Which four players have had the biggest impact on your franchise’s history? That’s the question MLB is asking fans to answer. Each team has a ballot that has been narrowed by a panel in conjunction with the thirty franchises down to eight players, with a slot for write-in choices. Fans can place their votes between now and May 8th and the winners being honored during the All-Star game. You can find the ballot here but this article will give a little Reds career highlight for each of the eight players who have been listed on the ballot.

Johnny Bench (C): A second round pick in the Reds 1965 draft class, Bench made his major league debut in 1967 at the age of nineteen, but didn’t use his rookie eligibility until 1968 when he won Rookie of the Year. Playing his entire seventeen year career in a Reds uniform, suiting up for 2,158 games while hitting .267/.342/.476. Bench was on fourteen All-Star teams, including thirteen straight from 1968 to 1980 and collected ten straight Gold Gloves from 1968 to 1977 while posting a caught stealing rate of 47% in that time. A two-time MVP (’70, ’72), Bench collected 75.0 WAR in his career on his way to being voted into the Hall of Fame in 1989 with 431/447 ballots to give him the tenth highest percentage of the vote in MLB history and cementing him as quite possibly the greatest catcher of all time. Hall of 100 post on Bench by Nick Carrington.

Joe Morgan (2B): Originally both a Houston Colt 45/Astro, Morgan didn’t become a Red until a trade brought him to Cincinnati for his age twenty-eight season in 1972. Despite hitting a respectable .263/.375/.396 for Houston, once he arrived in Cincinnati he truly flourished. In eight seasons (1,154 games) as a Cincinnati Red he put together a .288/.415/.470 line supplemented by 406 stolen bases with only 84 caught stealing. His 406 stolen bases for the Reds is only four less than his strikeout total in the same time frame. An All-Star every year he was a Red, he also added five straight Gold Gloves (’73-’77) and back-to-back MVPs in ’75 and ’76, which are both years the Reds won the World Series. He compiled 57.8 WAR as a Red before leaving in free agency in 1980 and his last season in the league would be in 1984. Morgan was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1990 with 363/444 ballots. Hall of 100 post on Morgan by Nick Carrington.

Dave Concepcion (SS): Signed as an amateur free agent from Venezuela in 1967, Concepcion played all nineteen seasons (2,488 games) of his career in a Reds uniform. An All-Star nine times, including eight in a row from ’75-’82. He also added five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and two top-10 MVP vote finishes before retiring after the ’88 season with 39.8 career WAR.

Tony Perez (1B): An amateur free agent signed by the Reds out of Cuba in 1960, Perez spent sixteen of his twenty-three years in the majors as a Red in two separate stints spanning a total of 1,948 games. A seven-time All-Star, all as a Red, Perez hit .283/.346/.474 in a Reds uniform on his way to racking up 45.6 WAR for the team. Though he never won an MVP, he finished top-10 in the voting four times, his closest being when he finished third the year Bench won the MVP. His final season was in ’86 and he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2000 with 385/499 ballots.

Eric Davis (OF): Drafted in the eight round of the 1980 draft by the Reds, Davis made his major league debut in ’84 at the age of 22 and went on to hit .271/.367/.510 in his career while wearing a Reds uniform. With two All-Stars, three Golden Gloves and two Silver Sluggers as a Red, he also managed two top-10 MVP finishes in ’87 and ’89. Davis has to his name an eighty steal season in ’86, despite having just 487 PA that year, managing to swipe eighty while only being thrown out eleven times. In his nine years as a Red, he managed to accrue 30.5 WAR.

Frank Robinson (RF): In 1953 the Reds signed Robinson as an amateur free agent. Making his debut in ’56 at the age of twenty, he won the RoY award in his first of ten seasons (1,502 games) as a Red. Hitting .303/.389/.554 for Cincinnati, he compiled a RoY, six All-Star appearances, one Gold Glove, an MVP in ’61, and five other top-10 MVP finishes. With 63.8 WAR in his ten years with the Reds before being traded. In ’75, he became the first African American manager in MLB before retiring after ’76 as a player/manager and continuing as just a manager. Robinson entered the Hall of Fame in 1982 with 370/415 ballots. Hall of 100 post on Robinson by Nick Carrington.

Barry Larkin (SS): A Cincinnati native, Larkin was drafted by the Reds in the fourth round of the 1985 draft and spent every one of his nineteen years (2,180 games) in his major league career as a Red, hitting .295/.371/.444. With twelve All-Star appearances, nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, membership in the 30-30 Club (’96), and an MVP decorating his shelf, Larkin retired after the ’04 season and took his 70.2 WAR to the Hall of Fame in 2012 with 495/573 ballots. Hall of 100 post on Larkin by Nick Carrington.

