Concepcion fourth Big Red Machine member to have jersey retired
CINCINNATI -- Shortstop Dave Concepcion had his No. 13 retired Saturday by the Cincinnati Reds, joining three Hall of Fame teammates and his Big Red Machine manager in the franchise's ultimate tribute.
Concepcion was honored on the field and his number was unveiled on an upper-deck facade -- appropriately, toward the left side of the infield -- before a game against the Florida Marlins.
Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez were on the field for the tribute, along with manager Sparky Anderson. Their numbers already had been retired by the ballclub.
Former teammates Ken Griffey Sr. and George Foster also were part of the ceremony.
The crowd chanted, "Davey! Davey!" as the 59-year-old Concepcion walked to a microphone on the field, prompting him to turn away and dab his eyes with a towel. He sniffled and repeatedly stopped in mid-sentence -- choked with emotion -- as he thanked his family and former teammates.
"Coming to the microphone -- this is the hardest part of baseball for me," he said.
He got a standing ovation after telling the crowd: "I love Cincinnati. I love you all." Concepcion, who once pitched in relief against the Dodgers, then went in front of the mound and made a ceremonial toss to Bench.
The ball made it there on the fly, unlike the skip throw to first base that he perfected on Riverfront Stadium's artificial turf during his 19-year career with the Reds.
Although No. 13 is considered unlucky by most athletes, the Venezuelan chose it to honor his mother, Ernestina, who was born in 1913. He won five Gold Gloves, was a nine-time All-Star, was chosen MVP of the 1982 All-Star Game and was honored as team captain in 1983.
Concepcion's number was the eighth retired by the Reds, joining those of manager Fred Hutchinson (1), Bench (5), Morgan (8), Anderson (10), Ted Kluszewski (18), Frank Robinson (20) and Perez (24). Jackie Robinson's No. 42 has been retired by Major League Baseball.
One of the hallmarks of the Big Red Machine was the constant clubhouse teasing. Concepcion was reminded at a luncheon and news conference Saturday how much his teammates loved to have fun at his expense.
"You guys got on me for 19 years when I was playing, and I've been retired for 19 years and you're still getting on me," he told his former teammates at a group news conference.
Morgan, the other half of the Big Red Machine's double-play combination, was delighted to see Concepcion get his due.
"Unfortunately, I think we've overshadowed his accomplishments," Morgan said. "Sparky and Johnny and myself, we're in the Hall of Fame, and I think we tend to overlook what he did on a daily basis. Guys like Davey and Foster and [Lee] May and Griffey don't get their just due."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press