The Mount Rushmore of the Cincinnati Reds

Pete-RoseThe Cincinnati Reds trace their origins to an independent club formed in 1881 that became a charter member of the American Association in 1882, before transfering to the National League in 1890 (an earlier NL Cincinnati Reds club was the progenitor of the AA club, but is considered a separate franchise owing to a year’s gap in the operation of the two entities). More popularly, the Reds identify themselves with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, formed in 1866 and a member of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) from 1867 to 1870, the latter two years operating as a fully professional club.

The Reds are the third of the original NL clubs in our Mount Rushmore series. Your task is to choose the four players who best represent this franchise. Have fun!

The professional Red Stockings won their first game on May 4, 1869 by the score of 45-9, en route to a perfect 57-0 season (against other NABBP clubs) that was followed up by a season of only 6 losses in 1870. That success on the field, however, did not translate into success at the box office and the Cincinnati club decided to cease operations when the newly christened National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (or just National Association) succeeded the NABBP in 1871. As a result, half of the Cincinnati team followed shortstop (and team organizer, promoter and much else) George Wright to Boston where a new Red Stockings team (the ancestor of the Braves) was formed.

Five years after the club’s demise, one of the original Red Stockings’ organizers (John Joyce) established a new Reds team in Cincinnati and then promptly sold it to one Josiah Keck, a local meat packer. That happened just in time for the Reds to be included among the original 8 clubs of the National League at its founding meeting in February 1876. Those Reds lasted 5 seasons before being expelled from the NL for the sins of playing Sunday baseball and selling beer at the ballpark. Unrepentant, the Reds did not operate in 1881, but then were  reconstituted as the Cincinnati Red Stockings to become one of the founding teams of the American Association (where beer and Sundays at the ballpark were drawing cards, not grounds for expulsion).

The new Cincinnati Red Stockings were league champions in the American Association’s inaugural 1882 season, and finished above .500 for the 7 following AA seasons. Cincinnati placed fourth in their final two AA seasons and also in their first NL season (with the new nickname of Reds) in 1890. Those three seasons were the start of a 31 year period (1888-1918) in which the Reds failed to finish higher than third, a streak that was finally broken with their first NL pennant in 1919 . That Reds team was the heavy underdog in the World Series, but prevailed in eight games (a 5-3 series win) over the AL champion White Sox who were noticeably and uncharacteristically off their game, a circumstance that started to make more sense once it was revealed that several Chicago players had accepted bribes to throw the series. The most notable Reds player of the 19th and early 20th centuries was second baseman Bid McPhee with 52.4 WAR for Cincinnati, the only position player of that era to exceed 25 WAR in a Reds uniform. On the mound, Noodles Hahn, Tony Mullane and Frank Dwyer all topped 35 WAR as Reds.

Cincinnati remained a competitive team in the first half of the 1920s, finishing lower than fourth only once from 1920 to 1926, and missing out on a second pennant in 1926 by only two games after an extended pennant race in which Cincinnati was never more than 3 games behind from August 11th to the end of the season. But, eleven straight sub-.500 seasons (1927-37) followed, eight of them finishing last or second-to-last. Fortunes changed when Bill McKechnie succeeded Chuck Dressen as manager following the 1937 season, with the Reds claiming consecutive pennants in 1939-40, including a World Series win in the latter season after a memorable 7 game series against the Tigers. Notable Reds of the 1920-45 period include pitchers Eppa Rixey, Dolf Luque, Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer, and position players Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Edd Roush and Lonny Frey.

Propelled by a spectacular rookie campaign from Frank Robinson, Cincinnati next challenged in 1956, finishing just two games behind the Dodgers and within 6 games of the lead every day of the season. Everything fell into place in 1961 when Cincinnati claimed its first pennant in 21 years, after a season finishing 10 games above their Pythagorean projection. They were even better the next season, winning 98 games in that expansion year on the strength of a 59-30 finish, but placing only third behind the 101-win seasons turned in by the Giants and Dodgers. The Reds almost stole a pennant in 1964, finishing a game back of the Cardinals after both had passed a faltering Phillies club in the last two weeks of the season. Notable Reds of the 1946-69 period include Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Ted Kluszewski and Pete Rose, together with pitchers Jim Maloney, Joe Nuxhall and Ewell Blackwell.