Pete Rose (OF): Signed as an amateur free agent in 1960 by the Reds, Rose debuted in ’63 at the age of twenty-two and went on to play eighteen and a half seasons (2,722 games) in Cincinnati while having a .307/.379/.425 line. Winner of the ’63 RoY, Rose went on to also collect thirteen All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, an MVP in ’73, and EIGHT other top-10 MVP finishes in a Reds uniform. When he retired after the ’86 season with 77.7 WAR as a Red, he held the all-time records for games played, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, and games won, with none of those records looking to be in jeopardy for now. Hall of 100 post on Rose by Nick Carrington.

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While you’re already there voting for your Franchise Four is there is also a vote for the Greatest Living Players and Bench is one of the eight on the ballot. Of course there’s also a write-in section, so if all four of the greatest living players turn out to be Reds? Who can blame us? It’s basically a tradition.

Who do you think four Reds with the most impact on the team are? Was anyone left off the ballot? Who you think the four greatest living players of all time are? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

19 Responses

  1. Matt

    Man, this was tough. I feel like Bench (possibly the best catcher ever), and Pete (hit king, obviously) are no-brainers. Barry Larkin was my favorite player when I was growing up, and being the excellent player he was, playing his whole career for the Reds, I had to include him too. Then I had to decide between Morgan and Robinson, which was just not cool. In the end the 4 I voted for ended up being:

    Rose
    Bench
    Larkin
    Robinson

  2. don moore

    umm, Big Klu was certainly the face of the franchise when no other one existed. He even caused a modification of the franchise’s uniforms. He was also the emulated person ever for the Reds (how many kids in the Cincy area rolled up their short sleeves when playing baseball then, even if they lacked bicep definition)? That is a true face of a franchise!

    • RossGrimsley

      I agree about big Klu. As a young kid, my idols were Klu, F Robby, Vada and Nuxie.

  3. Tom Reed

    It’s tough to just choose four greatest living Reds players. That group would have to include: Bench – Morgan – Perez – Frank Robinson – Larkin and Rose. I would agree that Big Ted was the face of the Redlegs during the Crosley Field days, and that Pete Rose is the face of the franchise since then.

    • Tom Gray

      Klu in the mid 1950’s but Robinson starred for 10 years as a Red at Crosley Field.

  4. cfd3000

    I’m too young to have any memories of Ted Kluszewski, but I suspect he at least belongs on this ballot of eight. I agree that Rose and Bench are no brainers, and as great as they were I think Concepcion and Davis are clearly not in the Franchise Four for the Reds. Incredible? Yes, just not as the answer to this question. And as great a Red as Robinson was, he spent too much time in another uniform to slot in ahead of the other three. That leaves Joe, Barry and the Big Doggie. I’ll take Larkin and Morgan and apologize to Perez. Final ballot Bench, Rose, Larkin, Morgan.

    • Jeremy Forbes

      Those four are my vote as well. An impressive group by any standards.

  5. ohiojimw

    It was about a decade ahead of my time even but the Reds were in the World Series in 1939(Lost) and 1940 (World Champs). Seems to me somebody from that era should at least be on the Faces of the Franchise ballot. Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer were the two top starting pitchers. The position players I heard about in folklore talk growing up in the 1950’s were Ival Goodman (OF) Frank McCormick (1B) and Ernie ‘the Snoz’ Lombardi (C).

    • ohiojimw

      Of the guys I named above, Lombardi is the only one in the national HoF. He was also the one with the big public persona from what I was told and have read.

    • Tom Reed

      I would say the face of the franchise in the late 1930’s and a part of the 40’s was Johnny Vander Meer who accomplished the incredible feat of two consecutive no hitters in 1938 against the Bees in Boston and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

      • ohiojimw

        No doubt VanderMear had the greatest individual feat of the era; and, he crossed my mind. However when I looked up the records, he wasn’t in the same class over his career as the other two pitchers I cited.

        I am too young by 5-10 years to recall from personal experience; but from what I’ve heard in conversation, Lombardi was the enduring hero with what we would now call charisma or star appeal in the community. He must have had something none of the others had to be the only one in the national HoF. So, I’ll stick with him while acknowledging the enduring uniqueness of JVM’s accomplishment on those two successive rotation turns.

  6. lwblogger2

    Ok, not necessarily the best players but the players that in my opinion had the biggest impact on the franchise:

    Rose – The all-time leader in hits. Last player/manager. Beloved by most in Redsland.
    Bench – Greatest catcher of all time. Entire HoF career w/ franchise.
    Larkin – Defined Reds’ baseball for a generation. Entire HoF career with Reds.
    Perez – 16 seasons as a Red. HoF career. Brief stint as manager. Loved in Redsland.

  7. Mik Wehr

    Rose, Bench, Morgan and Robinson in that order……