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Big Red Machine's 'Great Eight' reunites for first time

CINCINNATI -- When Reds manager Dusty Baker played for the Dodgers from 1976-1983, Los Angeles and Cincinnati were both members of the National League West. With that, the Reds and Dodgers formed one of the NL's most heated rivalries.

When the Reds joined the NL Central for the 1994 season, though, that began to change, as the two teams didn't play as often and weren't fighting for the same division crown. And as the rivalry has faded, Baker said most of his current players likely aren't aware of how intense it used to be.

"But I'm sure they'll probably hear about it this weekend," Baker said.

That's because the most high-profile members of the Reds' 1975-76 World Series championship teams will be in town to celebrate Joe Morgan Weekend in Cincinnati. At 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, the group -- known as "the Great Eight" -- will be on hand for the dedication of Morgan's statue outside of the stadium.

On Friday night, the Great Eight, which includes Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, Pete Rose, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey Sr., reunited for the first time as a complete group at Great American Ball Park following the series opener against the Dodgers.

"I got my baseballs ready for people to sign them, jerseys -- I got everything ready," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I can't wait. Looking forward to seeing them out on the field, especially the best second baseman in baseball, Joe Morgan."

Since returning to the Reds as a special advisor to baseball operations in 2010, Morgan has been around the team frequently and even has a locker in the clubhouse directly next to Phillips. Third baseman Todd Frazier has also talked about meeting and accepting hitting tips from Rose, but that didn't take away from the excitement he had to see players from the Big Red Machine.

"It's going to be great to shake their hand and talk shop a little bit with them," Frazier said.

While having former Reds stars in town was special for the current players, they also had a lot more on their minds heading into Friday's game. Cincinnati entered the three-game series just 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis and three games behind first-place Pittsburgh in the NL Central, making this weekend a big one on and off the field.

"It'll be good to get them back," right fielder Jay Bruce said of the Great Eight. "But I'm looking forward to playing baseball ourselves with the 2013 Reds this weekend."

Jeremy Warnemuende is a reporter for
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