Cincinnati enjoyed the most dominant period in franchise history with the Big Red Machine of the 1970s that claimed 6 division titles, 4 pennants and 2 world championships from 1970 to 1979, only once finishing more than 10 games back over that period. The 1975 club won a franchise record 108 games and swept the NLCS before prevailing in a memorable World Series against the Red Sox. After Boston’s dramatic win in an iconic game 6, the Reds fell behind 3-0 in game 7 but scratched their way back to a tie before pushing across the winning tally in the 9th inning. No such drama in 1976 as Cincinnati swept the NLCS and World Series in the only perfect post-season of the division era. It was a different story in the 1980s with the team finishing below .550 every year, including a 61-101 finish in 1982, the only 100 loss season in franchise history. Notable Reds of this period include Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster and Dave Concepcion. Only one Reds pitcher (Mario Soto) collected 25 WAR in this period.

The Reds ended their 1980s funk with a surprise world championship in 1990, sweeping the defending champion (and heavily favored) As in the World Series. Division titles followed in the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons, then 15 years in the wilderness until their next division crown in 2010, the first of 3 post-season appearances in 4 years. The Reds’ opening game win in a 2012 NLDS broke a string of 7 straight post-season losses, but the team still has not won a post-season series since their division series  win in  1995. Notable players of this period include Barry Larkin and Joey Votto, with only Brandon Phillips and Jose Rijo also exceeding 25 WAR, while Eric Davis reached 30 WAR spread over this period and the one preceding.

Here are the top 15 batting WAR totals as Reds.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Pete Rose 77.7 1963 1986 22-45 2722 12344 1741 3358 601 115 152 1036 1210 972 .307 .379 .425 .804 75493/8H
2 Johnny Bench 75.0 1967 1983 19-35 2158 8674 1091 2048 381 24 389 1376 891 1278 .267 .342 .476 .817 *253H/798
3 Barry Larkin 70.2 1986 2004 22-40 2180 9057 1329 2340 441 76 198 960 939 817 .295 .371 .444 .815 *6H/4D
4 Frank Robinson 63.8 1956 1965 20-29 1502 6408 1043 1673 318 50 324 1009 698 789 .303 .389 .554 .943 7938/H5
5 Joe Morgan 57.8 1972 1979 28-35 1154 4973 816 1155 220 27 152 612 881 410 .288 .415 .470 .885 *4/H
6 Bid McPhee 52.4 1882 1899 22-39 2138 9429 1684 2258 303 189 53 1072 982 377 .272 .355 .373 .728 *4/985
7 Vada Pinson 47.7 1958 1968 19-29 1565 6851 978 1881 342 96 186 814 409 831 .297 .341 .469 .810 *8/9H7
8 Tony Perez 45.6 1964 1986 22-44 1948 7630 936 1934 339 56 287 1192 671 1306 .283 .346 .474 .820 *35H/4
9 Heinie Groh 40.6 1913 1921 23-31 1211 5159 663 1323 224 75 17 408 513 257 .298 .378 .394 .772 *54/6H
10 Edd Roush 40.0 1916 1931 23-38 1399 5964 815 1784 260 152 47 763 354 170 .331 .377 .462 .839 *8/7H34
11 Dave Concepcion 39.8 1970 1988 22-40 2488 9641 993 2326 389 48 101 950 736 1186 .267 .322 .357 .679 *6H45/381
12 George Foster 39.3 1971 1981 22-32 1253 5010 680 1276 207 37 244 861 470 882 .286 .356 .514 .870 *789/H3
13 Joey Votto 35.6 2007 2014 23-30 952 4062 561 1055 243 12 163 553 611 749 .310 .417 .533 .950 *3/H7
14 Ernie Lombardi 31.3 1932 1941 24-33 1203 4287 420 1238 220 24 120 682 264 158 .311 .359 .469 .828 *2H
15 Ted Kluszewski 30.7 1947 1957 22-32 1339 5403 745 1499 244 23 251 886 406 292 .302 .357 .512 .869 *3/H
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/18/2014.

