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04/30/07 2:29 PM ET
Reds to retire Concepcion's No. 13
Legendary shortstop to get ballclub's highest honor on Aug. 25
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- No Reds player has been issued No. 13 since great shortstop Dave Concepcion retired from the club in 1988 following a 19-year career. Finally, after nearly 20 years, the Reds are making it official. Concepcion's No. 13 will be retired on Aug. 25 before Cincinnati plays the Cubs at Great American Ball Park. Among the first people he thanked were long-time clubhouse manager Bernie Stowe, along with sons Rick and Mark Stowe. "All of those years I've been retired since 1988, they never let anybody use my number," Concepcion said on Monday. "They hid the number for many years." At a meeting last week, the board of directors of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum voted unanimously to retire the number and passed its recommendation on to owner and chief executive officer, Bob Castellini. "It is the highest honor a club can bestow on a player," said Reds Hall of Fame executive director Greg Rhodes, who is also the club's historian. "By every measure, Concepcion qualifies. It's an honor that's very richly deserved." Concepcion's No. 13 will be the ninth number retired by the Reds. It will join former manager Fred Hutchinson's No. 1, Johnny Bench's No. 5, Joe Morgan's No. 8, manager Sparky Anderson's No. 10, Ted Kluszewski's No. 18, Frank Robinson's No. 20, Tony Perez's No. 24 and Jackie Robinson's No. 42. The numbers are displayed behind home plate on the façade just below the press box. "He was the best shortstop of his era and certainly one of the greatest in the history of our storied franchise," Castellini said in a statement. "No. 13 deserves to hang next to the uniform jerseys of Bench and Morgan and Perez." Concepcion was a member of the legendary "Big Red Machine" that won four pennants between 1970-1976 and World Series championships in 1975-76. "I'm so happy about it," Concepcion said of the tribute. "I can't wait to get out there to Cincinnati on [Aug. 25]." During a career spent entirely in Cincinnati from 1970-88, Concepcion owned a .267 average, 101 home runs and 950 RBIs. The nine-time All Star was one of only 14 players in history to play more than 2,000 games at shortstop and collect more than 2,000 hits. He had a .972 lifetime fielding percentage and won five Gold Glove Awards. "You could certainly make a case that he was a leading shortstop of his era," Rhodes said. "He was, without question, the prototype shortstop for Astroturf. He played in the Astroturf era as a big, rangy shortstop with a great arm and great range. That's what you needed on Astroturf because that ball was going to get to you so fast that you had to play deeper." With 8,723 at-bats in 2,488 games, Concepcion ranks second in club history in both categories behind Pete Rose. Since 1900, he ranks among the franchise's all-time leaders in hits (2,326; third), doubles (389; third), stolen bases (321; third), run scored (993; fifth), total bases (3,114; fifth) and RBI (950; sixth). Only three other Reds wore No. 13 -- Eddie Miller in 1946, Eddie Pellagrini from 1952-53 and Ray Shore from 1967-68. Had circumstances and his smaller size had not intervened when he was a young rookie, Concepcion might never have worn it. When he first joined the Reds, Concepcion was assigned No. 57. "I was too skinny, and it [didn't work] with my long name," Concepcion said of No. 57. "You could not see the number right. I told Sparky, 'I can wear a different number.' Sparky said 'I don't worry about numbers. I only want you to play the game right and play good for me. I don't care what number you wear.'" Concepcion wanted No. 11, but it was already worn by Hal McRae. So he settled on No. 13, because his mother, Ernestine, was born in 1913. He had some poor early seasons for Cincinnati and many fans asked him if he was wearing an unlucky number. Those fans became even more superstitious when Concepcion suffered a broken leg in 1973. "People started writing letters to use another number [saying] 'We don't want you to be unlucky,'" Concepcion recalled. "I said, 'don't worry about it. I like the number. I broke my leg because I slid right on top of the base.' After I broke my leg in '73, my whole career changed. I started to be a better player since then. I don't think of the number as unlucky." Now 58 years old, the Venezuelan Concepcion is often viewed as a pioneer for the generations of Latino ballplayers who followed. Other Latino stars like Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel wear No. 13 to honor Concepcion. Rhodes said the criteria for number retirement include greatness on the field, character off of it and longevity. Since the late 1990s, the Reds have tried to limit the honor to players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of the select group, only Hutchinson (retired in 1965) and Kluszewski (1998) are not enshrined in Cooperstown. This winter, Concepcion will be entering his 15th and final year of eligibility on the writer's ballot. Last winter, he received 13.6 percent of the vote when 75 percent is required for election. If he not elected this year, he'll have to hope for consideration from the Hall's veteran's committee. "The number retirement could give me more opportunity to be a member of the Hall of Fame," Concepcion said. But the Reds aren't going to wait for Cooperstown to confirm what the team and many of its fans already knew and saw in person. "There was some hope there would be a little more momentum and the decision would get made on its own," Rhodes said. "Now it looks like it'll be a real long shot for him to get elected, from the writer's ballot, to the Hall of Fame. I think the club decided it was time for us to move independently on this decision."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.