As you probably know, Triumph Books has released The Big 50: Cincinnati Reds: The Men and Moments that Made the Cincinnati Reds, by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber. [Available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and soon to be in all the finest bookstores.]
The book covers the 50 men and moments that made the Reds the Reds. But even 365 pages can’t cover every great moment in the Reds nearly 150 year history. Some great stuff was left on the cutting room floor. While RLN will be publishing an exclusive excerpt very soon we’ll also be sharing some other great stories that didn’t quite make the book. Here’s one:
You probably know how the 1976 season ended — with the Big Red Machine sweeping the Yankees in the World Series. Less remembered was a bizarre incident early in the season, which the Riverfront Stadium fans shared with a national audience. A Saturday afternoon tilt against the San Francisco Giants, featured as NBC Game of the Week, was delayed when a swarm of 5,000-10,000 honey bees set up camp near the visitor’s dugout.
Or, as Reds general manager Bob Howsam estimated,“about three or four pounds of them. Not really a large swarm.
As you might conclude from the fact that Howsam estimated the number of bees in pounds, or the fact that 10,000 bees didn’t faze him, this wasn’t the speculation of an amateur. Howsam had grown up on a bee farm in southern Colorado.
What happened, according to Howsam, was that the original hive became overcrowded as the weather warmed in late April. As bees do, the hive generated a second queen, who set off with her followers to establish a new colony. Unfortunately for the Giants and the NBC cameraman, she paused for a rest on the first base cameraman’s television monitor, and the rest of her buzzy extended family joined.
While the swarm may not have been big enough to impress the heir to a honeybee farm, it got the ballplayers’ attention. The Giants fled to the outfield, while Sparky and Reds coach Ted Kluszewski (allergic to bees), fled to the Reds clubhouse.
NBC’s Tony Kubek was conducting his pregame interviews of Sparky Anderson and Giants manager Bill Rigney. If you can believe it, Kubek was also an amateur beekeeper. He gave Sparky the same line that a million parents have given a million kids at a million picnics: “The bees don’t want to bother you. Just stay calm and they’ll leave you alone. Like most everyone who has heard that line over buzzing in their ears, Sparky asked Kubek for a guarantee. When umpire Doug Harvey gave Norman the same advice in the first inning, Norman told him to tell it to the bees.Embed from Getty Images
Reds assistant general manager Dick Wagner, a former Ice Capades exec who lived by the showbiz motto,“the show must go on, arrived with a fire extinguisher. He unloaded on the swarm, to no effect.
Fortunately, actual experts were in the house. While Howsam watched from his upstairs perch, Kubek calmly removed the monitor. Meanwhile, an amateur beekeeper and a professional exterminator materialized from the grandstands. They fashioned a makeshift cardboard beehive, and filled it with bees by the handful, until they finally grabbed the queen. Once she was inside the new home, the rest of the hive followed, and the whole mob was removed to a more appropriate residence. The Game of the Week began thirty-five minutes late, but with one heck of an opening act. The Reds won the game 11-0, delighting 21,219 fans and several pun-loving headline writers.
Photo of Riverfront Stadium by Blake Bolinger. It was slightly modified to fit the site. You can see the license for the photo here.