Had shortstop Dave Concepcion not spent most of his 19-year career with the Cincinnati Reds hitting down at the bottom of the order of the Big Red Machine of the 1970′s, his hit total of 2,326 may have been substantially more.
As it were, Concepcion toiled offensively most of those years in the shadow of Big Red Machine hitters like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan. Concepcion eventually played in 2,178 games defensively at short, which ranks him eighth all-time among shortstops. He also was the national Gold Glove standard defensively at short during those Big Red Machine years, winning five of six Gold Gloves before Ozzie Smith emerged.
Although the Reds have retired his number (13) and inducted him in the team’s Hall Of Fame. Concepcion has not received the due he deserves nationally. The case can be made that Concepcion is deserving of baseball’s Hall of Fame, even though his induction becomes more and more unlikely with each passing year.
Concepcion joined his “Great Eight” teammates of the Big Red Machine last year at Great American Ball Park as part of ceremonies honoring Concepcion’s double-play partner Morgan. The reunion rekindled the greatness of the bygone Big Red Machine era for a new generation of Reds’ fans but also brought Concepcion back to the collective consciousness of Reds’ Country, where he was a fixture for 19 years before the shortstop torch was picked up by another Reds’ great Barry Larkin for 19 more years.
Now, Concepcion is the grand marshal for the Reds’ 95th annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade. He’ll be joined by Larkin on the field to simultaneously throw out the ceremonial first pitch to start the 2014 baseball season in Cincinnati.
Concepcion finished with 15 fewer hits than Larkin over the course of their respective 19-year careers with the Reds, and Larkin was certainly the more vital hitter of the pair. But when it comes to playing the shortstop position for the Reds, there is no equal to Concepcion, whose strong arm, sure glove and great range elevate him among the greatest to ever play the game.