After much deliberation and personal inner-toil, Joe Oliver will go down as the current best to ever wear #9 while a member of the Cincinnati Reds. No, not the Jazz player, Joe Oliver. Also not the House of Commons of Canada member, Joe Oliver. Certainly not the same Joe Oliver that was a friend of George Zimmerman in his highly publicized trial involving Trayvon Martin. The list certainly does not feature a “who’s who” of illustrious Reds names, so naming the longtime backstop the best of the last single-digit numbers, seemed like a logical choice.
To say that Oliver bounced around the Majors would be an understatement. He was originally selected by the Reds out of high school in the 1983 draft (2nd round) and waited six long years to debut at the big league level. He appeared in a small sample size of games at the end of that year before taking over as the full-time backstop the following spring.
Since the Redlegs have only managed to unfurl five World Championship banners in their history, it makes each one all the more special. His season in 1990 was certainly not noteworthy of any great achievement, but being the mainstay at a position during a championship year is something that can never be taken away. His batting clip of .231 when combined with 8 homeruns and 52 RBI didn’t exactly bring home grandeur of Johnny Bench, and neither did his 2:1 K:BB ratio.
Maybe the finest moment of his journeyman career came that year in the World Series. Facing Dennis Eckersley amidst what was the most dominant season a closer has ever and more than likely ever will have, Oliver laced a RBI single that propelled the Reds to victory, and eventually, the World Championship. Throughout his scattered 13-year big league career, Oliver never once won an award, or even led the league in any offensive category. There is nothing entirely intriguing about him, expect the fact that he played steady defense and has a World Series ring.
There were an innumerable amount of candidates that would have surely fit the description of the best #9 in Reds history, had they spent a long enough time in the franchise to make an impact. The name Chick Hafey makes an appearance once again, but similarly to last time, his impact was just not strong enough as a member of the Redlegs to merit consideration. The other name that came particularly close to winning this nearly meaningless award, was former third base and Yankee legend, Aaron “Bleeping” Boone. (A reference of course, to Bucky “Bleeping” Dent, both of whom hit unbelievably clutch homeruns as members of the Yankees to sink the Boston Red Sox) Boone only had three years in Cincinnati with the number nine stitched on his back, but the glaring omission was his lack of a ring.
Oliver almost amazingly kept his career flowing until the turn of the century before hanging up his spikes in 2001. An 18-year odyssey had finally reached its climax. Oliver saw time with the Reds, Brewers, (Reds again), Tigers, Mariners, Pirates, (Mariners again), Yankees and Red Sox. His career ended in nearly spectacular fashion as he went 3-for-4 while catching as a member of the Red Sox and finally getting closure to what was an outstandingly admirable career.