Concepcion compares closely to Smith with a .972 fielding percentage and five Gold Glove Awards. His numbers -- both offensively and defensively -- rival or better others already with plaques at Cooperstown, including Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and Bill Mazeroski.Former starting pitcher Tom Browning, who starred for the Reds from 1984-94, appreciated Concepcion even when he was at the tail end of his career. "Best hands I've ever seen, to this day," Browning said last summer. "He never really got the recognition he deserved. I think he re-invented the game at shortstop, especially on AstroTurf, which Ozzie [Smith] got all the credit for." Since he was a member of the "Great Eight" starting lineup on the Big Red Machine with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster and Pete Rose, it'd be easy for someone to diminish Concepcion's accomplishments. It'd also be a mistake. Concepcion loomed quite large in many of the Reds' biggest stages, and he batted .297 in his postseason career. His many spectacular defensive plays dazzled a generation of fans that most of the time could only watch them on the "Game of the Week" or "This Week in Baseball." His teammates considered his contributions crucial to Cincinnati's success during the 1970's. "It's too bad Davey Concepcion played before the 'web gem' era," Bench said last year. "Because his defensive genius would have been highlighted on national television every night." Because he had difficulty commanding English, Concepcion was rarely offered endorsement deals or asked to do interviews after big games. As a result, he often blended into the background when he should have been front and center. "Sometimes you'll have writers that are lazy," Concepcion said. "And they don't want to come to the guys that don't speak English. They would only go to the guys they could talk to." The Reds haven't waited to recognize Concepcion's achievements. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2000. Last summer, his No. 13 was finally retired, even though no other Red wore the number since he exited from the game. If Concepcion's long shot bid Cooperstown is realized, expect big joy and some relief. "I will pass out. I've been waiting for it all my life," Concepcion said. "I'm excited about it. I can't tell you how happy I'm going to be."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less