Johnny Bench : biography
Bench had another strong year in 1972, again winning the Most Valuable Player Award and leading the National League in home runs (40) and RBI (125), to help propel the Reds to another National League West Division title, and a five-game victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1972 National League Championship Series. One of his most dramatic home runshttp://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/postseason/mlb_lcs.jsp?feature=this_day was likely his ninth-inning, lead off, opposite field home run in the final game of the 1972 National League Championship Series. The solo shot tied the game 3–3, in a game the Reds went on to win later in the inning on a wild pitch, 4–3. It was hailed after the game as "one of the great clutch home runs of all time."http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=c61a5e96-6143-48a2-9557-575f50fabea9 However, the Reds would lose in the World Series to a strong Oakland Athletics team in seven games.
In the winter of 1972, Bench had a growth removed from his lung. Bench remained productive, but he never again hit 40 home runs in a season. In 1973, Bench slumped to 25 home runs and 104 RBI, but helped the Reds rally from a 10 1/2 game deficit in July to the Los Angeles Dodgers to win a major league-high 99 games and claim another National League West Division. In the 1973 National League Championship Series, the Reds met a New York Mets team that won just 82 regular season games, but boasted three of the best starting pitchers in the NL, future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack. The trio shackled a strong Reds offense and helped the New York Mets advance to the World Series. won the series in five games win advance to the World Series against the Oakland A’s.
In 1974, Bench led the league with 129 RBI and scored 108 runs, becoming only the fourth catcher in major league history with 100 or more runs and RBI in the same season. The Reds won the second-most games in the majors (98) but lost the West Division to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1975, the Reds finally broke through in the post season. Bench contributed 28 home runs and 110 RBI. The Reds swept the Pirates in three games to win the 1975 National League Championship Series, and defeated the Boston Red Sox in a memorable seven game World Series.
Bench had one of his worst years in 1976, hitting only 16 home runs and 74 RBIs. However, he recovered in the 1976 National League Championship Series to hit for a .385 batting average against the Philadelphia Phillies. The 1976 World Series provided a head-to-head match up with the New York Yankees and their catcher, Thurman Munson. Bench rose to the occasion, hitting .533 with two home runs to Munson’s .529 average. Bench led the Reds to the world championship and was awarded the World Series Most Valuable Player Award for his performance. At the post-World Series press conference, Reds manager Sparky Anderson was asked by a journalist to compare Munson with his catcher, Johnny Bench. Anderson replied, "You don’t compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don’t want to embarrass anybody".All Roads Lead to October (chapter 10) by Maury Allen, St. Martin’s Press 2000 ISBN 0-312-26175-6
He bounced back to hit 31 home runs and 109 RBIs in 1977, but the Reds would only reach the post-season once more during Bench’s career, when the 1979 Reds were swept in three games by the Pirates in the 1979 National League Championship Series.
For the last three seasons of his career, Bench caught only 13 games and played mostly first base or third base. The Cincinnati Reds proclaimed September 17, 1983, "Johnny Bench Night" at Riverfront Stadium. During the game he hit his 389th and final home run. He retired at the end of the season.