This week’s respondents are Nick Kirby, Chris Garber, Clay Marshall, Ashley Davis, and Steve Mancuso.

Our Daily Reds Obsession: Who is your favorite Reds player, pre-2000?

Nick: The easy answer, and probably the right answer for anyone born in the 80s is Barry Larkin. But, I want to be different…….Well, I tried to be different, but yeah, Barry Larkin is my favorite Red before the 2000s. I remember when I was probably around ten years old sending an e-mail from my parents account on our dial-up e-mail to the Reds TV booth. I asked George Grande when Larkin was coming back from the DL, and he answered it on TV. Barry Larkin was everything.

Chris: Easy: Eric Davis. The most talented, exciting player in Reds history arrived at a perfect time for me — I was old enough to consume mass amounts of baseball, experienced enough at playing the game to realize that Davis was an alien, but still young enough to idolize athletes. I was also aware enough to realize that young Eric Davis was receiving incredibly unfair, borderline racist treatment from a vocal portion of Cincinnati media — and the “Reds fans” who parroted their drive-time garbage.

The passage of time made those facts even more clear, and revealed Davis’ quiet determination and grace in fighting injuries, cancer, and nonsense — his autobiography (with the late, great Ralph Wiley) is a must-read. But back in 1987, all we knew was that Eric Davis was the greatest baseball player we had ever seen in real life. And that’s still true.

Clay: As I’ve written before, Eric Davis is the reason I became a Reds fan. Growing up, everything he did on the field made him seem like a real-life superhero — from the methodical manner in which he rotated his bat, to the way he slapped his thigh before catching fly balls, to his ability to rob opposing players of home runs seemingly at will. Simply put, he played the game like no one I’d ever seen (and like no one I’ve seen since, with all due respect to Billy Hamilton’s defense), and while it’s unfortunate that he sacrificed his body in the process, I don’t think people like me would be talking about him 30 years later if he went anything less than full-throttle. If anyone offered me a Reds jersey with my choice of any number on the back, I’d pick #44 without hesitation.

Ashley: This is a tough one for me. I was ten in 2000, and I never showed enough of an interest in baseball before that to have a favorite player. Even when my parents took me to a game, I don’t remember much of it to have rooted for any individual player. If I had to choose one though, it would probably be Aaron Boone. I don’t know why I picked him to root for specifically (I was a kid, so it was probably a weird reason), but I was devastated when I found out he got traded in 2003.

Steve: Pete Rose. He wasn’t the best player on the Big Red Machine teams, but he was the heart and soul. Rose hustled. Rose overcame a lack of natural talent through hard work and determination. Rose selflessly moved around the field when his team needed him to change defensive positions. Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench were better players, with more talent than Rose. They also wanted to win and played hard. But Pete was a player that the average kid growing up in Cincinnati playing Knothole Baseball could relate to. He’s the guy you wanted to watch running out a walk, or go from first to third. Again, he was the heart and soul of my favorite baseball teams.

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

You can email Chad at

Join the conversation! 44 Comments

  1. Johnny Larkin. And Barry Bench. I loved that guy – my baseball hero as a kid and as a young man. Okay, I can’t choose, but I’m so proud that they both played their entire careers in just two places – Cincinnati and Cooperstown.

  2. Tough to narrow it down to one. Bench, Morgan, Perez, Davis, Larkin, Rijo, and I could go on and on. Big Klu, Frank Robinson. Always had a soft spot in my heart for Johnny Temple, who graciously signed autographs and chatted with a bunch of us at Crosley Field. Smokey Burgess, Ed Bailey………..

  3. Ted Kluszewski.

  4. I always loved Joe Morgan.
    Joe was the difference in wining back to back titles.
    Joe would be followed by Tony.

  5. Favorite position player was Frank Robinson.
    Favorite pitcher was Jim Maloney.

    I will never forgive the trade that sent Robinson to the O’s and I’ll never forget the Achilles that robbed Maloney of his legacy as one of the all-time MLB greats. Those two incidents had a profound impact on the younger Old Cossack.

    • You have to wonder what Maloney would be in todays game,are you old enough to remember the back to back no-hittersMaloney,Wilson?

  6. Pete Rose. He loved the game. Game 6 vs Boston, Fisk just hit the homerun that changed baseball broadcasting forever to win the game and Pete says to Sparkey “isn’t this great” as the Boston fans are going crazy.

    Sparky says “Peter Edward Rose, you just lost game 6 of the World Series>’

    Rose “Don’t worry skip, we’ll get them tomorrow. But listen to this, isn’t this great?”

