The Cincinnati Reds are a historical organization that has featured a myriad of Hall-of-Fame caliber players and record-breaking seasons across numerous decades. Here at Blog Red Machine we started an interactive project for you, the fan, to determine who truly encompassed everything it means to be “The Best Red Ever.” After we selected 64 of the best players to ever wear a Reds uniform, accounting for on-field performance, off-the-field actions and everything in between we arranged the players in a seeded bracket. Matchup by matchup players were eliminated as recognizable, decorated names were eliminated. We at BRM arranged the bracket with one side including pre-1990 players while the other half featured players from 1990 to now. Thus, our tournament featured a Final Four of current star Joey Votto, shortstop Barry Larkin, The Hit King Pete Rose and tournament winner and Best Red Ever … Johnny Bench.
In Bench’s first round win over Pedro Borbon, the following is what we posted to describe his career — certainly one that warranted his Hall of Fame induction and now label as the best Cincinnati Reds player in team history.
A 14-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, two-time Most Valuable Player and two-time World Series champion, Johnny Bench may not just be the best Cincinnati Reds player ever, he may be the best catcher in the history of baseball. And Timemagazine proclaimed him as such in 1972.
A second round pick of the Reds in 1965, Bench struggled offensively early on in his career, but had players and scouts raving about his defense. Two years later — as a 19 year old — Bench made his debut in a Reds uniform and quickly became a cog in the Big Red Machine. As a 20-year-old the following season, Bench won the Rookie of the Year award, while earning his first trip to the All-Star Game and his first Gold Glove. And for good measure, he received a handful of MVP votes — again as a 20-year-old.
Two years later and Bench snagged his first of two MVP awards, becoming the youngest player to earn the award in the National League. All he did was lead the league in home runs (45) and RBIs (148) while hitting .293 with 34 doubles. Two years later Bench claimed his second MVP and led the league once more in HRs and RBIs.
Bench won back-to-back World Series championships in 1975 and 76, including the World Series MVP in the latter by hitting .533 with 2 HR in a four-game sweep of the Yankees.
He ended his 17-year career — all with Cincinnati — with a final All-Star appearance, the second most all-time for a catcher behind just Yogi Berra. His 10 Gold Gloves, all in consecutive years (1968-77), are also second most in MLB history to Ivan Rodriguez.
Bench eclipsed 20 HR in a season 11 times, 30 HR four times and knocked in over 100 runs six times.
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Bench was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot receiving 96.42 percent of the votes. His No. 5 jersey has been retired by the Reds, has been elected to the Reds Hall of Fame, was selected to the All-Century team in 1999, and, by a panel of 36 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, was named to the all-time team at catcher edging out fellow catcher Yogi Berra. ESPN, Sporting News and other outlets have regarded him as the best catcher ever.
Bench is one of the most decorated players in Major League Baseball history, has been labeled as the best catcher the sport has ever seen and received nearly every possible vote for his HOF induction. It is more than fitting that Johnny Bench can now be referred to as the Best Red Ever.