Dodger debate: Was L.A. the Reds’ greatest-ever division rival?

Former  Reds players -- left to right -- Pete Rose, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench had their hands full with the Dodgers in the 1970s, when both teams were in the National League West. Rose, Morgan and Bench played for the Big Red Machine back then, and Larkin was a fan while growing up in Cincinnati. Here, they walk on the field prior to the 86th MLB All-Star Game at the Great American Ball Park in 2015.

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Former Reds players -- left to right -- Pete Rose, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench had their hands full with the Dodgers in the 1970s, when both teams were in the National League West. Rose, Morgan and Bench played for the Big Red Machine back then, and Larkin was a fan while growing up in Cincinnati. Here, they walk on the field prior to the 86th MLB All-Star Game at the Great American Ball Park in 2015.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are rolling and somewhat easy to admire from afar, but back in the day, it was oh, so easy for Reds fans to hate that bunch.

During the glorious days of the Big Red Machine, the bluebloods were -- easily -- the Reds' biggest rivals, and quite the pain in the rear for Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson and superstars Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and the gang.

Young lads and laddettes might not know this, but from 1969-'93 the Reds were in the same division with the Dodgers, the National League West, along with the Giants, Padres, Astros and Atlanta Braves. That's not a misprint; the story behind the geographical mess was a weird one built around the wishes of the Cubs to be in the same division as the Cardinals, their greatest rivals.

It’s not hard to find folks who consider the Reds-Dodgers one of MLB’s greatest division rivalries, and SB Nation takes a nice look at the grudge fest here:

In the 1970s, manager Tommy Lasorda seemed like a blowhard, first baseman Steve Garvey was a preener, second baseman Davey Lopes was a speedy pest, third baseman Ron Cey looked like a penguin, outfielders Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith and Rick Monday were tormentors, and those pitchers!

Jeez, Andy Messersmith, Don Sutton, former Red Claude Osteen (of Reading, Ohio), Don Sutton, Burt Hooton, Rick Rhoden, Doug Rau, screwballer Mike Marshall and that bunch was nasty.

For all the greatness of those Reds teams, which won five of seven division titles from 1970-’76,  the Dodgers mucked things up from time to time, like in 1974, when they won the title, and they were champs again in ‘77 and ‘78 before the Reds moved back into the winner’s circle in ‘79.

If you’re old enough to remember, how easy was it for you to loathe the Dodgers?

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