And, the top 15 pitchers.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G GS CG SHO GF W L W-L% IP BB SO ERA FIP ERA+
1 Noodles Hahn 45.9 1899 1905 20-26 237 225 209 24 11 127 92 .580 1987.1 375 900 2.52 2.66 134
2 Eppa Rixey 40.1 1921 1933 30-42 440 357 180 23 67 179 148 .547 2890.2 603 660 3.33 3.59 118
3 Bucky Walters 37.7 1938 1948 29-39 312 296 195 32 11 160 107 .599 2355.2 806 879 2.93 3.58 124
4 Dolf Luque 37.6 1918 1929 27-38 395 321 183 24 54 154 152 .503 2668.2 756 970 3.09 3.48 121
5 Frank Dwyer 37.2 1892 1899 24-31 262 226 188 10 36 133 100 .571 1992.2 489 324 3.77 4.26 121
6 Jose Rijo 36.5 1988 2002 23-37 280 215 17 4 22 97 61 .614 1478.0 453 1251 2.83 3.06 138
7 Tony Mullane 35.0 1886 1893 27-34 316 285 264 15 32 163 124 .568 2599.0 926 993 3.15 3.70 115
8 Jim Maloney 34.6 1960 1970 20-30 289 258 74 30 13 134 81 .623 1818.2 786 1592 3.16 3.09 117
9 Paul Derringer 32.6 1933 1942 26-35 393 322 189 24 54 161 150 .518 2615.1 491 1062 3.36 3.28 111
10 Bob Ewing 28.8 1902 1909 29-36 252 228 184 15 24 108 103 .512 2020.1 513 884 2.37 2.49 121
11 Will White 27.8 1882 1886 27-31 208 207 204 23 1 136 69 .663 1832.1 323 467 2.51 3.52 124
12 Billy Rhines 27.7 1890 1897 21-28 203 179 153 11 24 96 79 .549 1548.0 483 499 3.28 3.65 123
13 Johnny Vander Meer 27.1 1937 1949 22-34 313 279 131 29 11 116 116 .500 2028.0 1072 1251 3.41 3.57 108
14 Mario Soto 26.9 1977 1988 20-31 297 224 72 13 20 100 92 .521 1730.1 657 1449 3.47 3.53 108
15 Joe Nuxhall 26.9 1944 1966 15-37 484 274 82 20 90 130 109 .544 2169.1 706 1289 3.80 3.54 104
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/18/2014.

Please choose 4 players, or write in your own. Polls are open until midnight Pacific time on Tue, Dec 2nd. You can check on results using the link at the bottom of the ballot.

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66 Comments on "The Mount Rushmore of the Cincinnati Reds"

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Baltimorechop
Guest

Rose, bench, morgan and Larkin. Grad to choose anyone else. Never had a key pitcher and ditched Frank Robinsin too soon.

Last original 16 with a HOFer and still only without a Cy Young.

Baltimorechop
Guest

You say they haven’t won a postseason series since 1990, but they beat Dodgers in 1995.

Dr. Doom
Guest
This is one of those teams where, if you wanted to, you could JUST pick players from one era of team history and not feel bad about it. For me, I didn’t want to go that route, but you almost can’t help it. Bench was obvious, what with the maybe-the-best-catcher-ever thing. Likewise Joe Morgan, but at 2B. I had to go with Larkin, as he’s my all-time favorite non-Brewer. That left one spot. I didn’t have to consider pitchers, because the Reds’ group is just not good. That left a choice between Rose, Robinson, and Lombardi. I didn’t want a… Read more »
Phil
Guest

Rose, Morgan, Bench, Perez. You just can’t break that up.

Jason
Guest

I went with Bench, Larkin (I think, I might have clicked Robinson instead), and wrote in the Wright brothers.

