You can see it every day at Great American Ballpark.
The numbers 1, 5, 8, 10, 11, 13, 18, 20 and 24. Those are the nine numbers officially “retired” by the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are tied for 5th place among MLB franchises with those nine numbers retired.
Cincinnati retired their first number in 1965 to honor Manager Fred Hutchinson (1). Next came Johnny Bench (5) in 1984. In 1998, three more were added; Frank Robinson (20), Joe Morgan (8) and Ted Kluszewski (18). Next came Tony Perez (24), Manager Sparky Anderson (10), Dave Concepcion (13), and Barry Larkin (11). (I omit the number 42, because this was mandated by major league baseball in tribute to Jackie Robinson.)
So the question is: who is next? Who would you want to see the Reds honor by retiring their number? Or should the Reds draw the line for now and not retire any more numbers?
It’s good to be frugal. Retired numbers shouldn’t be handed out like candy and the mistake many Hall of Fames make is by selecting hordes of candidates for enshrinement.
Before moving on, it’s best to deal with #14—Pete Rose. The Reds have never issued 14 to a player after Rose retired, except for when Rose’s kid made his debut with the Reds. It has never been issued to anyone else since. It’s obvious the Reds will retire this number when either Rose’s ban is lifted or they get special permission from major league baseball to execute this move. That being said, 14 is a special case for a special player and eventually will be retired. It’s just a matter of when it happens.
No Cincinnati Reds pitcher has a number retired; there are a few that have the potential for that honor and that group includes Bucky Walters, Eppa Rixey, Dolf Luque, Paul Derringer, and Jim Maloney. Only Rixey is enshrined in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Local favorite Joe Nuxhall played 15 years for the Reds and won 130 career games and would obviously be a sentimental favorite due to his immense popularity.
Other Reds players that merit strong consideration include Vada Pinson, George Foster, Ernie Lombardi, Eric Davis, and Edd Roush.
There’s no standard criteria or rules for a team to decide whose jersey number is picked to retire. Being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame would be a big help but Concepcion never even merited serious consideration in the Cooperstown HOF, which is, in my opinion, an incredible oversight. Every Red to win a Most Valuable Player Award is in the Reds Hall of Fame but several players who have won it, including Walters, Foster, Lombardi and Rose have not had their number retired.
Here are my five finalists and why they should be considered:
Pitched for the Reds from 1938-1948. 3-time 20 game winner. Career record with the Reds was 160-107 over 11 seasons with an ERA of 2.93 and 195 complete games. 1939 NL MVP. 2-0 in the 1940 World Series in their 4-3 Series victory over Detroit. 5 time NL All-Star. 27-11 record in 1939.
Played with the Reds from 1958-1968. Durable player, averaged 157 games per season for nine years, 6 times hit over 20-plus home runs in a season. 7 times stole 20-plus bases in a season. Hit .343 in 1961. 1,881 career hits with the Reds that included 186 home runs and 221 stolen bases. Career .297 batter with the Reds. Gold Glove winner in 1961. Above average defensively and had a great mix of power and speed.
Pitched 13 years for the Reds with a career record of 179-148 and a 3.33 ERA and 180 complete games. 3-time 20 game winner, including a 25-13 season. Rixey’s number was 18, the same as Big Klu but other teams have retired the same number twice.
Pitched 10 years for the Reds. 161-150 career record with a 3.36 ERA and 189 complete games. Derringer struck out 1,062 hitters as a Reds pitcher and was a 5-time All-Star. Derringer was a 4-time 20 game winner and won 2 games in the 1940 World Series, including Game 7.
Pitched 11 years for the Reds with a 134-81 record, a 3.16 ERA and 1,592 strikeouts. Maloney tossed two nohitters and a third one went 11 innings before he gave up a home run. A 2-time 20 game winner, Maloney probably was the hardest thrower in Reds modern history rivaled only by Aroldis Chapman.
If forced to make a choice, it would come down to two players for me: Walters or Pinson.
Walters had one of the greatest seasons ever for a Reds hurler (27-13 in ’39) and is the only Cincinnati pitcher to win the MVP award. He was the #1 starter on the great Reds team from 1939 and 1940 that made back to back World Series appearances.
Pinson had that rare combination of power and speed and took care of centerfield for a decade at Crosley Field. He was especially durable and just missed being Rookie of the Year (he played too many games the year before in 1958) and Most Valuable Player (he lost out to teammate Frank Robinson in 1961.) He was one of the cornerstones of some good Reds teams in the 1960s. Some Reds fans remember a fight Pinson had with Reds beat writer Earl Lawson after Lawson kept criticizing Pinson for not bunting more for base hits using his great speed. I interviewed Pinson before his death in 1995 when he coached for the Detroit Tigers. He praised Lawson for having the guts to stand up to him. He regretted not winning the 1964 pennant for Hutchinson. He looked back at his career in Cincinnati fondly. Vada enjoyed reminiscing about his times playing at Crosley Field and playing for Hutch.
Despite my personal preference for Vada Pinson, I would give Bucky Walters the edge. Not by much, but he would come in first.
What’s the verdict of Redleg Nation? Who would be your choice or would you stand pat?