Cincinnati Reds: Best player in team history to wear No. 32

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 25: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 25: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The No. 32 is currently worn by relief pitcher R.J. Alaniz. Who is the best player in Cincinnati Reds history to wear the uniform number?

Some uniform numbers in Cincinnati Reds history are worn by one or two top players. Then there is a number like 32, which has been worn by so many Reds greats that picking just one best player is a challenge.

The No. 32 made its Cincinnati Reds debut in 1935 on the back of pitcher Lee Grissom. In 1936, pitcher Peaches Davis took over the No. 32. Grissom got the number back in 1937, which was his best season with Cincinnati. That year, Grissom led the NL in shutouts with five, and made the All-Star team.

While Grissom was a productive player for Cincinnati, he isn’t the best to wear the number. Throughout the team’s 150-year history, 24 other players have worn No. 32 on their back. Two players are currently immortalized in the Reds Hall of Fame, while another two have a great chance of being enshrined in future years.

Pitcher Fred Norman burst onto the scene in 1973 after a mid-season trade with the San Diego Padres. After joining the team, Norman went 12-6, with a 3.30 ERA, ultimately helping Cincinnati win the 1973 division title. His season resulted in finishing in sixth place for the Cy Young Award,

Norman continued excelling for the Reds until 1979. During his Cincinnati career, he won between 11 and 14 games and never had an ERA higher than 3.73. Norman was a starter for the Big Red Machine in 1975 and 1976, when they won back-to-back titles. Fred Norman joined the Reds Hall of Fame in 2018.

Tom Browning had the longest tenure with No. 32, lasting 11 years. Browning’s Reds career began with a 20-win rookie season in 1985. Three years later, he threw arguably the greatest game by a Reds pitcher.

On September 16, 1988, Tom Browning threw the first perfect game in team history, blanking the LA Dodgers 1-0. The historic performance has forever given Browing the nickname, Mr. Perfect. Browning was a key member of the Reds 1990 World Series Championship team. He won Game 3 over the Oakland A’s.

Browning also added humor to his Cincinnati career. In 1993 during the Reds-Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Browning, in full Reds uniform, left the ballpark and watched the game from a rooftop across the street with partying Cub fans.

Over Browning’s career with Cincinnati, the left-hander led the National League in games started four times, and won 123 games with a lifetime ERA of 3.92. Browning was enshrined in the Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.

Danny Graves joined the Reds in 1997. He became the team’s closer a year later. Graves recorded 30 or more saves four times, with a high of 41 saves in 2004. The right-hander is currently the Reds all-time saves leader with 182. Graves made the All-Star Game twice with Cincinnati (2000 and 2004).

Jay Bruce wore No. 32 from 2008-2016. Bruce is one of the Reds all-time greatest power hitters, currently ranking No. 8 in team career home runs with 233. He won the Silver Slugger Award twice and appeared in the All-Star Game three times with the Reds. In 2010, Bruce cemented his place in Reds history when he hit a walk-off home run to clinch the NL Central title.

The No. 32 has a history of being worn by four great Cincinnati Reds players. Fred Norman, Tom Browning, Danny Graves and Jay Bruce all could stake claim to the best player in team history to wear the number, but only one gets the title.

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The winner of this debate goes to Tom Browning. From his electric start, to his Reds career, to the only perfect game thrown in team history, Browning stands out as the best of all. The perfect player to be called the best to wear No. 32.