November 26, 1962: Chances are no one outside of the Reds’ organization noticed it at the time, but on this date the Reds lost one of their best talents in the latter half of the 20th Century when the Houston Colt .45’s drafted Jim Wynn from their Class D minor league team.
Wynn was a native of Hamilton, Ohio, and had attended Taft High School in Cincinnati. The Reds signed him as a free agent just prior to the 1962 season and sent him to Tampa in their Class D League. The twenty-year-old Wynn was playing third base and had an outstanding season, hitting .290 with 14 homers, 81 rbi, and 93 runs scored in just 120 games. For comparison, future all-star Lee May was also on the team with May hitting .260 with 10 homers, 65 rbi, and 45 runs scored.
Wynn was left unprotected by the Reds and under the rules of the day, the new Colt .45’s selected him from the Reds in the “first year player draft.” Wynn debuted with the Colt .45’s the next summer and became a star centerfielder by 1965 when, at age 23, he hit .275 with 22 homers, 73 rbi. Wynn’s skill set may have even been underappreciated at this time. Nicknamed “The Toy Cannon” for his small 5-10 stature, Wynn had a powerful swing who spent the majority of his career in pitcher’s parks in Houston and Los Angeles. For his career, Wynn batted .250 with 291 home runs, 964 rbi, and 1105 runs. He had a career .802 OPS (128 OPS+). His best season was 1969 when Wynn hit .269 with 33 homers, 87 rbi, 113 runs scored, 148 walks, and a .943 OPS (166 OPS+).
Baseball writer and sabermetrician Bill James rates Wynn as the 10th greatest centerfielder of all time. He rated Vada Pinson as the 18th greatest centerfielder of all time and Frank Robinson as the third greatest rightfielder of all time. James rates Pete Rose as the fifth greatest rightfielder of all time, too. Imagine how much damage Wynn could have done in Crosley Field if he had been allowed to regularly play there.