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Casey, Driessen, Reilly inducted into HOF


AP Sports Writer


CINCINNATI — As a backup first baseman in the 1970s, Dan Driessen was content to let Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey and the other members of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine get the attention.

“I grew up a little bit shy,” Driessen said.

Now, they’ve got nothing on him.

With former teammates sitting alongside, Driessen was welcomed into the Reds’ Hall of Fame on Saturday, along with Sean Casey and 19th-century player John Reilly. All three played first base, and all were very different. Reilly was known for his height — his nickname was “Long John.” Casey was known as “The Mayor” because of his friendliness and talkativeness.

Driessen? Known for quietly taking over as the starting first baseman after Perez was traded following the 1976 World Series sweep of the New York Yankees, Cincinnati’s second straight title. Driessen batted .357 in that Series.

He became one of the NL’s best defensive first basemen and a constant as those other stars left and the franchise rebuilt. Getting to join them in the Hall meant a lot.

“It is kind of cold out there,” he said. “Now that they’ve let me in, it’s much better.”

Initially, he couldn’t believe he’d been chosen. The call from the Reds took him off-guard.

“I was a little bit stunned,” he said. “I was out deer hunting. My wife told me that somebody from the Hall of Fame called, and I was trying to figure out who. I was a little bit stunned, and excited at the same time.

“It’s been a lifelong dream to make it to the big leagues, but I had no idea we’d get to this point.”

Casey quickly become a fan favorite after the Reds traded to get him from the Cleveland Indians before the start of the 1998 season. He played eight seasons in Cincinnati, made three All-Star games and led the team in hitting six times. His endearing nature quickly won over the fans.

“Listen, I wasn’t really the ‘five-tool’ guy,” Casey said, referring to players who can do it all. “I was the blue-collar type worker. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t throw, but I could hit. I think this is my kind of city. I felt it was a blue-collar city and I was a blue-collar kind of player. I always felt a connection with the fans here.”

One fan interrupted his comments on the field by yelling: “We love you Sean.” He yelled back: “I love you too.” He wiped away tears after he got a standing ovation, then raised his first to the crowd in celebration.

Not everyone loved his folksy manner as a player. Casey reminded reporters that several players gave him the silent treatment at first base, not interested in his nonstop banter.

“My rookie year, I was like three weeks up, I was so excited to be here,” Casey said. “Rickey Henderson singled to left or something, and he’s at first base. I’m so excited, 23-year-old, wide-eyed. I’m like, ‘Hey, man, great job, good swing. I’ve got your baseball card, 1980 Topps.’ He kind of looked at me like, ‘Shut up. I don’t even know who you are.’

“I was going to talk to these guys, especially my rookie year, because I thought I might be out of here soon. I don’t know how long I’ll be sticking around.”


Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay