The Reds have had some immensely popular players over the years.
Tony Perez was one of the biggest. So was Johnny Bench. Barry Larkin was a local guy, as was Pete Rose. Chris Sabo was another one. Now it’s Joey Votto.
But for a while, it was Sean Casey.
Sean Casey exploded onto the Riverfront Stadium scene in 1999 the same way the Reds did. It was a career-year for Casey. The Reds first baseman batted .332, smacked 25 homers, drove in 99, scored 103 runs, had 197 hits and doubled 42 times.
He was a 6’4” left-handed hitting first baseman and the most popular player on the team.
Jim Bowden traded for Casey when he was with the Cleveland Indians. Bowden shipped pitcher Dave Burba to the tribe on March 30, 1998. But ironically just a few days later, an errant pre-game throw by Reds utility player Damian Jackson struck Casey in the eye, fracturing an orbital. It took two doctors four hours for the surgery.
Casey went for a rehab assignment in Indianapolis and then was called back to the Reds, “You can tell when Casey is taking batting practice,” said Bowden. “The bat makes a particular sound.”
But Casey struggled, batting just .133 and he was sent back down to Indy before coming back for good on June 18. That’s when he got established. That’s when he set up 1999.
In many ways, Sean Casey personifies that 1999 season. It was his career year, except for possibly 2004. But the Reds were winners in 1999 and the emergence of The Mayor coincided with it.
1999 was the year of Sean Casey in Cincinnati. He became the most popular player in The Rhineland since the heady days of Chris Sabo. He had a great relationship with the fans, was a favorite interview of the local media on radio and television and just had the connection needed to become a folk hero. He was the last Reds’ Star at Riverfront Stadium.
In 2004, The Mayor had another fabulous season with eerily similar stats to ’99: .324/24/99 was his slash line but after that year, his power numbers collapsed. He was traded to Pittsburgh for lefthanded starting pitcher David Williams on December 8, 2005.
Sean played for several other teams but his hey-day was always in Cincinnati.
He’s not so much remembered for 1999; instead he was a tremendous role model, a genuinely friendly guy that always seemed to have time from everyone.
On the field, he could do everything but run. He could hit for average, hit for power, was a leader on the field and lefties didn’t bother him a bit.
Sean Casey captivated Reds fans. And a lot of us remember him still today.
The Mayor was a class act.