If you take a pass through the history of Cincinnati Reds uniform numbers, you’ll find most digits well-represented, with one of the few exceptions being Number 1. In fact, no Red has worn the ace since 1964 when manager Fred Hutchinson retired abruptly. The following year, Cincinnati retired his number, and Hutchinson is a fitting Number 1 on our Countdown Team as Reds Spring Training camp opens tomorrow.
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Hutchinson began his Major League career as a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers in 1939 at the age of 19. Like many young men of the era, Hutchinson lost a good chunk of playing time to World War II but returned to the Tigers better than ever in 1946, posting a 14-11 record with a 3.09 ERA. The next year, Hutchinson cranked it up to the tune of 18-10, 3.03 and garnered some MVP votes. He would be an All-Star caliber starter for the next several seasons before wrapping up his career after the 1953 season, finishing with a record of 95-71 with a 3.73 ERA.
Hutchinson was also that rare bird, a pitcher who could swing the lumber, and Detroit frequently employed him as a pinch hitter on his off days. Between at-bats gathered as a pitcher and his PH duties, Hutchinson collected 31 hits in 95 at bats for a healthy .326 average in 1950.
Also interesting to note is that Hutchinson spent the last part of 1952 and all of 1953 as Detroit’s player-manager before moving on to the St. Louis Cardinals from 1956-58. He was fired during the second half of that season and failed to find a gig to start 1959.
When Reds’ manager Mayo Smith was let go part-way through the ’59 season, though, general manager Gabe Paul turned to Hutchinson. Two years later, Hutch had turned the Reds from a moribund team into a 93-win powerhouse who faced off against the New York Yankees in the World Series. While Cincinnati lost the championship, four games to one, Hutchinson had helped establish the team as a contender.
In fact, the Reds were even better in 1962 (98-64) and were strong contenders in 1963 and 1964. Sadly, Hutchinson was stricken with cancer during that final season and was forced to leave the team he loved. When Hutch died that November at just 45 years of age, the Reds moved quickly to honor their fallen manager.
The team retired Hutchinson’s uniform, Number 1, in the spring of 1965, and no Red has worn it since.