I am a fourth generation Reds fan. My maternal great-grandfather was born in 1900 and loved the Reds. He passed away in 1992 having witnessed all five of the Reds World Series titles.

My father lived and died by the Reds of the 1970s, the Big Red Machine. I remember the stories. “Not an easy out in the lineup” he would say. “They could score on anyone at any time.” Just the names give me chills: Bench, Rose, Foster, Morgan, Griffey, Perez, Conception, and Geronimo. As someone who saw Joe Randa start opening day at third base for the Reds, I can’t imagine what it was like to see those guys hit every day.

The Reds have had great players in every generation. Just as my father passed down the stories of legends in his time, and the generations before him told tales of Ernie Lombardi, Eppa Rixey, and the early years of Frank Robinson, I can’t wait to tell my kids about Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Jose Rijo, and Joey Votto.

The Cincinnati Reds have a tremendous history and as Reds fans, we should celebrate that history.

ESPN recently released their annual Hall of 100, an attempt to rank the best baseball players of all time regardless of off the field suspicions and/or sins.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has become a place for debates on the morality of players as opposed to the worthiness of individual candidates based on their baseball performances. Voters have taken a hard stance against players suspected of using performance enhancing substances. Some writers suggest that we should ignore such suspicions and vote the best players in regardless of whether they “cheated” their way to greatness or not. Others would like the Hall of Fame to recognize only those players that achieved greatness without controversial substances.

Regardless of whether it is justified or not, we should all accept the fact that a baseball Hall of Fame without Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, etc. ignores some of the greatest players in the history of the game. The ESPN Hall of 100 disregards such controversies.

Several players on the list may never make the Baseball Hall of Fame because of suspected PED use or other issues. Besides those listed above, some of these controversial players are Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Manny Ramirez. Two of these controversial players even made the top ten:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Willie Mays
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Ted Williams
  5. Hank Aaron
  6. Ty Cobb
  7. Roger Clemens
  8. Stan Musial
  9. Mickey Mantle
  10. Honus Wagner

The list includes 27 pitchers and 73 position players from all eras of the game. Only three current players made the top 100 with Alex Rodriguez ranked 23rd, Albert Pujols 29th, and Miguel Cabrera 47th (Felix Hernandez was an honorable mention selection).

The remarkable history of the Cincinnati Reds did not go unrecognized. On the list were seven players that played significant portions of their careers with the Reds:

  • Joe Morgan #18
  • Frank Robinson #20
  • Tom Seaver #22
  • Johnny Bench #26
  • Ken Griffey JR #35
  • Pete Rose #38
  • Barry Larkin #75

Tom Seaver and Ken Griffey Jr are more closely associated with other franchises but did have good seasons for the Reds. Frank Robinson obviously had great years after the Reds traded him, but the Hall of Fame lists the Reds as Robinson’s primary team. What an amazing list. Reds from several eras are represented.

We are all excited about the upcoming season and the future of the Reds. Even so, let us not forget just how special the Reds’ past is. One day, my son (who is only 7 weeks old at the moment) will ask his grandfather about Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, and the stories will continue on. Those stories aren’t just part of the Reds story; they are part of my family’s story.

I remember sitting around a fire in summer with my brother and father, listening to Marty. I recall Kevin Mitchell swinging so hard at a pitch that the patrons at Riverfront gasped. And I’ll never forget celebrating with my brother at GABP when Adam Dunn hit a two run homerun in the ninth to beat the Indians. These aren’t just Reds memories. They are memories of family, childhood, and those I care about most.

As a way to celebrate the Reds past, we will have a series of articles on the Reds greats listed in the ESPN Hall of 100. Many of you watched all of these players and will undoubtedly have fascinating stories to tell. We can’t wait to hear them. As we piece together each other’s stories and make them our own, our children and grandchildren will get a fuller picture of just how great the Cincinnati Reds have been. They’ll also get a clearer picture of what this franchise has meant to our families for generations.

