MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Young & peerless: Big Red Machine kid friendly

Young & peerless: Big Red Machine kid friendly

So should Major League Baseball teams allow players to bring their youngsters into the clubhouse during the season?

Well, I'll leave that for others to decide.

All I know is what I saw during the 1970s in Cincinnati. There, with those Reds teams terrorizing folks throughout the decade courtesy of a nearly unprecedented group of Hall of Famers and perennial All-Stars filling their roster, the Big Red Machine had such an open-door policy regarding kids that nobody will match it.

Ever hear of Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey Sr. and Pedro Borbon Sr.? In order, we're talking about baseball's all-time hits leader, a Hall of Famer, a three-time All-Star outfielder with a lifetime batting average a shade below .300 and one of the most prolific relief pitchers of his time.

They all starred for those Reds teams, and they all had sons about the same age running around the clubhouse back then.

I do mean running.

Forget about Bernie Stowe, the legendary clubhouse manager of the Reds during that stretch. The kids of those Reds players were in charge of the place -- or so they often thought.

Before I continue, I guess I should tell you who I'm talking about. You've heard of at least one of them, maybe two of them. Come to think of it, if you're into baseball, you're likely familiar with all of them.

There was Pete Rose Jr., who is now the manager of the Wichita Wingnuts in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. He was a career Minor League infielder who spent only 11 games in the Major Leagues. He did manage a couple of hits with the Reds back in 1997 while combining with Pete Sr. as the only father-and-son pair to accumulate more than 6,000 hits in the Major and Minor Leagues.

There was Pedro Borbon Jr., who eventually pitched nine seasons in the Major Leagues as -- what else? -- a reliever. Even though he is naturally right-handed, Borbon taught himself to throw lefty to raise the demand for his services. It worked. He spent his first five seasons through 1996 with Braves teams that won division titles every year. They also captured three National League pennants and won the '95 World Series, with much help from his clutch pitching against the Indians.

Speaking of clutch, there was Eduardo Perez, who later had a habit of slamming key home runs -- including three walk-offs -- during his 13 Major League seasons with six teams through 2006. If you don't know Eduardo from that, then what about this? He is a longtime baseball analyst for ESPN, and he'll serve this season as a color commentator for games involving the Marlins, who feature his father as a special assistant to the general manager.

Then there was ... Ken Griffey Jr. Just this past winter, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

HOFer Griffey returns to Seattle

Yes, all four of those little guys during the 1970s were as omnipresent as the red carpet in the home clubhouse at Riverfront Stadium. When I began covering the Reds as a backup writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the latter part of that decade, those kids ranged from 10 years old to 12. 

During one of the Reds' traditional father-son games at Riverfront, Pedro Jr. ran the bases backward, which only made sense. His father, Pedro Sr., was known as one of the biggest goofballs in baseball history. Even more memorable, Griffey Jr. used to sneak into the office of Sparky Anderson to steal popsicles from the refrigerator of the Hall of Fame manager.

Don't think Anderson didn't know. He knew everything, because he was a psychologist as much as a strategist. He once told me that the biggest part of his job wasn't deciding when to yank a starting pitcher to strengthen his nickname, Captain Hook. He said it was juggling the huge egos of all those accomplished players while trying to keep a pleasant clubhouse.

Kids can create calm or chaos.

Sometimes both.

So Anderson had this rule: If the Reds won, kids were allowed in the clubhouse. But if they lost, they had to go.

Even during defeats, those kids weren't that far away. The Major Leaguers in the making would hang out in the underground batting cage at Riverfront after those rare losses by the Machine. In fact, that was their regular meeting spot with most games in progress. They played catch. They swung in the cage. They did a bunch of other baseball things.

From there, they kept advancing in the sport from adolescents to teenagers to adults ...

You know the rest.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.