    The guy loves the game

  7. Johnny Bench.
    I tried to immolate Tony Perez’s batting stance.
    Davis and Larkin are post-BRM favorites.
    Pitchers, I always liked Don Gullet and Gary Nolan.

  8. Positional Player: Pete Rose
    Pitcher: Don Gullett or Gary Nolan

  9. my favorite players that were fun to watch were bill Doran, Dave Parker, Hal Morris, Bip Roberts, Brad Lesley, Duane Walker and Eddie Milner.

  10. Eric Davis & Mario Soto for me.

  11. Easy for me. As a little kid it was Big Klu He is still the centerpiece of all my wall photos in my man cave. Amongst Willie, Mickey, Stan, Teddy Ballgame and all my boyhood heroes Big Klu is still the man.

  12. Mr. Clutch, Tony Perez.

  13. Growing up, I liked Foster, Griffey (Sr), and Rose. Now I have more appreciation for Bench and Morgan than I had as a youth. Eric Davis was unbelievable; alas, it was too short. Robinson was a little before my time, but I would have loved to see him play. I always felt more at ease when Soto or Seaver was on the mound. In this question longevity comes into play, so I’ll go with Rose or Bench.

  14. George Foster, Mario Soto, and Eric the Red

  15. 1. Charlie Hustle
    2. Dave Concepcion
    3. Dave Parker

  16. Eric Davis. I still don’t believe he reached his full potential, but we won a world championship with him at the core of it all.

    • Too fragile. Never played in 140 games in a season. Never had 475 atbats in a season. He could’ve gone 40/40 atleast 2-3x if he could stay on the field.

    • One thing my brother Chuck and I agreed on was from about May 86 to about late 87 when he crashed into Wrigley Field wall, Davis was the greatest player we ever saw.

      • I used to get really upset when I heard fans refer to him as “Erica” as if giving him a female name implied weakness. He was my favorite Red, along with Vada Pinson, but I never saw Pinson play. I was sitting behind home plate both nights that he robbed Jack Clark of home runs going up over the CF wall to bring the ball back. He was already my favorite but those plays sealed the deal for me.

      • Matt, I agree with you and Chuck. He was certainly the most gifted player that I ever witnessed. Alas, his peak was far too short due to injuries. It’s kind of amazing that he was in the league for as many years as he was. He just never could play a full, healthy season.

  17. Sean Casey. I played first base in little league and tried to copy his batting stance. His enthusiasm for the game was contagious. When I was really young, (5-7 years old) I also loved Chris Sabo.

  18. 1. Pete, 2. Johhny 3. “Dawgie”.

  19. I am probably going to be solo on this but Dan Driessen. I was too young during the BRM Era to understand who were the stars were and Driessen always seemed to homer anytime we went to a game. Also partial to reliever Dave Tomlin because we shared same birthday and got to shake his hand before a game when I turned 7. When you are a kid there are funny reasons why certain players stood out more than others.

  20. From the ’70s it was Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. in the ’80s it was Mario Soto and Eric Davis. In the ’90s it was Chris Sabo and Jose Rijo!.

  21. Child of the 80s here, so I’m post BRM. Davis or Larkin would get the top spot, with honorable mention going to Sean Casey.

  22. Position Player: Pete Rose
    Pitcher: Fred Norman
    I was a small lefty, with no fastball and a big curveball. I lived most of those years in San Diego at the time, so in all honesty, my favorite pitcher was Randy Jones of the Padres.

  23. Bench and Seaver going way back. Larkin, Rijo and Spuds closer to 2000.

  24. I was ten in 2000, so I don’t have much to draw from. I liked Reggie Sanders–not sure why, but he was my favorite

  25. Easy. Growing up in southern Illinois, near St. Louis, I was a Pete Rose fan before I was a Reds fan. It’s hard to be a fan of both nowadays, but I live and die with the Reds every ballgame. He was fun to watch and root for.

  26. First post but good topic…

    From personal experience it has to be Eric Davis. My first Reds game was in 1987 and I saw him go back to the wall in Riverfront and rob a home run. It was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. The problem was probably thinking that players did this kind of thing every day. Experience would teach me better. Of course, there is also the tone setting home run in the 1990 World Series that means Eric etched himself in lore despite the punctured lung later in the Series. It is nice that he is still a part of the organization. Still, the Wiley biography and some of the subsequent behavior are tinged with more than a touch of ego and anger. That’s unfortunate. I agree with other posts that Eric regrettably did not live up to his potential because of injuries.