John
Guest

This woulda been easy – Robinson, Rose, Morgan and Bench. Except for the lifetime suspension thing going on. Yeah. How do I vote for a racist who helped keep blacks out of baseball (Cap Anson with the Cubs) and not a gambler who bet on his team to win? I can’t justify, but I did. I doubt if Vada Pinson is going up on Mt Rushmore, but I voted for him in a tossup with Ol Schnozz (Lombardi). Robbie, Morgan and Bench were gimmes.

no statistician but
Guest
The difficulty with the Reds in this selection process is that, unlike the Phillies or the Cubs, they provide very few obvious candidates away from their one dominant era, basically Larkin on one side, Robinson on the other. Historically, to flesh out the granite, so to speak, a logical progression might be Roush, Walters, Robinson (although to anyone who was around in the 1950’s Ted Klu was the man), and Bench over Rose or Morgan, since Bench was always a Red. That leaves Larkin out in the cold, though, so maybe he’s a better choice than Robinson (or Ted Klu).… Read more »
bstar
Guest

I love the Big Red Machine — my first favorite team — so Rose, Morgan, and Bench are easy. I suppose I will go with Barry Larkin as my fourth choice for his long tenure with the team.

Shout-out to the underrated George Foster.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Vote:

Rose, Bench, Larkin, and … I’m the only person in the first 35 to vote for Bid McPhee.

Here is McPhee and Larkin:

Years with the Reds
18
19

G
2138
2180

PA
9429
9057

R
1684
1329

H
2258
2340

2B
303
441

3B
189
76

HR
53
198

RBI
1072
960

SB
568
379

BB
982
939

.272 .355 .373 .728 107
.295 .371 .444 .815 116

John Nacca
Guest

Rose….Bench….Morgan….and “other” (Sparky Anderson)

Hartvig
Guest

I prefer time lines but the Reds don’t really lend themselves to that. If I had to go with someone from their first championship team I’d probably go with Groh over Roush, for the 39 & 40 bunch I’d write in Frank McCormick over Snozz, Walters & Derringer.

For me it comes down to 5 guys and I’m afraid Barry Larkin is the odd man out, especially since he seems like a really good guy and the guy I put in ahead of him is anything but.

Bench, Morgan, Robinson, Rose.

bells
Guest
Of the big 5, I left off Rose. I dunno entirely why; I think Bench is the biggest shoo-in (lifetime Red and arguably best catcher ever), Morgan has a similar argument but he just spent his prime there, Robinson accumulated less with the Reds but he was a better player than Rose and established himself with the Reds (I’ll always associate him more with them than the Orioles). Larkin and Rose for the last spot? Well, Barry played his whole career with them whereas Pete bounced around for a few years; there’s also a bit of overrepresentation of the Big… Read more »
RJ
Guest

I’ve been in touch with Adam, he seems enthused by the idea. I’m hoping we can get something going.

Steven
Guest

Rose, Bench, Larkin and Robinson.

MikeD
Guest
Rose, Bench, Larkin and Perez. I wanted to put Robinson in because he, well, it’s obvious, yet to be on a team’s Mt. Rushmore I really have to identify him with the team, and he spent so many other years away from the Reds, and had that triple crown season with Baltimore, so I couldn’t vote for him. Plus, the Reds traded him away when he was still prime time! I grew up watching Morgan, and I totally identify him with the Reds, but eight years is not enough to be on the team’s Mt. Rushmore, no matter how great.… Read more »
dr-remulak
Guest

Mt. Rushmores take years to create, so I would begin the stonework with Bench, Rose & Morgan, leaving space for the fourth member. After completing the big three, I would re-assess Votto’s career in about 3-5 years, and add him if he has remained a Red, stayed healthy, and continued to put up numbers consistent with his early career. If not, I would add Larkin.

Tubbs
Guest

I chose Rose, Bench, Morgan, & Larkin

Lombardi just missed

David P
Guest

I find it quite odd that the Reds didn’t have a single HOFer elected by the BBWAA until Frank Robinson was elected in 1982. Before that they only had three HOFers – Lombardi, Roush, and Rixey – all elected by the Veterans Committee and all somewhat marginal selections. Strange that one of the original teams went so long without a no-doubt-about-it HOFer.

