Cincinnati Reds: Best player in team history to wear No. 23

26 Feb 1999: Outfielder Greg Vaughn #23 of the Cincinnati Reds Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran /Allsport
26 Feb 1999: Outfielder Greg Vaughn #23 of the Cincinnati Reds Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran /Allsport /

Cody Reed is currently wearing the No. 23 for the Cincinnati Reds, but who is the best player in team history to have worn that uniform number?

The eyes of the sports world are fixated on ‘The Last Dance’ and reliving the career of the greatest No. 23 in NBA history. (Yes, that’s the GOAT, Michael Jordan). What better time to find out who is the greatest No. 23 in Cincinnati Reds history?

A total of 39 Reds have worn the No. 23. It all started with Andy High, who played on the Reds in 1932 and 1933. Currently, left-handed pitcher Cody Reed is wearing No. 23.  Pitching for the Reds since 2016, Reed has thrown a total of 114.2 innings.

Reed emerged as a possible left-handed option out of bullpen in 2019. Unfortunately, Reed sprained a ligament in his left knee shortly after his 2019 debut. This caused Reed to spend much of the season on the IL and on rehabbing assignments in the minor leagues. Reed isn’t on the list of the greatest Reds player to wear No. 23, the following Reds are up for consideration.

The Big Bopper, Lee May, who played for Cincinnati from 1965-1971, lived up to his nickname, slugging a total of 147 home runs over his Reds career. From 1969-1971, May hit 34 or more home runs, and 94 or more RBIs each season. In the 1970 World Series against Baltimore, May batted .389, hitting two home runs and eight RBIs.

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Lee May made the All-Star team twice with the Reds, in 1969 and 1971. May was also part of the trade to the Houston Astros that brought three key pieces to the Big Red Machine in Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo and Jack Billingham.

On a personal note, my dad caught a home run ball off the bat of Lee May in August 1971. More than 30 years later, my dad saw May at a local event and asked if he would sign the ball. May signed the ball, “Best of luck. Good Catch in ‘71. Lee May”. What a class act!

Hal Morris, who had two separate stints with the Reds, has the longest run with the No. 23, wearing those two digits on the back of his jersey from 1990 – 1997. When he returned in 1999, he wore No. 9.

Morris was a member of the 1990 World Series team. He batted .417 in the 1990 NLCS win over Pittsburgh. During his Cincinnati Reds career, Morris compiled 1,030 hits. His career Reds batting average is .305.

Greg Vaughn only spent one year in Cincinnati, but it was quite the year. In 153 games, Vaughn clubbed 45 home runs, 118 RBIs and a .535 slugging percentage. Vaughn helped propel the 1999 Reds to a one-game playoff vs the New York Mets.

Jason LaRue has the second-longest run with the No. 23. LaRue wore No. 26 in 1999. LaRue’s best defensive catching season was 2001. He was ranked first in NL in fewest passed balls (15), caught stealing as a catcher (42) and caught stealing percentage (60.9%). He also led the league in fewest passed balls in 2002 and 2004.

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Looking back at the careers of Lee May, Hal Morris, Greg Vaughn and Jason LaRue, it’s easy to see that Lee May is the best of the bunch. With a booming bat, the Big Bopper knocks it out of the park as the greatest Red to ever wear the No. 23.