Baseball lifer gave many years of dedicated service to the Reds as a player, coach, and manager. And he won.
Dave Bristol was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame July 21, 2018. It was a long-overdue honor for a man who gave as much to the organization as anyone for many years.
But there’s another honor he deserves.
How about retiring Dave’s #4?
I’m a Volunteer Ambassador at the Reds Hall of Fame, and I often work as a “follow” on ballpark tours. One of the regular tour stops is near the retired-numbers area behind home plate.
It’s cool to see Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Fred Hutchinson, and other Reds greats represented. All are certainly deserving of this honor.
But as I look at 14, 5, and 24 for Rose, Bench, and Pérez, I realize there’s a number that’s missing – one that links all of these players together:
The man who developed so many players, including all of these RHOF inductees.
So many of Bristol’s former players speak almost reverently about how much he helped their careers, and how he cared about them as people as well as players.
“My favorite manager,” said pitcher George Culver, who played for Walter Alston and other Hall of Fame managers.
“Dave was going to make you a better player and a better person,” said second-baseman Tommy Helms.
At the Hall of Fame Induction Gala, Johnny Bench related how Dave would take him to the outfield wall and bounce balls at him – enjoying it, Bench said with a laugh – so Bench could learn to block balls correctly, and be a better player.
“Dave was one of the guys, but he could be tough on you when he needed to,” Culver said.
“Dave was going to give you the opportunity to be ready for the big leagues,” Helms said. “I felt like a big-leaguer when I got here [to Cincinnati].”
Bristol worked relentlessly on fundamentals, so when and if players were called to the big leagues, they knew how to play and would be ready.
“I love Dave,” said infielder Darrel Chaney. “He had the guts to bring me to the big leagues in 1969.”
Bristol is a baseball lifer, in the best sense of the expression. He still evaluates players and works with them from his home in Andrews, North Carolina.
“I always wanted to be the first one to the ballpark, so they wouldn’t take my uniform,” he said at the Induction Gala.
He shouldn’t have to worry about that anymore.
Why not take #4 out of circulation, and display it permanently at Great American Ball Park?