Cincinnati Reds: Who was the best player in team history to wear No. 15?

NEW YORK - CIRCA 1975: George Foster #15 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - CIRCA 1975: George Foster #15 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Nick Senzel donned the No. 15 during his rookie season in 2019, but who was the best player in Cincinnati Reds history to ever wear that uniform number?

No number in the history of the Cincinnati Reds franchise has seen more action than No. 15. Over the 150-year history of the club, 51 players have shown off the No. 15 on the back of their jersey. Nick Senzel, who many within the organization see as key piece to the team’s future, wore the number last season, but who’s the best player in Reds history to ever don the No. 15?

Senzel has been viewed by fans and experts alike as a potential All-Star in the coming years. However, the 24-year-old got off to a rough start during his rookie campaign, playing only 104 games during his first season in center field. Fans and the front office are hoping for better results when his 2020 season begins.

A slew of forgotten players dot the record books from 1988 to 2018. Dilson Herrera (2018), Jim Edmonds (2010), Jerry Hairston (2008-2009), Denny Neagle (1999-2000) and Jeff Treadway were among those who wore the No. 15 during that 30-year stretch. No player, except for Skeeter Barnes, wore that jersey for more than two seasons.

Many fans probably have no clue that the original number that Hall of Famer Barry Larkin wore during his first two years with the Reds was the No. 15. In 1986, when Larkin first broke into the league, the 22-year-old Cincinnati native donned the No. 15.

Before putting on his iconic No. 11 uniform, Barry Larkin had to wait for Kurt Stillwell to find a new home. Stillwell, drafted in the first-round of the 1983 MLB Draft, played two underwhelming seasons before finding a new home in Kansas City. Larkin switched to the No. 11 after Stillwell moved on to the Royals in 1988.

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Pitchers Ray Klop and Si Johnson wore the No. 15 back in the 1930s as did the centerfielder on the 1940 World Series championship team, Harry Craft. Seven-time All-Star infielder Eddie Miller wore the No. 15 for Cincinnati during the 1943 season. Miller also wore No. 11, No. 13, No. 14 and No. 33.

But, it’s time to quit dancing around the obvious. No one in the history of the Cincinnati Reds organization has done more with the No. 15 on his back than former MVP George Foster. Foster was the final piece of the puzzle who was added to the Big Red Machine in 1971 after being traded from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Frank Duffy and  Vern Geishert.

Foster was inserted as a regular into the starting lineup in 1975 and helped the Reds win back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. Foster led the league in home runs in both 1977 and 1978 and RBIs in 1976-1979. Foster took home the NL MVP 1977 after falling just short of the award in 1976 as he watched his teammate Joe Morgan take home the trophy for a second time.

For his career, George Foster was part of two World Series championship teams, went to five All-Star Games, took home the NL MVP in 1977, a Silver Slugger in 1981 and took home the All-Star MVP Award during the Midsummer Classic in 1976.

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Foster was elected into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2003, but as for Cooperstown, that ship appears to have sailed. Foster never earned higher than 6.9% of the vote (1993) and dropped off the ballot in 1995. Foster still holds a very special place in the hearts of many throughout Reds Country, as is unquestionably the best player to ever wear the No. 15.