Reds add three first basemen to team Hall of Fame

Reds add three first basemen to team Hall of Fame

Reds add three first basemen to team Hall of Fame
CINCINNATI -- The Reds' lofty history at the first base position got even more decorated Saturday as three more first basemen joined the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

Sean Casey, Dan Driessen and John Reilly were officially inducted as the three newest members of the star-studded Hall of Fame class, bringing the total to 81 members.

Casey was selected by the fans through the modern-player ballot, while Driessen and Reilly were elected by the veterans committee, which is comprised of Reds Hall of Famers, media members, historians and Hall of Fame executives.

"I'm truly humbled and honored to be going into this Hall of Fame and be going into this elite group with these guys," Casey said. "I think your ultimate dream as a kid is to play in the big leagues, but to be here getting inducted into the Reds' Hall of Fame and I see all these guys in the red jackets, it's pretty special."

Casey came to Cincinnati from Cleveland in a trade just hours before Opening Day. Jack McKeon, the Reds' manager at the time, traded pitcher Dave Burba to the Indians in 1998 after seeing Casey play in just six games the previous year.

"I owe a lot to Jack McKeon," Casey said. "When I came over that first day he told me: 'Hey, you're going to be our first baseman soon.' I was so excited to have a chance to play in the big leagues and with the Reds at that time, going through a rebuilding process. It was really an opportunity for me to get a chance to play every day."

That's exactly what Casey did, as the former second-round pick slowly grew into the team's full-time starter less than a year into the job.

Casey developed into a three-time All-Star for the Reds in 1999, 2001 and 2004, but many Reds fans remember him as much for his off-the-field charm as much as his on-field talents.

He played in 1,075 games as a Red and quickly made his way in fans' hearts with his on-field talents, chipper personality and friendly demeanor, earning the nickname, "The Mayor."

"That first at-bat I had, the fans started cheering, "Casey" and I was like, 'This is cool, the know my name.' It was awesome, but then Kevin Brown punched me out on three pitches," Casey joked. "I always kind of felt a connection with the fans here and with my teammates and with this city in general."

Casey's career in Cincinnati ended in the winter before the 2006 season when the Reds traded him to Pittsburgh for pitcher Dave Williams, who did not last through the All-Star break in Cincinnati.

After short stints in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Boston, Casey retired following the 2008 season with a .302 career batting average, 322 doubles and 735 RBIs.

At 37, Casey is currently an analyst for MLB Network and occasionally works Reds games for FOX Sports Ohio.

"I spent eight of the greatest years of my life here in Cincinnati," Casey said. "I played with some great teammates and just loved being in Cincinnati and being a part of everything. I felt a connection right away in Cincinnati. I always kind of felt like a fan for some reason, like I was just the guy wearing the uniform."

While Casey only saw two winning seasons in his time in Cincinnati, Driessen suffered just three losing seasons in his 12-year career with the Reds.

Joining the team as an 18-year-old undrafted free agent in 1969, Driessen quickly became a vital part of the Big Red Machine that dominated baseball in the early-to-mid '70s, winning five National League West titles, four National League pennants and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975-76.

"Coming up with the Cincinnati Reds, these guys had a winning tradition," Driessen said. "The other guys picked up on the stuff these older guys were doing. It's been a lifelong dream to make it to the Major Leagues, but I had no idea it would get to this point."

Driessen played multiple positions for the Reds before becoming the regular first baseman in 1977.

While Driessen and Casey shared the same position on the field, they bore contrasting personalities off it.

"I grew up a little bit shy," Driessen chuckled, shooting a glance at Casey. "But it's special to be up here with these guys. I'm truly honored to be here today."

During his 12-year career in Cincinnati from 1973-84, Driessen hit .271 with 133 home runs and 670 RBIs and three times led NL first basemen in fielding percentage.

Driessen was often overlooked in his time in Cincinnati, playing with other greats like Johhny Bench and Joe Morgan, who were both in attendance Saturday, as well as Pete Rose and Tony Perez.

Other Reds Hall of Famers and members of the two-time World Series winning squad made an appearance at the ceremony Saturday, including pitchers Jack Billingham, Clay Carroll and Gary Nolan, as well as Dave Concepcion, George Foster and Cesar Geronimo.

Driessen, who is now 60, said he was "stunned" when he finally found out he would be inducted.

"I was out deer hunting," he laughed. "My wife told me the Hall of Fame called me and I was trying to figure out who it was. It took them three days to catch up with me. I was stunned, but I was excited at the same time."

Reilly marked the third first baseman joining the Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Reilly played eight years in Cincinnati, during an era when the Reds were mostly banned from the National League. He was the team's starting first baseman from 1883-1891, and hit .289 in 10 total years in the Majors.

Reilly earned the nickname "Long John" for his 6-foot-3 stature, which was tall for his era, but the name was also fitting for the two-time league leader in home runs.

Reilly was represented at the ceremony by his great great great great nephew Kirtley Kinman.

The Reds Hall of Fame is the largest and oldest continually operating team Hall of Fame in baseball with roots that date back to 1958.

Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.