Ten years ago, on a cold dark night, someone was killed beneath the town hall lights.
Also, exactly ten years ago today, Redleg Nation went live when I published this post. Little could I have known at the time that the Nation would still be going strong to this day. For that, I thank you, the loyal reader.
I’m in a nostalgic mood today, so please, indulge me for a few minutes. When I first began thinking about starting a Reds blog, I certainly didn’t have any grand illusions. I just wanted a place where I could write about the Reds and, more importantly, a place where fans of this team could get together to talk about the ol’ Redlegs. I could not have predicted that a community such as this one would emerge, or that we would be able to partner with ESPN and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Let’s not overstate things — this is still a dumb little fan blog — but I really do believe that we have, together, built something very special. I’m proud of this dumb little site.
Actually, the seeds of what would ultimately become Redleg Nation were sown in the days of the old Reds Listserv mailing list, created and maintained by our very own Bill Lack. I remember when I first discovered the Listserv — back in 1993, I believe — and what a revelation it had been to me. Using this newfangled invention called e-mail (am I dating myself here?), I was able to talk with other obsessed Reds fans, day and night.
I was a college kid in Charlottesville, Virginia, when I ran across the listserv. I could talk about the Reds via email with fellow fans around the world, and I tuned in to listen to Marty & Joe call Reds games at night using my GE SuperRadio. I thought this was the height of technology.
Fast forward to the next decade, and fan blogs were popping up all over the place. Red Reporter launched just about exactly a month before RN went live, but I had been reading JD Arney’s Reds Daily blog for a long time before he jumped over to SB Nation to start RR (which continues, to this day, to be an outstanding daily read). I remember emailing back and forth with JD about Reds blogging, as I was trying to decide whether to make the leap. He provided insight and encouragement, so I approached Bill Lack and Chris Garber to see if they were interested in giving this thing a shot.
Those guys enthusiastically climbed on board, and on February 28, 2005, we flipped the “ON” switch. I really only had one rule in those early days: everyone who wrote for the site was required to use their real name. No pseudonyms. I wanted writers who were willing to stand by what they wrote, rather than hide behind a fake name. I don’t know if that helped us gain some small measure of credibility early on, but it’s something that I thought was important. Other than that, however, I wanted good writers who were passionate about the Reds, and I wanted them to feel free to write about whatever tickled their fancy.
Actually, I lied. We had a second, unwritten “rule” from the beginning: we wanted to remain independent. We began as a self-hosted site, and despite our association with some big media companies over the years, we remain as independent as we were on day one. We are fans who like to analyze our favorite baseball team, and that’s how we like it. We aren’t reporters, we’re columnists, so to speak.
Anyway, if you weren’t around at the time — and very few people were — here’s what the site looked like in the old days (click to embiggen):
I kinda miss that site design, actually. Not bad for a startup.
I am still amazed at the quality of writers we’ve had here. I hope my memory isn’t failing me, but very shortly after we launched, a number of other Reds Listserv members agreed to write for RN: Tom Diesman, Chris Wilson, Matt Malott, Brian Erts, Steve Price. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, and for that, I apologize. I’m an old man with failing memory, you know. Either way, I’m very happy that most of the crew from that first season is still around, contributing when they can.
Now’s as good a time to say this as any: I am indebted to the many fantastic writers who have graced the digital pages of Redleg Nation over the years, and I am in awe of the talent and enthusiasm that have been displayed by each and every one of them. I wish there had been more tangible rewards over the years for you guys, but know that you have my gratitude. I will be eternally in your debt. The Redleg Nation family — not just the writers, but all the regular readers and commenters over the years — is a great one, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done to make the Nation what it is.
I do want to single out Bill Lack and Chris Garber here. These guys, I’m sure, have gotten sick of receiving emails from me for ten solid years, asking for advice about anything and everything related to this site. They are busy people, with families and jobs and responsibilities, but they’ve given freely of their time to help grow and direct the site. I could not ask for better friends. Thanks, guys.
