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Opening Day Countdown: Quintessential Red #43

We're caught up. 43 days left.

5. Tim Layana (0.3 WAR)

Tim Layana pitched for the Reds in 1990 and 1991, with '90 being his far better of the two seasons. He put up a 3.49 ERA in 55 relief appearances that year, but faltered in 1991 and wasn't brought back after that season.

This story has a tragic end, as Layana passed away in a car wreck in 1999.

4. Mike Remlinger (2.1 WAR)

Remlinger started wearing #43 in 1996, and did until 1998 when he was traded to Atlanta. He broke in as a reliever, but ended up starting 28 games in his last year as a Red, the most of any year he pitched. Of course, he also lost 15 games that year, and made it easier for the Reds to trade him, where he went to the Braves and became an all-star. He started Opening Day for the Reds in 1998.

3. Howie Fox (9.1 WAR)

Fox pitched for the Reds for most of the 1940's, but only wore #43 from 1948 to 1951. The Reds signed Fox out of the University of Oregon, where he was known for his sharp curveball. Here's why W-L is a poor judge of a player's contribution: Fox went 6-19 for the dismal 1949 Reds, but had a 3.98 ERA, the best in a rotation that included the likes of Johnny Vander Meer and Ewell Blackwell. Fox is another one that suffered an untimely death, as he was stabbed to death at a tavern he owned, and passed at age 34.

2. Joe Beggs (9.3 WAR)

The first guy to wear #43 was one of the best, as he pitched for the Reds for most of the 1940s. Beggs was a valuable reliever for a long time, leading the league in saves in 1940. Trivia: What was the winning save total in 1940? That was his first season, and he pitched to the Reds until 1947, with a year and a half lapse where he served in WWII. Here's to you, Joe Beggs.

1. Jack Billingham (2.1 WAR)

I know, I know, the previous two guys on the list have Billingham beat out in WAR. So what does Billingham have that those two don't?

Two World Series rings, where he was one of the main starting pitchers. Two years where he finished in the top 6 in the Cy Young ('73 and '74). His 1973 season, where he went 19-10 in 40 (!) starts, led the league in shutouts with 7, and threw 293.1 innings. Cactus Jack is still with the team from time to time, making appearances at Fantasy Camp and all that.