Reds’ HOF inducts three

Published 1:52 am Monday, July 19, 2010

CINCINNATI — Chris Sabo is still befuddled by his popularity.

The goggle-wearing third baseman with the close-cropped hair was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame on Saturday, along with reliever Pedro Borbon and 19th century pitcher Tony Mullane. It was another honor that had Sabo taken aback — he got in through the fans’ vote.

“I never expected this,” Sabo said. “I barely made it into my high school Hall of Fame, for God’s sake.”

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Sabo quickly became a fan favorite as a rookie in 1988, when he made the team with a strong spring training. His hard-nosed playing style and quirky goggles quickly won over the fans.

“I was happy just to make the team,” Sabo said. “My only goal was to play one day in the big leagues.”

He made sure he’d stay for more than one day. Sabo was an All-Star and the NL Rookie of the Year, batting .271 with 40 doubles and 46 stolen bases. He also was a fixture on the team that won the World Series in 1990 and had a strong run through the playoffs, hitting 25 homers overall with 71 RBIs.

By then, he was one of the most popular players on the team. He has no idea why.

“I just like to play,” he said. “I did the same things in high school and college and didn’t have the fans going crazy then.”

He went into the Reds’ Hall of Fame along with one of the top relievers from the Big Red Machine. Borbon was part of Cincinnati’s back-to-back World Series titles in 1975-76, winning 13 games over those two seasons.

He also became part of team lore in 1995, when Major League Baseball and the players’ union were caught in a labor dispute. Baseball decided to stage games with replacement players and brought them to spring training. Borbon showed up in Plant City, Fla., at age 48 to give it a try.

He was out of shape and fell over backward during drills. He faced two batters during exhibition games. Borbon struck out a Pirates replacement, then doffed his cap to the crowd as he walked off the field. He faced one Indians batter and fell down while trying to field a weak grounder. The Reds then released him.

Mullane, a native of Ireland, was Cincinnati’s top pitcher from 1886-92. His 163 career wins rank second in team history. He died in 1944.