As you might remember, the early days of this site were dark times as a Reds fan. For the first five seasons of Redleg Nation’s existence, the Reds had a combined record of 377-433. Five consecutive losing seasons (nine straight, if you include the four years just prior to RN’s launch; yes, we started this site right in the middle of one of the worst stretches in the history of this storied franchise. Ugh). We followed and wrote about an honor roll of players* like Eric Milton, Brandon Claussen, William Bergolla, Dane Sardinha. DeWayne Wise, Tony Womack, Chris Michalak, Jason Johnson. Jon Coutlangus, Kirk Saarloos, Buck Coats, Ryan Jorgensen. Paul Bako, Andy Phillips, Gary Majewski, Josh Fogg. Kip Wells, Mike Lincoln, Willy Taveras, Wilkin Castillo.
*None of those guys were very successful, but we rooted for them every day, cheering for each and every one of them to do something to help our Reds win. With perhaps only one exception, these guys all played as hard as they could to help the Reds win. That’s something, right?
You know how, sometimes, fans will say that so-and-so isn’t a “true fan,” for whatever reason. Anytime we were accused of that (which was pretty much every time we disagreed with any particular decision made by Reds management), we had a perfect comeback: Hey, I wrote about the Cincinnati Reds pretty much every single day from 2005 through 2009. Only the most obsessed fan would do something as mentally draining as that.
Eventually, however, the Reds returned to glory. I’ll never forget sitting in the right field stands when Jay Bruce launched that home run to beat the Astros and clinch the NL Central Division championship for the Reds in 2010. I was proud to be a member of Redleg Nation that night.
So the Reds are in a different place as an organization than they were ten years ago. So, too, has Redleg Nation changed and evolved over the years. Bill Lack orchestrated our “Spotlight Player” program, where Reds minor leaguers such as Matt Klinker, Tucker Barnhart, Sean Buckley, and Logan Parker wrote for the site, sharing their experiences on the road to the big leagues. We also launched a podcast, which has now recorded 126 episodes (and counting). Over the years, Bill and I (mostly Bill) had the great honor of interviewing guys like Devin Mesoraco, Tom Browning, Jim Maloney, Chris Welsh, Joe Posnanski, Greg Rhodes, Barnhart, and Jesse Winker.
At some point, we met Milton, who would mysteriously appear at the bottom of game recaps when the Reds had played particularly poorly.
A few years ago, a wonderful crew of new writers — specifically: Jason Linden (go buy his novel), Steve Mancuso, Richard Fitch — came on board. Those guys brought a fresh perspective to the site, as well as an abundance of writing talent. They combined with us old guys to make RN stronger than it had ever been, in my opinion. Then, before last season, we launched an entirely new site design, and I handed most of the day-to-day duties of managing RN over to Steve, who has recruited some fantastic new writers into the fold. I’m not writing here as often as I once did, but I still love what this site is doing on a daily basis. (And for that, let me take a moment to single out Steve; thank you so much for the care and love you have shown in managing the site.) So yes, I’m proud of RN’s past, but I’m also excited about the Nation’s future.
I suppose that’s enough navel-gazing for one day. Let me finish by saying how much I appreciate all of you who have continued to read and comment on our nonsense, day after day, win or lose. The community that has developed here is better, more respectful, more informed, and more passionate than any other community I’ve seen on the interwebs. I don’t know how you found us (please feel free to share that information with us in the comments below), but if you didn’t keep coming back, we wouldn’t keep doing this. (Well, actually, we probably would, but that’s a different story, relating to our mental health.)
We hope to organize a Redleg Nation 10th Birthday get-together sometime this summer, so that I can meet as many of you as possible and put faces to usernames. Look for more information on that in the weeks to come, and feel free to offer your suggestions regarding logistics. In the meantime, let me say it again, from the bottom of my heart: THANKS. All of you have given me much more than I could ever repay.
Long live Redleg Nation. I love you guys.