A story that began on Oct. 14, 1952, when the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Gus Bell to the Cincinnati Reds for Cal Abrams, Gail Henley and Joe Rossi added a new chapter Monday when Bell’s grandson, David Bell, became the 63rd manager of the oldest franchise in professional baseball.
The Bell family has had deep roots in Cincinnati since the days of Gus, who played nine seasons in the Queen City and made the National League All-Star team four times. Buddy Bell, who turned 2 years old during his dad’s first season with the Reds, joined the Reds in 1985 and played three seasons in Cincinnati.
Now David, 46, who already had some history in the organization as a minor-league manager with Double-A Carolina (2009-11) and Triple-A Louisville (2012), gets a chance to add to the family legacy. No one would have enjoyed seeing this story continue more than Gus, his son Buddy said Monday after the Reds introduced David in a press conference at Great American Ball Park.
“When (David) called me the other day and told me they had offered him the job, my first reaction was, ‘I wish my dad was here,’ ” Buddy said. “Him and David were so close. He’d be really proud, but I think he’d also be nervous at the same time. I came back here (as a player), and I don’t know if he was happy or sad. It’s the toughest thing to watch your kid play. But it’s the greatest thing as well.”
Here are four highlights of Monday’s press conference:
1. Big challenge: Bell takes over a franchise mired in five straight losing seasons and four straight last-place finishes in the National League Central Division.
The Reds also haven’t developed the young pitching that would point to a recovery anytime soon. They finished 67-95 last season and haven’t topped 70 wins since 2014. This is a franchise that hasn’t won a postseason series since 1995 or a World Series since 1990, the year Bell graduated from Moeller High School.
» PHOTOS: David Bell press conference at GABP
“What we’re going to focus on are things we can control,” Bell said. “The way we prepare, the way we compete, the way we take care of each other and do everything as a team. The talent will take care of itself. The city’s going to be really happy and proud to watch how we go about it on the field.”
2. Owner’s reaction: Bob Castellini, the Reds chief executive officer, spoke at the press conference along with Bell and President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall.
Castellini said a friend told him David is a tough guy who’s soft spoken.
“He’s tougher than people think,” Castellini said. “He’s smart. He’s done everything in baseball. He’s been a player, a coach. He’s been player-development person. I like the way he handled himself. He’s a one-on-one person. Those are comments a very astute baseball friend of mine passed on to me.”
3. Giving thanks: Bell replaces interim manager Jim Riggleman, one of more than a dozen people to interview for the job. In his opening remarks at the press conference, Williams thanked Riggleman and his staff for the job he did after replacing Bryan Price in April.
“Back in April, we asked Jim to step up and assume the interim manager role and guide this team for the rest of the year,” Williams said. “He’s a real pro. He and Danny Darwin and Pat Kelly took on roles they didn’t expect to have.”
4. Managing style: Bell is the son of a former big-league manager. Buddy now works in the Reds front office but previously managed with the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals. They are the fourth father-son duo to serve as big-league managers.
However, Bell picked up just as much about the game from the numerous managers he played under during 12 seasons in Major League Baseball (1995-2006). He mentioned Mike Hargrove, Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel as managers who have influenced the way he coaches.
“They were all different,” Bell said. “They all had unbelievable strengths. As a player, you watch things. The most important thing is to be yourself. You find out what’s going to work for you. You see things maybe you want to do different. It was an incredible opportunity to play for each and every one of those guys.”