After diagnosis in 2012, Reds legend Johnny Bench is raising awareness about skin cancer

Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

Cincinnati Reds legend Johnny Bench is regarded as the greatest catcher in Major League Baseball history. Bench was the backstop for the famed Big Red Machine that won back-to-back World Series Championships in 1975 and 1976.

Bench took home the NL MVP Award in 1970 while leading the league in home runs and RBIs. His 148 runs batted in that season still stands as the single-season record for a catcher. Bench won the award again in 1972.

In all, Johnny Bench was a two-time MVP, National League Rookie of the Year, 10-time Gold Glove Award-winner, and a 14-time All-Star. Bench was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 with 96.42% of the vote.

Reds legend Johnny Bench is raising awareness about skin cancer.

During his 17-year major league career, it seemed as though nothing could stop Johnny Bench. But in 2012, long after his playing career was over, Bench's many years of prolonged sun exposure caught up with him. The Reds Hall of Famer was diagnosed with a non-melanoma skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

BCC is the most common form of skin cancer in the United States. An estimated 3.6 million Americans are diagnosed with BCC every year. About 90% of the non-melanoma skin cancers that are diagnosed in the US are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

If caught at an early stage, 95% of BCCs can be removed like in Bench’s case before becoming advanced. However, in rare cases when BCC grows deep into surrounding tissue or spreads to other organs or other parts of the body, treatments like surgery and radiation may be less likely to be effective.

Bench, in partnership with Regeneron, is supporting Let’s Get Real About Skin Cancer and reached out to Blog Red Machine in order to get the word out. Bench wanted to encourage everyone to conduct regular skin exams and to reach out to your dermatologist if you spot anything unusual.

Johnny Bench had one recurrence of BCC since his original diagnosis but thankfully, he is now cancer-free and still enjoys doing all the things that he did prior to his diagnosis. He spends his spare time fishing and playing golf, but before he begins those outdoor activities, Bench puts on sunscreen, wears a UV protection long sleeve shirt as well as a pair of sunglasses and a hat.

The baseball fan in me couldn't let Bench get away without asking at least one question about the current team. When asked which pitcher on the Cincinnati Reds staff he'd like to catcher for, the Hall of Famer answered Hunter Greene. For some reason, I think Johnny Bench could still setup behind home plate and handle a fastball from the Reds rookie.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is a great resource for more information about non-melanoma skin cancer. Visit to learn more.

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