    I am actually posting because I enjoy reading about baseball history and it seems that a few other older Reds merit mention in this kind of post. Bucky Walters was the best player in the National League in 1939 and would have won the Cy Young had one existed at the time. Eppa Rixey was a Hall of Fame pitcher and a mainstay of the 1920s Reds teams. Ed Roush was another Hall of Famer and easily one of the best Reds CFs in their history. Heinie Groh was the best player on numerous teams including the 1919 champions. Some other great names: Bid McPhee, Noodles Hahn, Ewell Blackwell, Dolf Luque, Lonnie Frey and (much later) Frank Robinson. All of these are among the Reds all-time greats. Just wanting to pay homage to the great tradition!

  27. Hitter: Tony Perez
    Pitcher: Tom Seaver

  28. Being 61 yrs. old I’m still stuck in the 70’s,and 80’s and it would have to be Tony,Bench,and Davey,.Still remember to this day Tony coming up with so many clutch hr and hitting off speed stuff so good to the opposite field with that stance,hands way back.Davey was kinda like a protege of,very similar stance,great opposite field hitter.I was in Riverfront one yr. and watched a pitcher for St.Louis named Sippio Sphinx run a stop sign at third base,needless to say he ran into Bench blocking the plate.I believe that was the end of his career.

  29. Dave Concepcion. The underrated cog in the big red machine. Mr. defense who could hit with consistency anywhere in the line up and steal bases when you needed it. Unlike Larkin, you new he would be in the line up everyday!

  30. Johnny Bench for many reasons.

    He was the “last great Red” when I was old enough (81 and 82) to start paying attention to sports. My parents both knew him, enough for him to come out of clubhouse before a game in Aug of 82 to say hello and sign an autograph for me (about half hr before game my Mom had balls enough to tell Ted Power to “go tell Johnny that ****** ***** was here” — I was all like ‘but mom, that’s Ted Power!’ — but Johnny came right out and was god like with his huge handshake).

    But even before that, as a kid who grew up in NC, Johnny Bench validated my Reds fandom with the Baseball Bunch. He was the coolest baseball star to not just me but countless of my non-Reds fan friends on my kid teams. And that he was on MY team, the Reds, just made me swell with pride as only a little kid could.

    Thanks Johnny! Was fun just to recall that feeling even just for a moment!

  31. I was born in 1980, so that puts me right in the Barry Larkin/Eric Davis wheelhouse, but I would be remiss to not mention one particular player: Tom Browning.

    Tom Browning’s perfect game in ’88 was a seminal moment for my Reds’ fandom. Before, I had been a casual fan. I’d watch games half-heartedly while reading comics or something like that, and I’d go weeks at a time without watching a game. I wasn’t watching the night of the perfect game. I only heard about his perfect game on the news and my dad made a really big deal out of it. That feeling that I “missed out on history” really piqued my interest in the Reds. I was watching intently the next season when he narrowly missed another perfect game on July 4th. And of course, this dovetailed into the following season. What 10 year old Ohio boy wasn’t a Reds’ fan in 1990?

    All that said, Larkin has to be my choice, but I owe a debt to Tom Browning for first really making me really want to watch and follow the Reds. My dad told me about heroes of the past like Big Klu and Frank Robinson, and I saw Pete Rose and Concepcion play when they were shadows of their legendary selves, but Browning was the first to make me realize that on some nights, any normal man can become a superhero.

  32. I have read this site for several years. My first comment

    Grew up in Indy and have lived in Chicago for last 37 years. Became close to Ron Santo RIP

    Anyway Ron told me the BEST. Baseball player he ever competed against was Pete Rose. Hands down

    Not even close.

  33. Pete Rose

  34. Cesar Geronimo
    Eric Davis
    Johnny Bench
    Don Gullett
    Gary Nolan
    Mario Soto

  35. Davey Concepcion. My idol growing up. He was the best.

    • I should have added him to my list.

      • My favorite Concepion story comes from when Mario Soto lost a no hitter in 1984 on a 2 out 2 strike HR to George Hendrick of the Cardinals, tying the game at 1. Soto walked the next batter – visibly shaken, and Davey came in an said something to him. Well Soto finished the inning, Davey led off the bottom of the 9th with a single, stole second, and scored on Brad Gulden’t base hit to win the game.

        Apparently Davey told Soto just to get the last out, and that he would take care of things in the bottom of the 9th.


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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at


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