1982 Cincinnati Reds lost franchise record 101 games: A look back

Note: This story was originally published in the May 20, 2012 Cincinnati Enquirer.

Johnny Bench played on the best Reds teams of all time, but he tries to forget being on maybe the worst Reds team ever.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the awful 1982 Cincinnati club, which went 61-101 and remains the only Reds team with triple-figure losses in a season.

“I do remember,” Hall of Fame catcher Bench said, in a recent email to The Enquirer. “It’s hanging on the wall. It was embarrassing and forgettable. So I have.”

Bench added the abbreviation “Lol” to his email, the universal symbol for “laughing out loud.” Which is what some Reds fans did in 1982 to keep from weeping.

SEPTEMBER 1982: Johnny Bench caught in steal attempt.

The ’82 Reds had a lethal combination of lackluster young players, veterans who had off-years and big-name players on the downside of their careers. Result: Last in the National League West, 28 games out.

“I try to forget everything I can about that year,” said Ron Oester, second baseman on the ’82 team. “That was the longest year of my baseball career.”

The Reds won World Series titles in 1975 and ’76 and remained strong entering the 1980s. In 1981 the Reds had the best record in baseball but did not make the playoffs. It was a strike year, and the Reds lost out because of a split-season divisional format.

1981 Cincinnati Reds:Season was a hallmark – in two ways

After ’81, then-Reds general manager Dick Wagner engineered a roster makeover with an eye on finances. Outfielders Ken Griffey Sr. and George Foster were traded, as was third baseman Ray Knight. Outfielder Dave Collins left as a free agent.

Some predicted the Reds could not win after losing that much talent, and those forecasts proved painfully accurate.

“We realized early on it was not a very good baseball team, but I don’t think anybody believed the depths of how bad that team really was,” said Marty Brennaman, then and now the Reds’ primary radio voice. “It was a team with a bunch of great guys, but you had guys with limited ability and guys who had seen their better years.”

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