By Harold Friend

One of the greatest teams of all time, a team that lost the World Series in six games, a team that was better than the 1975 World Champion Cincinnati Reds, was the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers. Brooklyn's eight starting players included Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson in left field, Duke Snider in center field, PeeWee Reese at shortstop, and Roy Campanella behind the plate. Gil Hodges, who should be in the Hall of Fame, was at first, Jim Gilliam played second, Billy Cox played third, and Carl Furillo was in right. The Dodgers won 105 games while losing only 49 (.682), finishing 13 games ahead of the runner up Braves. They hit 208 home runs and averaged 6.16 runs a game. Brooklyn's Achilles heel was the pitching staff.

The Great 1975 Reds

The 1975 Cincinnati Reds were a similar team. Their eight starters included Hall of Famers Johnny Bench behind the plate, Tony Perez at first base, and Joe Morgan at second. Just as Brooklyn's Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame, so does Pete Rose. The irony is that their characters were so different. The 1975 Reds won 108 and lost 54 (.667), winning the Western Division by 20 games over Los Angeles. They hit 124 home runs and averaged 5.19 runs a game, but like Brooklyn, their pitching staff was suspect.

Comparing the Infields

Gil Hodges was better than Tony Perez. Yes, Perez is in the Hall of Fame, but Hodges and Perez are extremely close statistically. While both were great leaders, Hodges was the greatest right handed defensive first baseman to ever play the game, which gives him the edge. Joe Morgan has a great advantage over Gilliam at second, although the latter was a fine player who was an excellent lead off hitter. At third base, Billy Cox was light years ahead of Pete Rose defensively, but Pete was a better hitter and added a dimension of intensity to his team that few ever matched. PeeWee Reese was a notch below Dave Concepcion with respect to defensive range, but Reese was steady in the field, a better hitter than Concepcion, and like Hodges, one of the great quiet leaders in the game's history. Thanks to Morgan and Rose, the infield edge goes to Cincinnati.

The Dodgers' Outfield Was Better

Brooklyn's outfield of Robinson, Snider, and Furillo was clearly superior to the Reds' Foster, Geronimo, and Griffey. Despite a few great seasons, Foster wasn't close to Robinson. Snider was one of the great centerfielders of all time, and while Geronimo was a great defensive outfielder, he usually didn't hit much. Furillo and Griffey are close. Carl had more power, Griffey had more speed, and both were great defensive outfielders. Brooklyn gets a substantial edge in the outfield.

Roy Campanella was as Good as Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench and Roy Campanella were both great catchers. Bench's first full season was 1968, but after catching 105 games in 1980, he played other positions. Campanella was a major leaguer for only 10 seasons, but it was not his fault that he wasn't allowed to play in the big leagues before 1947. Bench batted .267 and Campanella batted .276. Bench averaged 29 home runs and 103 RBIs over a 162 game season. Campanella averaged 32 home runs and 114 RBIs over a 162 game season, which probably surprises some individuals. When comparing the two, it's pick 'em.

Brooklyn and Cincinnati Lacked Strong Pitching

Likely Page Break Brooklyn's pitching or lack of pitching is what cost them the 1953 World Series. Except for 20 game winner Carl Erskine, the staff was average at best. Russ Meyer, Preacher Roe, Billy Loes, and Johnny Podres had decent, but not outstanding careers. Cincinnati's pitching staff was similar. Jack Billingham, Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, Fred Norman, Pat Darcy, and Clay Kirby have never been confused with Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale.

What If They Played Today?

The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers were a little better than the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, but it is acknowledged that so many variables exist that it could very well be the other way around. However, despite the variables, wouldn't it be fascinating to see either one of those team face the best of today's teams? With apologies to those who keep Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame, put your money on the Dodgers or Reds.


The 1953 Dodgers on Baseball-Reference

The 1975 Reds on Baseball-Reference

Roy Campanella on Armchairgm

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