Reds Legends instructor had interesting career
Here’s a little trivia question for all the Cincinnati Reds fans in the area.
Name the only Cincinnati Reds player who was in the Reds system during the 1975 and 1976 championship seasons and remained in the organization all the way through to the wire-to-wire championship of 1990.
The answer would be one Ron Oester, who is in Marietta once again this week as an instructor for the 21st annual Cincinnati Reds Legend Camp.
Oester was a ninth round draft pick by the Reds in 1974 and spent five full seasons in the minor leagues before getting a cup of coffee in the big leagues in both 1978 and 1979.
The switch hitting middle infielder took over as the regular second baseman for the Reds in 1980 and spent the next decade as a fixture in the Cincinnati line up.
Oester was born and raised in Cincinnati so it should come as no surprise as to who his idol was growing up, none other than another switching hitting Cincinnati native by the name of Peter Edward Rose.
“Pete definitely was my idol growing up. Not only that he switch hit, but I just liked the way he played and hustled and gave everything he could,” said Oester, who came up through the minor leagues as a shortstop but was moved to second base early in his career. “He didn’t have the talent or ability that a lot of guys had but he made himself a great ball player by the way he worked at it.”
After a solid 1979 campaign for the Reds Triple A affiliate in Indianapolis where he hit .281 and swiped 23 bases, Oester got his first chance at regular playing time in the majors in 1980 as he replaced none other than Hall-of-Famer and fan favorite Joe Morgan in the everyday lineup.
Oester batted a solid .277 in his freshman campaign and finished fourth in the National League Rookie-of-The Year voting.
While the Reds dominated the 1970s as they won two championships, four pennants, and six division titles, the early 1980’s found the Reds in a rebuilding mode.
“We went through some really tough times in the early eighties and actually lost 101 games one year (1982),” said Oester. “We went through a lot of bumps when they traded guys like George Foster and Ken Griffey Sr. and Danny Driessen.”
The Reds actually had four straight losing seasons from 1981 through 1984 before things started to head in the right direction in 1985 when they won 89 games and placed second in the then National League West Division.
By then, Oester had firmly established himself as one of the premier defensive second baseman in the National League, while also swinging a pretty good stick including a career best .295 average in 1985.
Two years later Oester would suffer a major knee injury as he was slid into by New York Met Mookie Wilson while attempting to turn a double play and was forced to spend the rest of 1987 and the majority of 1988 in recovery.
Oester returned to play in 109 games for the Reds in 1989 but unfortunately would never be able to return to full time duty for the remainder of his career.
His resolve was rewarded however as he spent the 1990 season in a utility role for a Reds team that led the N.L. West every single day of the season before sweeping the Oakland A’s in the World Series.
“I was fortunate to stick around long enough to be on that World Series team,” said Oester, who batted .299 in 64 games. “To get the chance to play in the playoffs and finally get in the World Series and win it was just a dream come true.”
Oester decided to go out on top as he retired following the 1990 season.
“You play your whole career to win a World Series and we had the Nasty Boys and once we had a lead heading to the seventh inning we knew we had the win,” recalled Oester. “I felt like I could have played a couple of more years but I retired after I got my ring.”
Not many players play their entire career for the team that they begin with, especially when that team happens to play in their home city and the 58-year old Oester will be honored by the Reds later this summer when he is inducted into the Reds Hall-of-Fame.
“I always just wanted to play for the Reds and never even thought of getting in the Hall-of-Fame,” said Oester, who will be inducted in a ceremony on August 10th along with the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and Dave Parker. “I just really don’t have the words to describe it. It’s just unbelievable and I just wish my parents were alive to see it but I’m sure there up there looking down on me.”
Oester has made numerous trips to Marietta for the camp in the past and enjoys the opportunity to share his knowledge with the youngsters.
“When I was a kid I was out playing baseball as much as I could and its great to see these kids out here this week,” said Oester. “The kids work at things and they listen to you and when they pick up on something that can help them you see it in their eyes and that makes it worth it.”