Cincinnati Reds: Who was the best player in team history to wear No. 12?

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Edwin Encarnacion #12 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Edwin Encarnacion #12 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images)

Of all the uniform numbers in Cincinnati Reds history, No. 12 was one of the most popular. Who was the best player in team history to ever wear it?

While not the most popular uniform number over the 150-year history of the Cincinnati Reds, the No. 12 has seen its fair share of players put it on. Some of the names have long since been forgotten, while others stick in our memory banks. Of the 42 Reds players to ever worn the No. 12, who was the best?

Currently, Curt Casali dons the No. 12 jersey. When he first arrived from the Tampa Bay Rays, Casali was saddled with the No. 28, but switched to No. 12 last season. Casali is expected to backup starting catcher Tucker Barnhart once the 2020 season gets underway.

From 2008 until 2017, no player wore the No. 12 as Reds skipper Dusty Baker donned that uniform number from 2008 to 2013. Baker’s record with the Reds was 509-463, but was 2-7 in the playoffs. Baker was the last manager to take Cincinnati into the postseason.

Before Baker arrived, Edwin Encarnacion wore the No. 12. During his time with Cincinnati, Encarnacion was not the same player that we know today. In four-plus seasons with the Redlegs, Encarnacion hit .262/.345/.449. Encarnacion was one of the players involved in the trade that brought Scott Rolen to the Reds in 2009.

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Edwin Encarnacion was shipped to Toronto where he enjoyed a stellar career with the Blue Jays. Encarnacion finally lived up to the hype that was lavished upon him during his time in the Queen City. Encarnacion went to three All-Star Game while playing north of the border and was in the AL MVP conversation during the 2012 and 2015 seasons.

Before switching to No. 2, Felipe Lopez wore the No. 12. Lopez had one All-Star season with Cincinnati before fizzling out. Deion “Primetime” Sanders also wore No. 12 before switching to No. 21 and later No. 2 during a few different stints with the Cincinnati Reds.

A member of the New York Mets 1969 World Series team, Art Shamsky, wore No. 12 during his time with the Cincinnati Reds (1965 to 1967). Billy Martin, whose No. 1 is retired by the New York Yankees, spent one season in Cincinnati as a player and wore the No. 12 while playing in 103 games during the 1960 season.

But, when you talk about the best player in Cincinnati Reds history to ever wear the No. 12, we’re going to go with Frank McCormick. McCormick, much like Ernie Lombardi, wore several different numbers during his time with the Reds, including the now retire No. 10.  While most of McCormick’s success came while wearing the No. 10, we all know that belongs to Sparky Anderson.

So, let’s give Frank McCormick his due for a career that saw him go to nine All-Star Games and take home the MVP trophy during the Reds 1940 World Championship season. That year, McCormick led the league in hits (191) and doubles (44) while hitting for a .309 batting average and racking up 127 RBIs.

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Oddly enough, the year before, McCormick recorded a league-leading 209 hits and 128 RBIs, finishing fourth in the MVP voting behind teammate Bucky Walters who won 27 games with a 2.29 ERA and 137 strikeouts. Both players were key members of the 1940 championship team, but only one wore the No. 12 during his tenure in Cincinnati.