Cincinnati Reds: Who was the best player in team history to wear No. 6?

DENVER - MAY 1: Ryan Freel #3 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
DENVER - MAY 1: Ryan Freel #3 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The No. 6 has been very popular throughout the 150-year history of the Cincinnati Reds, but who was the best to have ever worn it?

The No. 6 has been worn by 35 players throughout the 150-year history of the Cincinnati Reds. Phillip Ervin is the most recent Reds player to don the number. While fans hope to see the former first-round pick have a big impact in 2020, there are a few other Reds greats that have worn the No. 6 as well. Who’s the best?

The No. 6 has been popular among outfielders, especially centerfielders in recent history. Billy Hamilton, the speedster who dazzled with defensive gems but disappointed at the dish, wore the No. 6 from 2013 to 2018. Former centerfielder Drew Stubbs also wore No. 6 from 2009 to 2012. While both were great defensive outfielders, neither won a Gold Glove in Cincinnati.

Ron Gant spent just one season in the Queen City, but many could argue that it may have been enough to grant the former Atlanta Braves star consideration for the best player in Reds history to wear No. 6. After breaking his leg in an ATV accident, the Braves released Gant. Cincinnati would sign Gant to a two-year deal, knowing he’d be unavailable for the 1994 season.

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Gant would turn in a fantastic 1995 season and was a key piece of the last Cincinnati Reds team to make it to the NLCS. Gant’s signing was one of the best one-and-done signings in team history, as he put up All-Star numbers, hitting .276/.386/.554 with 29 home runs and 88 RBIs.

José Guillén wore No. 6 from 2002 to 2003 and had his best success in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. In 122 games for the Reds, Guillén hit .314/.363/.566 with 27 home runs and 79 RBIs. Guillén was part of the trade that landed the Reds Aaron Harang. That turned out well for Cincinnati.

Catchers Bo Díaz (1986 to 1989) and Benito Santiago (2000) wore the No. 6, as did Wilton Guerrero, Woody Woodward and Hal King. Hall of Famer Chick Hafey (1932) wore the No. 6 for one season in Cincinnati as well. But, for my money, the best player to ever suit up in the No. 6 for Cincinnati was utility player Ryan Freel.

Freel wore the No. 6 for Cincinnati from 2003 to 2008, seeing the field in 544 games. Freel’s career slash line (.272/.357/.377) while playing for the Reds doesn’t tell the whole story, as there may have been no player in recent memory who left it all on the field more than the Jacksonville native.

Freel was a jack-of-all-trades, playing four different positions during his first year with the Reds. Freel saw time in center and left field as well as second and third base. In 2004, at age 28, Freel added right field to his repertoire as well and was a regular in the Cincinnati lineup, making nearly 600 plate appearances and winning the hearts of Reds Country with his unabated effort on the field.

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Freel’s Reds career came to an end after the 2007 season when he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles. Tragically, Freel died in 2012 from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. While the circumstances surrounding his death are certainly devastating, fans will always remember Ryan Freel for his heart and hustle out on the field. In my opinion, he is the best player in team history to have ever worn No. 6.