An Homage to Obscure Reds

Volume 2

This week — because we really can’t discuss the current playoffs, at least as they pertain to our beloved Cincinnati Reds — we’ve been reminiscing about the 1990 championship team. Especially Eric Davis’ monumental home run in Game 1 that set the Reds on a path to a sweep:

The next night, catcher Joe Oliver drove in Billy Bates in extra innings to give the Reds a 2-0 lead in the series against the Oakland Athletics. Davis, Barry Larkin, Billy Hatcher, Chris Sabo, Jose Rijo…we all remember the stars of that World Series with great fondness in Cincinnati. But when I saw the clip linked above, of Bates scurrying home with the winning run, my mind drifted back to one of my favorite topics. 

Yep: obscure former Reds. Welcome to Volume 2 of this ongoing series. (Here’s Volume 1, where we attempted to recall D.T. Cromer, Brooks Kieschnick, and Kimera Bartee, among others.)

By all rights, Bates should have been the definition of obscurity. After scoring that run, Bates never again stepped onto a big league field. But he did score a huge run in the last World Series appearance the Reds will ever enjoy (until 2022, at least), so many fans of a certain vintage will always remember him with great fondness. Plus, he raced a cheetah.

No, Bates isn’t obscure enough. There are plenty of players on that 1990 championship team who even the most die-hard fans of that club will have difficulty recalling. Like Paul Noce. Remember that guy? Of course you don’t.

On May 17, 1990, Noce made his Reds debut, pinch-hitting for 2B Ron Oester in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Cardinals. He promptly lined a single up the middle, but was stranded as the Reds lost 3-0, dropping their record to 23-8. He never played another Major League game, and thus finished his Reds career with a solid 1.000 batting average. I really hope he got a World Series ring for that contribution to the eventual champions.

Catcher Glenn Sutko, at age 22, also got just one at-bat for the 1990 Reds; he struck out. The following season, Sutko had one hit in ten ABs, though he did walk twice. Thus concluded his big league career with a slash line of .091/.231/.091. Somewhere, I hope the baseball from Sutko’s only hit is being displayed in a cherished location.

On the pitching side of the ledger, we have guys like Keith Brown and Gino Minutelli. Brown debuted in 1988, and actually appeared in 25 games over four seasons, if you trust Baseball-Reference. In 1990, he threw 11 innings for the champs, mostly in September. Minutelli, owner of one of the best names in franchise history, pitched one inning for the Reds that season, walking two and giving up one earned run.

Good times. As you are aware by now, this is a topic I like to return to occasionally. Often you can predict which guys are future obscure former Reds, even in the moment. Every single year, some guy comes up to the majors and gets a few at bats. I find myself saying, "You! In five years, I'm going to be looking back at the Baseball-Reference page for this team. I'm not going to remember you."

For example, the 2021 Reds — a perfectly cromulent team who won more than they lost (that’s a big deal here in Cincinnati) — had a number of these guys. In a few years, will any of us remember Scott Heineman? Josh Osich? Ashton Goudeau? Probably not! (Side note: I hope we are able to forget the short-lived Asdrubal Cabrera era.)

Believe me, I’m not making fun of these guys. They achieved something that the rest of us could only dream about, and each of them are among the very best baseball players who ever walked on this planet. And in their own way, each of them are part of the fabric of what I love about being a baseball fan. These guys exist on the fringes of our memories, but they got to wear the uniform!

As I noted last time, there is a nearly inexhaustible supply of these, and they can bring back great memories. For every Joey Votto and Barry Larkin and Johnny Bench, there are a hundred guys named Zach Vincej and Jim Crowell and Van Snider and Joe Henderson who played with these Hall of Famers. Should we not remember their contributions to the long and storied history of the Cincinnati Reds, just as much as the players who were actually, you know, successful on the big league level?

I say we should! After all, Keith Glauber, Steve Selsky, Calvin Pickering, Marcus McBeth, Scott Winchester, Buck Coats, AJ Morris, and Guillermo Garcia all played for your favorite team? What do you remember about them? Let’s not confine them to the dustbin of Reds history.

Do you have a favorite obscure former Red or Bengal? Drop us a comment:

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The Podcast

On the latest podcast, Chris Garber and I laid out the ideal off-season plan for the Reds. We also debated the nature of fandom by trying to answer this question: would you rather be a fan of a team like Tampa, who makes the playoffs regularly (but no championship yet), but trading away all your stars after four years. Or a team where you get to know the players and they stick around a while. Put more succintly: would you prefer pennants (but not championships) or the memories of watching players like Joey Votto?

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