Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Day in Reds History: Team Inks Mastermind Behind Big Red Machine

January 22nd, 1967 - In a move that would later be considered monumental in the creation of the Big Red Machine, the franchise signs Bob Howsan to a three-year contract to be its vice-president and general manager.

Here is an excerpt taken from Redleg Journal:

"The first front-office job for the 48-year old Howsam, a native of Colorado, had been with the Denver Bears. He was also the first owner of the Denver Broncos and the owner of the stadium that was eventually enlarged and named Mile High Stadium. His first major league position came in 1964 when his mentor, Branch Rickey hired him to become general manager of the Cardinals. Howsam had become disenchanted with the Cardinals after what he perceived to be persistent meddling by ownership in his operation of the club, including a series of controversial trades.

As it turned out these deals helped the Cardinals win the National League pennant in 1967 and 1968. But by then Howsam was in Cincinnati. Frank Dale and his ownership group hired Howsam because the new general manager was positive and enthusiastic, believed in promotions and a strong farm system, and had experience in opening a new downtown multi-purpose stadium, the new Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis in 1966.

Howsam wasn't afraid to make trades or changes, but rarely made a compulsive move. The key to his success in assembling the Big Red Machine was in doing his homework, aided by an extensive and capable staff. On the other hand, Howsam was a man who approached baseball's often-conservative traditions, sometimes to the point of placing appearance ahead of results. Under Howsam, the Reds refused to pursue free agents, grant guaranteed contracts, permit players to wear manufacturer's logos on their shoes, and to allow facial hair, all policies that persisted for several years (the ban on facial hair was lifted in the late-90's to accommodate player requests, but particularly free agent acquisition Greg Vaughn)."

Howsam served as the club's GM for 11 seasons (1967-77) and enjoyed tremendous success while doing so. During his tenure "The Big Red Machine" captured the National League title in 1970 and 1972 and world championships in 1975 and 1976.

Under his watch the Reds minor league system churned out a multitude of productive MLB players including Ken Griffey Sr., Dave Concepcion, Ray Knight, Cesar Geronimo, Gary Nolan and Don Gullett -- all of who were pivotal to the team's dynasty in the 70's. He pulled the trigger on two of the greatest trades in franchise history by acquiring Joe Morgan from the Astros and George Foster from the Giants (both in 1971). Lastly, he brought in a manager that pulled everything together in Sparky Anderson.

By the time he relinquished his role as GM in 1978, the dynasty had already begun to fall apart. Players were either aging, opting for free agency, retiring or developing physical ailments, and the team had no choice but to re-build. However, for his role in orchestrating the great reign of the 70's Howsam was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2004.

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