37 Responses

  1. Tom Gray

    Best Reds of my lifetime (born 1951) are:

    1B Tony Perez
    2B Joe Morgan
    SS Barry Larkin
    3B Pete Rose
    C Johnny Bench
    LF George Foster
    CF Eric Davis
    RF Frank Robinson
    SP Tom Seaver
    RP John Franco

    • Daytonian

      Hard to argue with that list. Only the pitchers leave any room for reasonable debate.

    • Thegaffer

      I think Votto will overtake Perez in time. The only other argument could be RP, as the other ones are stone cold locks. I personally agree with Franco but this is an area of strength for this francise so you could go with several and be right. I thought Dibble was the most untouchable when he was on (but too up and down). Aroldis has a chance.

      • jessecuster44

        Dibble pitched more from 1989-1991 than Chappy will in his entire Reds career.

      • THEGAFFER

        Nice. . . and destroyed more uniforms . . . and beaned more fans . . . and toppled more tables . . . oh and threw more balls 4 feet behind Eric Yeldon!

      • Will

        Hope your right, because that means Votto will have 3 rings as a player to overtake Perez, and 2 rings as a manager.

    • Alan Horn

      I was born in 49 and agree with your list 100%. Ted Kluzewski and Dave Concepcion run close seconds in my opinion. Likewise for Jim Maloney and Don Gullet. Chapman would be pushing Franco. Cueto would also be close.

  2. cfd3000

    That’s a list that fans of the Reds can be very proud of. There aren’t many franchises that could provide a list that would even be competitive let alone match that list. I was born in 1964 and would give you the same list, and there are guys in their 30’s who could give you one nearly as good. Swap Rijo (or even Cueto) for Seaver and Bruce or O’Neill for Frank Robinson and you still have a formidable team. Perhaps Chapman, Votto or Hamilton will someday crack their way into that lineup, but those are big shoes to fill. It’s been fun to be a Reds fan, and I can’t wait for opening day. Pitchers and catchers in less than a month!

    • Daytonian

      Frank Robinson was simply the complete package.

      • cfd3000

        No question. He’s a no doubter for the all time Reds team. My observation was more about the fact that you could be in your 30’s and have seen all but two of these guys play. Robbie is a lock for the all time Reds in right, but even without him the Reds list is pretty amazing. Is there another franchise that could come close? There are franchises that could match up all time, but none that could hang without there Musial’s, Gehrig’s, and Williams’.

    • DBinTX

      Swap Bruce for Frank Robinson – seriously?

  3. jessecuster44

    Completely off subject, but I am watching MLB presents : Nasty Boys – The 1990 Cincinnati Reds.

    Really fun.

  4. gusnwally

    Big Klu versus Tony Perez makes for a reasonable debate.I would also think Vada Pinson vs Eric Davis makes for a close call. I would lean to Vada.

    • Tom Gray

      Both are legitimate debates. I considered both but Klu was a little before I paid attention (mid 1950’s) to the Reds. Pinson was a close second to ED for me in CF.

      • THEGAFFER

        Doggie was the most VALUABLE and its hard to be the 5th best player on a team and stand out. That said, he was never a dominant force and more made his name on consistency. The ’77 trade was probably the right call based on simple playing stats but teams are more than just stats. On stats Votto is better than any Reds 1B.

    • Daytonian

      I like Vada and Klu a lot. Still, it’s not a close call.

  5. zaglamir

    As someone who only has memories of Larkin, I’m really looking forward to this list. My family was never big into the Reds (we’d go to a ball game a year, on Father’s Day), so I don’t have many stories of the “good ‘ol days.” Really looking forward to seeing how you guys remember the players of your yore.

  6. WVRedlegs

    Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever see a Reds player duplicate what George Foster did in 1977. Incredible season. But it just wasn’t enough to lead the Reds to a threepeat.
    52 HR, 124 R, 149 RBI, .320/.382/.631, 165 wRC+, and an incredible 8.9 WAR.
    We’ll never see that again, even in a small ball park like GABP.

