With the retiring of Pete Rose’s #14, there have been some questions asked about who’s next? What number will the Reds retire in the future, if any?
The Reds have already retired ten jersey numbers; two of them are managers, the other eight are players. Here is the list:
Fred Hutchinson 1
Johnny Bench 5
Joe Morgan 8
Sparky Anderson 10
Barry Larkin 11
Dave Concepcion 13
Pete Rose 14
Ted Kluszewski 18
Frank Robinson 20
Tony Perez 24
Major League Baseball mandated that #42 be retired by every team, as well.
A check of some of the other older baseball teams shows that the Reds are neither too liberal or too conservative in retiring numbers. The Yankees have retired the numbers of 21 former players and managers; St. Louis 12, Pittsburgh 9, the White Sox 9 and the Cubs 6. There are no hard or set rules to govern this. Teams are free to do what they wish on the matter.
But usually the criteria for retiring a players number is higher than what it takes to get the player in the team’s Hall of Fame. It’s considered the elite of the elite.
While not an expert on Reds players before the 1960s and certainly not as “advanced” as others on the fine arts of sabermetrics, I drew up a list of candidates who I thought merited such consideration.
Note: I didn’t consider current Reds players or former Reds players still active in baseball.
Vada Pinson #28
One of the best outfielders in baseball during the 1960s. Pinson was a fleetfooted, smooth centerfielder for the Reds over a decade. Pinson broke in with the Reds at the age of 19 in 1958.
He and Frank Robinson were a solid 1-2 punch on offense. Pinson’s best year was 1961 when he batted .343 but was overshadowed by Robinson who won the MVP that season. Pinson had tremendous speed and was not prone to injury. In his first three seasons, he didn’t miss a single game.
From 1962-1967 he averaged 158 games a year. A four time All-Star, Pinson batted over .300 four times in his career with the Reds and rapped out 1881 hits. On the negative side, Vada shied away from bunting. When Earl Lawson, a Cincinnati sportswriter, wrote a column to that effect, Pinson took offense and they had an altercation. Pinson also didn’t have the competitive fire that drove Robinson to such great heights. But he anchored the Reds outfield for a decade and was a big part of the Reds winning record from 19611965.
Jim Maloney #46
A hard-throwing righthander, Jim Maloney anchored the Reds pitching staff in the 1960s. Maloney literally had the best stuff ever by a Reds hurler in the modern era of baseball. He was overshadowed by the likes of Koufax, Marichal, Gibson and Drysdale during the 1960s and never won a Cy Young Award. Maloney had a 134-81 career record with the Reds and a 3.16 ERA and 1592 strikeouts. He threw 30 shutouts and was a twenty game winner twice. He tossed a 10-inning no-hitter against the Cubs in 1965, lost an 11 inning nohitter against the Mets that same year and threw another nohitter against Houston in 1969 (the only nohitter caught by Johnny Bench.)
Eric Davis #44
In May 1987, Eric Davis was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was clearly the best player in baseball. Eric Davis had a rare combination of power and speed seldom seen in baseball. He played center field like Julius Erving, stretched above the wall at Riverfront Stadium to rob hitters of home runs. In a homestand against St. Louis, he did it on consecutive nights to Cardinal slugger Jack Clark. Eric the Red had the best speed of any Reds player I’ve seen; only Dave Collins and Billy Hamilton compare. Eric was, and still is, beloved by Reds fans.
Davis’ downfall was injuries. The most games he played in a single season with Cincinnati was 135 in 1988. He hit a career high .293 in 1987 with 37 homers. The low seasonal number of games didn’t lead to great overall statistics. But Eric Davis made the AllStar team twice, won three Gold Gloves and in his prime could simply dominate a game.
Bucky Walters #31
Walters is the only Reds pitcher to ever win the Most Valuable Player Award, which he did in 1939. Walters pitched 11 seasons for Cincinnati and posted a 160-107 record and a 2.93 to go along with 32 shutouts. He won a twenty game winner three times. In his MVP season, Walters was 2711 with a 2.29 ERA. A seven-time All-Star the right-handed Walters was at his best in the 1940 World Series going 2-0 and allowing just three runs in 18 innings of work against the Tigers.
He and Paul Derringer were the key pitchers in the back to back NL Champion Reds of 1939 and 1940.
Of the eight players numbers retired by the Reds, none are pitchers. Five of the eight won at least one Most Valuable Player Award. Five of the eight played on a World Series champion. And all eight are in the Reds Hall of Fame.
My conclusion: I would vote for Jim Maloney. He was the true ace for the Reds for many years. His arm started to give out in 1969 and he suffered a ruptured achilles tendon injury early in 1970 when the Reds were forming the Big Red Machine. Jim Maloney was a warrior on the mound; when he took the field, the Reds had a great chance to win. He had electric stuff. He gave it his all.
My runner up is Vada Pinson. He passed away in 1995, far too early. Vada was incredibly durable, always ready to play and took care of centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds for a decade. He was a big part of the Ragamuffin Reds of ’61 and the team in 1964 that nearly won the pennant.
John lives in Galesburg, Illinois and has been a Reds fan all of his life. He is a retired firefighter and a Veteran who served for 32 years but stays active at the local Humane Society. His favorite Reds players include Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Tony Perez, Eric Davis, and Bronson Arroyo. While writing, he frequently listens to the music of Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan. He is flanked in the photo by ever-loyal “Reptar.”