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Trade Details

Date: November 29, 1971

Cincinnati Reds acquire

  • Outfielder Ed Armbrister
  • Right-handed pitcher Jack Billingham
  • Outfielder Cesar Geronimo
  • Infielder Denis Menke
  • Second baseman Joe Morgan


Houston Astros acquire

  • Second baseman Tommy Helms
  • First baseman Lee May
  • Outfielder/Infielder Jimmy Stewart

2B Joe Morgan

Pete Rose is often the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Cincinnati's dominant run as the "Big Red Machine," but Morgan was clearly the best player. He had demonstrated elite speed and on-base skills before coming to town; once traded, he improved as a power hitter and fielder. Going by Wins Above Replacement, there was nobody in MLB as valuable during the 1970's as Morgan.

RHP Jack Billingham

Billingham peaked in 1973, racking up 16 complete games (seven shutouts) in 40 games started. He averaged more than 200 innings pitched per season for the Reds during his six years with them.

The Machine

From 1972 to 1976, the Cincinnati Reds—the franchise known as the Big Red Machine—dominated the National League, winning four division crowns, three league pennants, and two World Series titles. But their 1975 season was the stuff of sports legend.

Ely Sussman
Joe Posnanski's book on the Reds teams of this era is one of my favorite pieces of baseball literature. He literally takes you inside their wild clubhouse.

1B Lee May

The Astros believed that they got the best player in the trade because of May's home run ability (39 HR in 1971). His power began to wane, however, and it gradually became obviously that he was better suited to serve as a designated hitter. He played only three seasons in Houston.

Trade's Legacy

The Reds' acquisitions elevated them from an interesting team to a legendary one. Meanwhile, had the Astros found a way to complete the deal without giving up Joe Morgan, perhaps they wouldn't still be waiting for a World Series title.
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