The shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds when they dominated the National League in the 1970s, Dave Concepcion was a first-rate defensive player. He placed his stamp on the game: he was the first infielder to regularly use the bounce-throw to first base on artificial turf.
Concepcion was the last member of the Big Red Machine to stay with the Reds, playing his entire career in Cincinnati, from 1970 to 1988. He won five Gold Glove Awards and was an All-Star nine times, including eight years in a row. As a young player out of Venezuela, Concepcion was unsure and inconsistent, especially at the plate. He was remarkably thin and weak in his first few seasons in the big leagues, but his defense earned him playing time. He was the first “project” for Sparky Anderson, who assumed the managerial duties for the Reds in Concepcion’s rookie season.
Several books have been written about the era of the Big Red Machine, and they disagree on some major points, but all of them seem to agree on one thing: Concepcion was jealous of the fame and special treatment afforded the “Big Four” of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Joe Morgan. That quartet sucked the air out of the clubhouse, leaving very little room for anyone else to make a name for themselves. Still, Concepcion was a valued member of the team and as he matured he earned more respect form his more famous teammates.
He was a very fast baserunner: slim-waisted, quick, with long strides (he was 6’2) and good instincts. Seven times he swiped more than 20 bases, pilfering 321 for his career.
- In the nine years that Dave Concepcion and Joe Morgan teamed together as a double play duo, they each made the All-Star team eight times. The 16 All-Star Game appearances as teammates is a record for a second baseman and shortstop.
- Concepcion’s hero was Luis Aparicio, the Hall of Fame shortstop who also hailed from Venezuela and starred primarily in the 1960s. Later, other shortstops from that country followed in his footsteps: Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel.