With March Madness in full effect, we are holding Cincinnati Reds Madness. Leading up until Opening Day, Blog Red Machine will post matchups of all-time greats and let you, the readers, decide who is the greatest Reds player of all time.
Our first-round matchup is a battle of sluggers. The No. 8 seed, Ted Kluszewski, goes head-to-head with the overall No. 1 seed, Johnny Bench. The two Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famers have a combined career 640 home runs, .486 SLG, and 3 National League home run titles.
Just looking, Big Klu’s career with the Reds is pretty impressive. A slash line of with the Reds of .302/.375/.512 line is impressive, whether you’re looking at the 1960s or 2010s. Kluszewski led all of baseball in home runs in RBIs in 1954, right in the middle of a Yankees dynasty team.
Most Reds fans probably remember the story of Kluszewski’s uniform. His biceps were so big that he cut off the sleeves to create the iconic sleeveless uniform of the 1950s Redlegs.
Ted Kluszewski might be one of the unluckiest players in this mock tournament. Throughout his career, he had a bad case of the injury bug, shortening most of his seasons and his career. He also retired just a couple years before the start of the Big Red Machine, overshadowing him by the greats that came right after him.
Johnny Bench is often considered the best catcher, not just in the history of the Cincinnati Reds, but all-time. He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1968-77. In that same time frame, Bench won Rookie of the Year, two National League MVPs, and two home run titles. He was an all-around player that defined his position.
Bench was a power hitter in a position not meant for power hitters, yet, he is the franchise leader in home runs. In 1989 Johnny Bench was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 96.42% of the vote, which was higher than Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams.
Now, Bench is immortalized with a statue outside of Great American Ball Park. He is one of the most iconic players in not only Cincinnati Reds history, but in MLB history as well. Bench set the highest standard for catchers and it’ll be difficult for anyone to reach his greatness.