Maybe somewhere there has been a man who played shortstop as well as he does, but I assure you there has never been a man who can cover the amount of ground he covers
- Sparky Anderson
Sparky Anderson once compared him to a fawn. So slight was David Concepcion when he made his first appearance as a Red that few could have imagined the durability that would allow the shortstop to forge a 19-season major league career that ranks as the longest period of continual service time in the club's history; a span matched only by Concepcion's heir apparent, Barry Larkin, when Larkin played his 19th consecutive season in Cincinnati in 2004.
A native of Venezuela, Concepcion spent his youth idolizing Venezuelan-born Luis Aparacio, a National Baseball Hall of Famer who forged a stellar 18-year career with several Major League clubs. Blessed with a powerful throwing arm, the rail-thin Concepcion first made his mark on local ball fields as a pitcher. When Reds scouts spotted him, the club initially pegged him as a second baseman.
Assigned to Tampa for the 1968 season, Tarpons manager George Scherger shifted Concepcion to shortstop and his performance there left little doubt that the club had a special player on their hands. The Reds were rich in shortstop talent in the late-1960s with highly regarded prospects Frank Duffy and Darrel Chaney and incumbent Woody Woodward all in the fold. The callow Concecpcion quickly emerged from this talented pack and first-year manager Anderson included him on his Opening Day roster in 1970 after only two years of Minor League seasoning.
While Concepcion's defensive abilities were evident from the beginning, his performance at the plate took a bit longer to reach a consistent level. A solid .260 season in his rookie year was followed by sub-.210 seasons in 1971 and 1972. A fractured thumb suffered in the spring of 1971 exacerbated Concepcion's struggle to adapt to major league pitching. By 1973, years of guidance under hitting instructor Ted Kluszewski finally paid off as Concepcion burst out of the gate with a .414 average in the season's first two weeks. On the eve of the All-Star break, Concepcion was batting an impressive .287 with eight home runs and twenty-two stolen bases. His performance brought to an end the three-way platoon at short that had been in effect since 1970 with Chaney , Woodward and Concepcion each sharing time at the position. Named to the National League All-Star squad as a reserve infielder, Concepcion was enjoying his finest all-around season. It all ground to a halt on July 22, when he broke his ankle sliding into third base. The season was over for Concepcion but his excellent first half had established him as one of the premier shortstops in the game.
Honors, awards and championships characterized the remainder of Concepcion's career as he emerged as the best shortstop of his era and one of the ever best ever to play the position. He won his first of five Gold Gloves in 1974, displaying a range that prompted Sparky Anderson to remark, "Maybe somewhere there has been a man who played shortstop as well as he does, but I assure you there has never been a man who can cover the amount of ground he covers." Concepcion was a master on the artificial turf that covered most of the playing surfaces in National League ballparks. While bounces were truer on turf than on grass, the turf also played much faster than grass necessitating that infielders cover a wider area. Concepcion played a deep shortstop and perfected the technique of the one-bounce throw to first base that hastened the ball's arrival and turned countless close plays into outs for the Reds.. He and second baseman Joe Morgan formed one of the best double-play combinations the game has ever seen as the two Gold-Glove performers grew to work seamlessly together. While more than capable of the acrobatic, highlight-reel play, Concepcion was so good that the difficult came to appear easy; the impossible play became possible if not expected.
As his career progressed, the once weak, inconsistent hitter became a formidable presence in the powerful lineups of the Big Red Machine. He was a two -time Silver Slugger award winner at shortstop and batted .280 or better eight times in his career. His overall excellence resulted in Concepcion being selected to nine league All-Star teams. His being named the Most Valuable Player of the 1982 contest highlighted his play in the midsummer classic. He remained the Reds starting shortstop through the 1985 season after which he began to share the position with Larkin. The ascent of Barry Larkin as Concepcion's career wound to a close sustained an incredible string of outstanding Reds shortstops that began with Roy McMillan in 1951 and continued, virtually without interruption, through the careers of Leo Cardenas, Concepcion and Larkin.
Concepcion's superlative play unfolded against the backdrop of the greatest era in Reds history as the Big Red Machine steamrolled its way to six division championships, four league pennants and two World Championships. David Concepcion was there through it all, holding down the crucial shortstop position as few had before him.
Nearly ten years after he played his last game, David Concepcion still ranks among the Reds' all-time leaders games (2nd), hits (3rd), total bases (5th), at-bats (2nd), doubles (3rd), stolen bases (3rd) and runs scored (5th). Inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2000, David Concepcion joins the most prestigious of Reds clubs with the 2007 retirement of his uniform number. His familiar No. 13 joins the No. 1 of Fred Hutchinson, the No. 5 of Johnny Bench, the No. 8 of Joe Morgan, the No. 10 of Sparky Anderson, the No. 18 of Ted Kluszewski, the No. 20 of Frank Robinson, the No. 24 of Tony Perez and Jackie Robinson's No. 42 in the pantheon of uniform numbers never to be worn again by another Reds player. It is a fitting tribute to a player that became arguably the very best at his position and was an essential cog in one of baseball's greatest teams. Perhaps just as significantly, he did it all while wearing the colors of the Cincinnati Reds. Indeed, from start to finish, David Concepcion belonged to the Reds.