MLB.com Columnist

Meggie Zahneis

Casey, Driessen, Reilly honored by Reds

Meggie: Casey, Driessen, Reilly honored by Reds

CINCINNATI -- At Great American Ball Park, the Reds' 4:10 matchup with the Minnesota Twins wasn't the main highlight of Saturday afternoon.

That honor goes to the on-field presentation that took place before the game, honoring the 2012 class of the Reds Hall of Fame. Inductees included the late John Reilly, as well as Dan Driessen and Sean Casey.

On hand to commemorate the occasion were the families of all three, and an impressive array of Reds Hall of Famers, among whom were Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion and Eric Davis.

"Long John" Reilly, who served as the Reds' starting first baseman from 1883-1891, set Reds records for most singles, doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored, RBIs, and games played. Reilly, who passed away in 1937, was represented by his great-great-great-great nephew, Kirtley Kinman.

Driessen, best known for the role he played in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s as a first baseman, was all smiles Saturday. Though his characteristic reservedness was on display, Driessen chuckled as he fielded questions during a press conference.

Asked what he wanted his legacy as a Red to be, Driessen had this to say: "Basically, that I was a winner. We were winners. The Big Red Machine was a special team, and they had some special players on that team. It was just a matter of getting the job done. And hopefully we can inspire some of the younger generations of the Big Red Machine to keep rolling; to keep the legacy alive."

Another former Red, Aaron Boone, grew up watching Driessen, as his father, Bob, played for the Philadelphia Phillies.

"As a kid, those were my childhood heroes -- the Dan Driessens. That's where I remember my love of baseball beginning. So to see [Driessen] back here today is like the icing on the cake," Boone declared.

Davis used the words "consummate professional" to describe Driessen. "He never showed a lot of emotion when I was around him. He was always a gamer; he always played to win. Clutch performer. Just the ultimate professional," Davis said.

But perhaps Driessen's biggest compliment came from Bench.

"Dan was a phenomenon. He could hit, had great speed, great glove, great defensively. He was a combination of everything. When he was called up, they always [said] that he might win a batting title one day and he had the great defense and of course he could hit. He was a great -- I mean, an integral -- part of the World Series as a designated hitter," Bench remarked.

And Casey, otherwise known as "The Mayor" of Cincinnati, was amiable as always, embracing former teammates, fellow Reds Hall of Famers, family members, and reporters alike. A first baseman, like Reilly and Driessen, Casey boasted a lifetime batting average of .305 as a Red, plus two National League All-Star appearances and a Reds MVP award. Casey is also a Hutch Award winner and a two-time Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award winner.

Casey was naturally talented, according to his father, Jim.

"When he was 3 years old, I bought him a Whiffle Ball and a Whiffle Ball bat. He picked up the bat: he was a lefty, but he was cross-handed. So I said, 'Stay there' -- because he does everything else right -- 'but just bring this hand up.' I threw the ball to him five times and he made contact five times. He had a natural hand-eye coordination," the elder Casey said, radiant with pride.

"[He was a] great teammate. Great hitter. And a great friend. He was just a lot of fun to play with. We played Triple-A against each other and then together, and then came up with that young wave -- part of that '99 team. [Casey is] just a great person. As special of a day it is for him, it's a lot of fun for me to share it with him in a small way," Boone said.

"Obviously, he was a great hitter, I always loved the way he hit. But [I enjoy] more his personality, his loquaciousness, the fact that he would talk to you all the time, that he was always happy. He was the epitome of what I liked about baseball players. He's got a lot of talent, but he has a personality and he let it show," Bench said.

"A lot of guys get so focused on what they're doing that they lose sight of their personality," Bench continued. "He showed his emotion. Most of the times, even when he was down, he was smiling. That's what I always liked best about Sean."

It was with great pride that legendary Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman and owner Bob Castellini delivered their remarks on Reilly, Driessen, and Casey.

And rightfully so.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.