    • Nick Carrington

      Incredible season for Foster. ELITE power. Joe Morgan’s 1975 season may have been even better. .327/.466/.508 with a 176 wRC+ and 11 WAR. I believe that is the highest WAR total of any Red ever. Morgan also stole 67 bases and knocked in 94 runs.

      • THEGAFFER

        Agree, Morgan was the total pakage that year and was a great defender at a premium position.

        But chicks dig the longball, and Foster was the ONLY player in the 70’s or 80’s to hit 50 HR in a year. His ’76 year was not far off either.

      • wvredlegs

        Morgan earned and deserved both of his NL MVP awards. I can’t believe he is 71 years old now. I liked the way Morgan was in the batters box, bouncing and swinging the bat as he waited on the pitch, and then he went into his chicken wing flap.
        As a RH hitter, I tried to emulate Tony Perez’s stance in the batters box. So much so in high school and college that people would say to me that I looke dlike Perez in the box. Tried to keep that right elbow as high as I could in my stance like Perez.

    • MrRed

      Soto was a good’n. Not sure if you just missed Seaver or perhaps you thought Soto was better. For my money, Seaver at the top of his game was the better pitcher. And, I think if Cueto had a little more health and time pitching in a Red’s uniform, he would also be better than Soto.

      • Rude Onederful

        I really came on board as a Reds fan in ’82 (just after Seaver’s tenure…) & Soto had a lot to do with that. I’m certainly aware of Seaver’s overall resume, but I can’t get over what I remember seeing Soto do with so little (his roster & his repertoire). I would’ve loved to see how his career would have played out had Rose not started him on 3 days rest 19x in 1985. That said, I have to agree about Cueto. Completely emotional decision here, but I’m in the minority group that hopes he remains a Red. He’s the guy I’ve been waiting for since Rijo retired.

      • MrRed

        I hear you. Soto was on some really bad teams and because of that, I think he gets overlooked. He truly had a devastating change-up and made the most out of what he had around him.

        I loved Rijo too, but in mind, Cueto has surpassed him now. JC has 5 legitimate plus pitches and is such a tremendous competitor the way he bears down with runners on base and especially how he keeps base runners in check. Just an overall top notch pitcher.

  7. Ohioindiaspora

    lets keep hoping for more, Mes the Destroyer and company and who knows maybe even Billy Hamilton have a long future ahead of them.

  8. Tom Reed

    My favorite starting pitcher is one from my youth, Ewell Blackwell. ‘The Whip’, as Waite Hoyt used to call him, was wicked on hitters without much exception. In seven years with the Reds, Blackwell had three good seasons including 22-8 in 1947. His incredible sidearm delivery was unique but it took a toll on his arm and body, and his career was cut short.

  9. [email protected]

    Ivan Goodman, Johnny Wyrostek,Virgil Stallcup,Grady Hatton, Bucky Walters, Ewell Blackwell and Ed Greengass are some of the old timers I recall as a kid at Crowley Field with my Grandfather.

  10. lwblogger2

    Hey! Joe Randa hit a walk-off HR that opening day! … Of course he didn’t do much else that season.

  11. lwblogger2

    By the way, those memories and those shared moments are what make baseball like no other game. It’s why I love it so very, very much.

  12. gusnwally

    You hit it right on LW. The connection with my dad and baseball is still priceless. He died in 89′ and I was in my 40’s. But the first words out of our mouths were always about the Reds or baseball in general. My son is 34 and we play fantasy baseball together year after year. Whenever we talk, baseball always comes up at some point in the conversation.

    • CJ22

      I lost my father late last year. this will be my first baseball season without him. I miss the hot stove discussion with him, but boy do I have some good memories with him and baseball.

  13. Marilyn Dishman

    Thanks for recognizing these great players. What they do outside of playing the sport shouldn’t diminish recognizing them for their skills.

  14. gusnwally

    CJ22, sorry to hear about your dad. But I bet you can find a lot of surrogates here on RN.My day is not complete without checking in 2 or 3 times.

  15. Mark Wass

    Lombardi was a better hitter than Bench (.306 lifetime- 2 time NL batting champ) and also great behind the plate