Seldom have there been two more divergent personalities than Dan Driessen and Sean Casey.
Until now, the only thing they had in common was that both played first base for the Cincinnati Reds. Now they have another thing in common both are to be inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.
Driessen was one of the most shy, quiet players ever to wear the wishbone C,' a guy who seldom said a word until spoken to and his answers were monosyllabic and precise.
Casey was one of the most outgoing, talkative players in the team's long, storied history. If you asked Casey for a drink of water, he gave you Niagara Falls.
Since he playing days, Driessen has been reclusive, never showing his face at Reds functions, never appearing at spring training or team reunions.
Casey is forever visible, a Cincinnati icon, even though he was traded to Pittsburgh and later played in Detroit and Boston. He remains a Cincinnati Red at heart and shows up to help out at spring training and appears at nearly all Reds functions.
Amazingly, the two were involved in much-discussed and much-cussed trades.
Driessen was indirectly involved in what many consider the worst trade in club history in 1977. He wasn't traded, but Tony Perez was traded to make room for Driessen at first base.
He was playing third base for the Reds, but his glove and arm were not suited for the position. But he owned a potent bat and then club presidentgeneral manager Bob Howsam decided Driessen was the club's first baseman of the future.
So he traded first baseman Perez to the Montreal Expos and Driessen took over at first base an unpopular move by the fan base and many held it against Driessen, even though he hit .301 in 1973 and was third in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Casey, so popular in Cincinnati that he earned the nickname, "The Mayor," was traded in 2005 to the Pittsburgh Pirates by then general manager Dan O'Brien for lefthanded pitcher Dave Williams. Fans howled and they howled even more when Williams was a bust.
Driessen, who wore a perma-press smile at all times, was a non-drafted free agent whom the Reds signed out of Hilton Head Island, S.C. when he was 19 and he became one of the lesser-known members of The Big Red Machie.
He joined the Reds in 1973 for an outstanding rookie year at third base, but he was replaced at third base by Pete Rose to make room for George Foster in left field. In 1976 he became the first-ever National League designated hitter in the World Series and was 5 for 16 with a home, one RBI and five runs scored during the Reds' four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
Howsam and others predicited that Driessen's quick bat would win some batting championships, but he never came close. His best year was his first full year after Perez was traded, 1977, when he hit .300 with 17 homers, 91 RBI and 31 stolen bases.
He never came close to those numbers again and in 1984 he, like Perez, was traded to Montreal. Driessen's trade brought the Reds pitcher Andy McGaffigan.
While he was not adept at third base, Driessen three times led the National League in defense at first base. In in 1980 he led the league in walks with 93 and hit by pitches with six.
Casey came to the Reds in a bizarre way. Dave Burba was to be the Reds Opening Day pitcher in 1998, but then general manager Jim Bowden traded him to the Cleveland Indians the day before Opening Day for Casey. Then during infield practice on Opening Day, Casey was hit in the eye by a ball thrown by a teammate and landed on the DL.
But his 1999 season was his best .322 with 19 homers and 99 RBI, nearly helping the Reds to the playoffs, which they missed because they lost a one-game playoff to the New York Mets for the wild card.
Casey nearly matched his 1999 season in 2004 when he hit .324 with 24 homers and 99 RBI. He made three All-Star teams and finished his career in 2008 with the Boston Red Sox, taking a .302 career batting average with him.
While Driessen barely mustered two words for anybody, Casey was verbiage central. He had long conversations at first base with runners and at one point began recording his conversations into a cassette recorder after games with thoughts of doing a book. It never materialized.
In 2007, players voted Casey as the friendliest player in the game in a magazine poll, receiving 47 per cent of the votes. The next highest vote-getter received seven percent.
If Casey could run, he might have hit 20 to 30 points higher each year, but he was one of the game's slowest afoot and one teammate once said to him, "You not only run like you are carrying a piano, it looks as if you stop to play it, too." In 2005 he hit into 27 double plays, tying the all-time record for a left-handed hitter.
During my 40 years of covering baseball, only three players have ever called me at home. Casey did it twice once to congratulate me on my induction into the baseball Hall of Fame and the other to congratulate me on my marriage (I had no idea he knew I was getting married during the offseason and don't know where he obtained my phone number).
Driessen, Casey and another first baseman, John Reilly (1883-1891), will be officially inducted next year during a Hall of Fame weekend at Great American Ball Park June 22-24.