I'll admit it. I don't remember the Reds teams of the 1980's (and honestly, most of the 1990s), but one thing that always puzzles me when I hear someone talk about them is the respect and reverence they have for Ron Oester. He played for the Reds in parts of 13 consecutive seasons, and was a Red through and through; no twilight stint with a rival for this guy. He's even a Cincy guy, an alumnus of Withrow since you're wondering.
When you look at his numbers, they seem pretty nondescript. By standard measures today, Oester is a pretty mediocre ballplayer and wouldn't sniff the field if he shared a team with our Brandon Phillips. From most accounts he was a decent defensive player, but the things people remember him for were being consistent, tough*, and getting a raw deal in the city that he loved.
Oester suffered his fair share of injuries throughout his career, including an ACL tear that cost him most of the '87 season and the first half of '88. His ability to come back from those and not only survive, but thrive, is one thing people took away from the Ron Oester era. He capped his playing career off as a pinch hitter on the 1990 team, and after hitting .500 in the postseason (his first ever), he even got a ring, which was a nice consolation prize starting his career two years after the Big Red Machine.
This all came to sour in the late 90's, when Oester was on Jack McKeon's staff and was considered the favorite for the job after McKeon's imminent retirement. Most of you know the story here. While Oester was negotiating his offer, Jim Bowden offered the job to Bob Boone who accepted immediately. Depending on which fan you talk to, some still think Oester was robbed of his chance to manage in the big leagues, and we'll likely never know how that would have went.
What are your memories of this Reds cult legend? Tell us in the comments below.
*This card shows Ron Oester swinging a bat without batting gloves. If that isn't tough, I don't know what is.
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