 games all over the infield. Given the shortstop job the following year, he responded with a .283 average and a career-high 20 home runs. He was dealt to Houston after the 1967 season, and played a year at second, then moved to shortstop. He was an All-Star in both the 1969 and 1970 seasons, and he finished the latter season with a .304 average and 13 homers.
Denis Menke played third base after this trade for the Reds and cover it like a blanket to help the Reds win the National League pennant. He lined a home run off Catfish Hunter in the Reds’ Game 5 victory of the 1972 World Series.
Denis Menke was 32 years old when the “Big Red Machine” won their second consecutive NL West title. He played in 139 games in 1973, but hit just .191 in 241 at bats. He returned to Houston the following season and retired after appearing in only 30 games as a pinch hitter.