The Cincinnati Reds have seen 42 different players wear the No. 17 on their uniform, but which player was the best to do so?
Josh VanMeter will wear the No. 17 for the 2020 season. While VanMeter had a nice season in 2019, the 24-year-old is far from the best player in team history to don that jersey number. As we continue to take a look back through the history books, let’s see which Cincinnati Reds player was the greatest to e ver wear the No. 17.
Before VanMeter, Kristopher Negrón was the prominent player to wear the No. 17. Negrón, much like VanMeter was a utility player for Cincinnati. Unlike VanMeter, however, Negrón was known much more for his glove than his bat. Negrón finished his Reds career having played in just 96 games over three years and amassing a .220 batting average.
The year prior (2013), Shin-Soo Choo suited up in the No. 17 and put on a clinic during his solo season in the Queen City. Choo filled in as the team’s leadoff hitter, hitting .285/.423/.462 with 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Choo parlayed his performance into a seven-year/$140M contract with the Texas Rangers the following offseason.
Another prominent figure in Reds history to wear the No. 17 was Aaron Boone. The current New York Yankees manager spent seven years in Cincinnati before being traded to the Bronx in 2003. During his Reds career, Boone hit .271 and went to one All-Star Game.
Before Boone, Chris Sabo manned the hot corner with Rec Specs over his eyes and the No. 17 on his back. “Spuds” was a fan-favorite among Reds fans, and for me, my favorite player to watch growing up. Sabo was a key piece of the wire-to-wire championship team of 1990.
Taking over for the injured Buddy Bell in 1988, Sabo won the NL Rookie of the Year and went to the Midsummer Classic. While 1989 was a forgettable season for the third baseman, Sabo returned with a vengeance in 1990, leading the team in doubles, home runs and runs scored. Sabo then set career-highs the following season in home runs (26) and RBIs (88).
It’s tough to find a player beyond Sabo who would merit consideration as the best player in franchise history to wear the No. 17. Both Leo Cardenas (1960) and Ernie Lombardi (1935) wore that jersey number for a hot minute. Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance wore the No. 17 during his one season in Cincinnati (1934), but played in just six games that year.
Two-time All-Star and a member of the 1940 World Series champions Eddie Joost wore the No. 17 from 1936 to 1942. Joost’s success, however, came during his time with the Philadelphia Athletics. There were players named Babe (1947 to 1948), Cookie (1962) and Jumbo (1937) who also wore No. 17.
In the end, there’s likely little debate that Chris Sabo was the best player in Cincinnati Reds history to wear the No. 17. Sabo was inducted to the Reds Hall of Fame in 2010. “Spuds” will always have a special place in the hearts of those throughout Reds Country.