And even though the HOF webpage lists the Reds as Robinson’s primary team, they use a photo of him in an Orioles uniform and his plaque shows him in an Orioles cap.

Tubbs
Guest
I’d like to see the “Does He Belong in the Hall of Fame” polls brought back, especially with the Golden Era Veteran Committee election coming up in December. I’d love to see what the readers here think of Miñoso, Kaat, Boyer, Hodges, Tiant and others HOF candidacies. Also, there a lot of recently retired players such as Abreu, Rolen, and Helton who would make interesting subjects I am really enjoying the return of these Mt. Rushmore polls. I also put comments about wanting to see the “Does He Belong in the HOF” polls in the comments for the Phils and… Read more »
Brent
Guest

I voted Morgan, Bench, Rose, Larkin. But an interesting choice would be Larry MacPhail (pretty sure he was the chief executive of the Reds in 1935 when the first night game was played). The Reds most important contribution to baseball until the Big Red Machine was night baseball.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@20;

Sparky Anderson would be my choice as the most important Reds non-player, as the manager during their most dominant period. Not sure if he’d make my own ‘Mt Rushmore’, but it’s be close.

Steve
Guest

Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose

Alan
Guest

Charlie Hustle (no scruples here); Bench, Morgan, and Robinson. Barry Larkin just misses…

John Autin
Editor

Bench, Morgan, Robinson, Larkin.

I had no scruples about Rose, just thought Barry was a little better. Larkin comes out ahead in total WAA, even if you cut out Pete’s 2nd Cincy term. Both were hometown kids, too, so no edge for Rose there. And if a tiebreaker were needed, Larkin never played for another team … and never disgraced the Reds.

John Autin
Editor

FWIW … Using both WAR and WAA, I ran the product of [career total] times [rate per 650 PAs]. Both methods rank them 1/Morgan, 2/Bench, 3/Robinson, 4/Larkin, 5/Rose.

For Reds pitchers (using 250 IP as the rate factor), both methods put Noodles Hahn #1 and Jose Rijo #2, but well below the top four position players.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

It’s hard to believe that in 133 years as an MLB franchise, Noodles Hahn is the Reds #1 pitcher all-time; almost as hard to believe that a player was once nicknamed ‘Noodles’. Frank Zupo (1957-1961)is the only other ‘Noodles’ that shows up on B-R.

I am a bit surprised that Morgan ranks ahead of Bench, but that was an amazing peak he had for the Reds in the early/mid 70s, and Bench faded relatively young (done as a full-time regular after age-31).

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@30/Doug,

Several of the Reds young flamethrowers in the 60s, such as Jim Maloney and Gary Nolan, got off to great starts and seemed destined for great careers, but burnt out very early due to so many IP so young (Gee whiz, what a surprise :)).

Doug
Guest

Rijo and Soto are others who seemed destined for illustrious careers but were pretty much done by their early 30s. Browning too, but his late start would have been a limiting factor even if he had shown more staying power.

Paul E
Guest

It may have been “Larry Shepherd Syndrome”. Don’t forget Wayne Simpson

Darien
Guest

Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and… does Marge Schott count? Barry Larkin, then.

PP
Guest

A little surprised Larkin is ahead of Robinson, and by 15 votes.

Hartvig
Guest
I suspect that a lot of that has to with his winning the Triple Crown as an Oriole plus the post-season success that they had after he joined them. I would guess that most baseball fans born in the 60’s or later probably think of him as an Oriole. Does anyone remember if we put him up on the Oriole’s Mt. Rushmore? It’s kind of like Pete Alexander- his career is also pretty evenly split between 2 teams but while they both only made it to 1 World Series for whatever reason the Cubs is far more remembered by baseball… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@32,

I always thought of Alexander much more as a Phillie than a Cub; most of his best seasons were with Philadelphia.

Steve
Guest

Is there a WAR like stat that takes average season into account? some players – better than average but not great – that have lengthy careers seem to pile up WAR and then when to compared to others that may have had a shorter career – Tony Phillips 18 seasons WAR 50.8 is a better player than Thurman Munson 11 yrs 45.9 WAR

RJ
Guest

Well there’s Wins Above Average (WAA). By this measure, Munson (25.4) comes out ahead of Phillips (21.5).

