Reds Legends: Reds unveil Morgan sculpture; Pete Rose attends

CINCINNATI – It has been nearly 37 years since the Cincinnati Reds captured the second of back-to-back World Series Championship titles and the starting lineup for one of the greatest teams in baseball history had not been on the field together since.

That all changed this weekend as “The Great Eight” gathered together at Great American Ballpark to the delight of sell out crowds as the Reds unveiled a statue of hall of fame second baseman Joe Morgan in front of the stadium.

Morgan, the 1975 and 1976 National League Most Valuable Player, joins the likes of legendary Reds figures like Johnny Bench, Joe Nuxhall, and Ted Kluszewski with statues on display in front of the beautiful Reds ballpark which opened in 2003.

Honoring their teammate in ceremonies on the field both Friday night and Saturday afternoon were Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey Sr. and with the blessing of major league baseball, all-time hit king Pete Rose.

Those eight combined for an amazing six MVP awards, 26 Gold Glove awards, and 65 all-star selections.

In addition to claiming the World Series title in 1975 and 1976, the Reds won the division every year but one in the five years that the group was together.

Friday night after the Reds 3-2 victory over the team that was their arch rival in the seventies, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the “Great Eight” were introduced one by one to the roar of the large crowd that stayed after the game to watch the historic festivities.

In a Saturday morning ceremony, Morgan’s statue was revealed for the very first time and then prior to the Reds 4-3 win over the Dodgers Saturday afternoon, the Reds legends reunited on the field one last time.

“The last game of 1976 World Series was the final time we had walked off the field together,” said Morgan, whose acquisition by the Reds in a nine-player, 1971 trade with the Houston Astros is considered to be the final piece to the completion of one of baseball’s greatest starting lineup of all time. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the most important day I’ve been able to spend with my family and friends since I’ve been a baseball player.”

Morgan, who was a 1990 inductee into the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame, rates the statue right up there with the top accomplishments of his legendary career.

“Every guy who hits .300 or hits 500 home runs or steals a lot of bases gets a place in Cooperstown. Numbers are what gets you there,” said Morgan, affectionately nicknamed Little Joe in his playing days. “Every guy in Cooperstown doesn’t have a sculpture in their home field. I like to think that people here wanted me to be remembered for more than stealing a base or getting a hit.”

The Reds have plans in the future to honor more Reds players with statues and Morgan has an idea on who should be next.

“I am just honored personally to receive one and I know there are plans to honor others players in the future,” said Morgan. “I would like to see all seven of them. I would like to see something that would depict the entire team. Obviously over the years, Pete, Johnny, Tony and I have received more awards and accolades than some of the others, but we were a team.

“I would love to see something that says we were here together.”