The forgotten weapon of the Big Red Machine, was also the finest man to wear the #13 in Reds history, Mr. David Ismael Concepcion Benitez, or just, Dave Concepcion.
Similarly to how Seattle Mariners fans feel about Edgar Martinez, and how Chicago Cubs fans had always felt about Ron Santo, is how the majority of the Cincinnati Reds fans feel about Davey Concepcion and his Hall of Fame status. The Venezuelan born star will never be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, but he has already been honored within the walls of the Reds new cathedral.
Concepcion may never be remembered for his offensive contributions, and rightfully so. The circumstances that surrounded him never quite presented the opportunity to be the superstar, but he seemed to fit the role perfectly. A nine-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover, Concepcion was the quintessentially above average player on a great team.
Over the course of his 19-year career, Concepcion compiled 2,326 hits, all as a member of the Reds. Similarly to how Barry Larkin established himself as a legend in the minds of all Reds fans, Concepcion did the same.
His big-time awards were reserved for just the 1982 All-Star Game, when he claimed the MVP Award after taking future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley deep in the second inning for a two-run homerun. Concepcion only roped out five homeruns the entire regular season that year, and just barely broke the century mark for his career at 101.
Additionally, he finished fourth in National League MVP voting in 1981, while also winning a Silver Slugger. The ’81 campaign was shortened by the strike that crippled the middle of the year, and ultimately, in one of baseball’s all-time biggest gaffs, kept the Reds out of the Postseason. Concepcion’s offensive numbers did not jump off the page, but when combined with his slick fielding, his candidacy was all the more legitimized.
Number 13 was linked more to his successor, Barry Larkin, than just the slick fielding at the shortstop position. After Concepcion’s career appeared to be coming to a slowing point at the end of the 1984 season, the transition period began. Once Larkin had taken over for good, there was no going back for the man who had manned the position so admirably for close to two decades.
Interestingly enough, Concepcion has been the only man to have his number, 13, retired by a Major League club. Besides obvious unlucky stigmatisms, it seems bizarre for a number to feature such little publicity. Unfortunately, Alex Rodriguez has brought unwanted attention to the number. As famous as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have become off their usage of illegal drugs (allegedly), “A-Rod” has taken things to a new level.
To say that Concepcion may be the best to ever wear the #13 for an extended period of time, and play the game cleanly, may not be a stretch. Omar Vizquel may be the biggest rival of this notion, as the fellow Venezuelan was the benchmark of excellence for 24 years.
As far as other options within the Reds organization, the list is not incredibly long. Former infielder Eddie Miller had himself a decent career with the Reds, being a four-time All-Star. The other, Eddie Pellagrini, only had 17 hits in his entire Reds career that included just the 1952 season.
Davey Concepcion may never be enshrined amongst baseball’s immortals, but that does not lessen the value that he had to two World Series Championship teams in the Queen City. The man blazed the way for an entire breed of South American born shortstops, not to mention the #11 that followed him in Cincinnati. He may be the forgotten cog of the Big Red Machine, but he is simply one of the best to ever wear the #13.