Steve
Guest

Thanks RJ – now my mission is to find career WAA list

RJ
Guest

I don’t think a simple list exists, but it is searchable with the Play Index. I find the page linked below quite useful as well; by clicking on the table headers you can find the best at each position according to WAR, WAR7 (best seven years by WAR), or JAWS (a combination of peak and longevity).

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_C.shtml

So Munson has the 15th greatest WAR amongst catchers, but the seventh best WAR7.

Adam Darowski’s Hall of Stats also uses WAA and WAR to balance peak and longevity. Here’s the catcher list:

http://www.hallofstats.com/position/c

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
While WAR is an ‘advanced’ stat, it still is a counting stat, and needs to be put into context for any particular player. Take Hank Greenberg, for instance – while John Olerud and Todd Helton have a higher career WAR and JAWS total, I don’t think that is going to convince anyone that they were better than Greenberg. Career WAR doesn’t account for the 4 1/2 years he missed due to serving in the Army, or that he had a better peak than those other two. Give him even one career-average year back, and he passes Helton and Olerud in… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Rose and Larkin (two guys from Cincinnati)
Morgan – best player in NL from 1973-1977
Bench – best catcher in my lifetime

Sorry, Frank.

Hartvig
Guest

I completely forgot about the hometown connection for those 2. If I had remembered it’s entirely possible that I may have voted differently.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@45;

Have there been any other HOFers besides Larkin, Ford and Gehrig who played their entire careers for their hometown team? (Rizzuto was from Brooklyn – is that close enough??)

Richard Chester
Guest

The Yankees represent NYC and Brooklyn is part of NYC so Rizzuto counts.

no statistician but
Guest

Dick Butkus: Chicago south-sider, NFL HOFer for the Bears. Well, you didn’t specify the sport.

PP
Guest

Maurice &Henri Richard, Montreal – Montreal

PP
Guest

Of course that brings up HOF brothers. How many of those could there be?

Dr. Doom
Guest

The Wanders in baseball, for one.

Dr. Doom
Guest

Ugh. Autocorrect fail. “Waners” is obviously what I meant.

Scary Tuna
Guest

Baseball – George and Harry Wright.
Hockey – Phil and Tony Esposito.

bells
Guest
None are in the Hall of Fame, but the NHL’s Sutter brothers are one of the more amazing sports stories. Six brothers, all of whom had long NHL careers between 1976 and 2001 (their seventh brother, who was said to be the best player of them all, eschewed a hockey career to work on the family farm). Five of the six played over 700 games in the NHL, and Darryl – the only one who didn’t as injuries ended his career at just over 400 games – is the most likely candidate for the HoF for his career as a… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

The Everly Brothers (R&R hof)

RJ
Guest

Halls of Fame are a relatively recent concept in many old world sports, and frankly nobody cares about them, but there are some examples in the Halls that have sprung up.

In soccer, Jack and Sir Bobby Charlton were both members of England’s World Cup winning team of 1966 and are in the English Football Hall of Fame.

Steve and Mark Waugh are both in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.

In tennis, the 16-time Grand Slam Doubles champion Bryan brothers are probably a shoo-in for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Paul E
Guest

Actually, Morgan has the highest total WAR of any player for the age 28-33 seasons combined in the last 50 years.

These would be his 1972 -1977 seasons:

OPS+ ? Morgan is tied for 1st with Stargell at 159
WAR ? Morgan is 1st by a 20% margin over Rod Carew (2nd)
rWAR ? Morgan is 1st by a 20% MARGIN over Cesar Cedeno (2nd)

fWAR ? The bum isn’t even in the top 20 🙁

KalineCountry Ron
Guest

Bench
Morgan
Rose
Frank Robinson

Next for me was Bucky Walters.

Jim Bouldin
Guest

Rose, Bench, Robinson, Concepcion, in that order. Sparky amongst the non-players.

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