When in doubt, going with a member of the Big Red Machine never seems to fail. The best player to ever wear the #22 in Reds history is former long-time corner infielder/outfielder, Dan Driessen.
At 21 years old, Driessen was a jack-of-all-trades for the Reds. He played some third base, first base and right field, on a team that made it all the way to the National League Championship Series before ultimately falling short to the New York Mets. The experience that he gained was invaluable though. Driessen batted .301-en route to a third place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting for 1973.
The sweet swinging lefty was the odd man out during the years of the machine that changed the way offenses work. With George Foster taking the bull by the horns in leftfield, Ken Griffey Sr. having right field on lockdown, and Pete Rose and Tony Perez, two of the best to ever play the game, taking care of the corner infield spots, Driessen was left to utility duty.
In the modern era, when a player is “blocked” from getting playing time, a trade is usually requested, or the player bolts the moment they hit the open market. There is something to be said about Dan Driessen sticking it out, and ultimately, learning from the best team that has ever stepped in the box.
Once the parts in the machine began to cough and sputter, Driessen was the first one there to pick up the pieces. Following Tony Perez’s departure in 1976, Driessen became the everyday first baseman for the next seven seasons. Of course, those are gigantic shoes to fill. Driessen was never elected to an All-Star Game, or won a Silver Slugger, or Gold Glove in his career, but he was the definition of an everyday steady player that batted .271 in his time with the Reds, and amassed over 1,200 hits.
One of the final remaining members of the original Machine, Driessen eventually left the Queen City for north of the border; specifically, Montreal. He hung on at the end of his career with other clubs such as the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros, before ending his ride in Missouri, with the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
Trying to get every possible hit out of the bat of Driessen in the 1987 World Series, the Cardinals used him to try to take down the Minnesota Twins. They wound up falling just a game short, and Driessen ended his playing days coming up one game short from his third World Championship, although the two from the days of the Big Red Machine certainly softened the blow.
Similarly to many other numbers this month, the #22 produced a litany of great players that just unfortunately did not either a.) produce enough as a member of the Reds, or b.) did not produce enough while wearing that number. Wally Berger, Eddie Joost and Tony Gonzalez all fall in those categories for the #22, making Driessen the most logical option for the honor.
His bloodlines also provided to be Major League material. Driessen is the uncle of Major League Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.
Driessen, in his own right, is enshrined at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum located at the ballpark. His number may never hang in the rafters, but Driessen was without a doubt, an excellent addition to the organization and contributed immensely to the winning of two World Series titles.