Being a 31 year old Reds fan has had its ups and its downs over the years. The lowliest of lows include the mid/late 90’s and the early 2000’s where plucking a winning team from those forgettable years is about as rare as Jose Peraza walk (sorry Jose, but with a 4% walk rate you kind of set yourself up for that one). The highest of highs consist of the Jay Bruce homer to clinch the division in 2010 and the first 2 games of the 2012 NLDS (we won’t talk about the last 3 games of the 2012 NLDS…where the Reds lost in an epic meltdown…to the Giants…who went on to win the World Series).

The one thing that’s stayed consistent over my 31 years of Reds fandom is the glory that is Opening Day – a fresh start and eternal optimism, a time to celebrate baseball and spring, a time when the Reds don’t, well…suck. I’ve been to a lot of Opening Days (more than 20 less than 30) and have gathered a lot of memories over the years. Here are the top 5 Opening Days of MY lifetime:

5. 2003

This was a unique Opening Day. It was the first year and the first game that Great American Ballpark was open for business. I was only 14 years old but I’ll never forget walking into GABP for the first time. The new stadium was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I remember walking through the concourses to my seat along the third-base line mezzanine and thinking how different, clean, new, exciting, and neat everything felt. The new stadium had gadgets and gizmos and an ambiance that made baseball more entertaining. There was a buzz around this Opening Day that was unlike any that I can remember. The game itself was a complete dud – losing to the Pirates 10-1, and the season was a complete disaster – going 63-99, but we had a new stadium, darn it…and that was something to celebrate.

4. 2013

If there was ever an Opening Day that felt like the beginning of a World Series season it was 2013. The Reds were coming off of a 97 win season, a division crown, and they upgraded their roster by trading for Shin-Soo Choo. Opening Day 2013 was an all-in year and you could feel it. There was a confident buzz around the fan base – like you knew the Reds were going to be REALLY good, make the playoffs, and go on a run.

There was almost an anxiousness to just get the regular season over with already and to get down to business in the postseason. I remember one of my friends passing the time during this long somewhat uneventful 13 inning game (that J.J. Hoover would go on to blow…miss ya, J.J.!) by carefully placing peanut shells on the back of the lady sitting in front of us. She eventually noticed and we had all had a good laugh about it. Turned out her name was Shelly from Fayetteville…go figure.

3. 2005

I’m not going to lie – I COMPLETELY forgot about this Opening Day game until a friend of mine mentioned it to me the other day. I wasn’t actually at this game, which is maybe why it slipped my mind…but man, I remember watching it. You wouldn’t expect much from an Opening Day game when you run Paul Wilson out there as your starter, but things change when you have one of the best home run hitters in Reds’ history on your team.

Although Joe Randa hit the walk off to win the game, it was THE Adam Dunn show. I remember getting home from school with the Reds down 6-3 (3 runs thanks to a Dunn homer) and not thinking much of the game. Watching the game until the end was nothing more than a formality at that point. Then a little 9th inning magic happened. Adam Dunn hit a 2 run homer in the 9th to tie the game and Joe Randa – Joe FRICKIN Randa – followed to hit a walk off home run to win the game. Based PURELY on the game itself, this was THE best Reds Opening Day game I have ever seen.

2. 2000

Ken Griffey Jr.

This one man alone was cause for one of the most memorable Opening Days ever. Couple that with the fact that the Reds were coming off of a 96 win season and it provided the most interest in the Reds that I have seen in my lifetime. Opening Day in Cincinnati was THE place to be, both on a local and national level. The energy around that day and inside the stadium during that game was incredible.

I remember getting pulled out of school early (no, it’s not a coincidence that I had a doctor appointment the same day as Opening Day), my parents surprising me with a Ken Griffey Jr. jersey, and getting to walk in the parade for the first and only time ever. The game itself was also unique. It was a rainy, dreary day and it was the only game on Opening Day that I’ve been a part of that didn’t actually finish. It was called in the 6th inning due to weather.

1. 2011

Opening Day 2011 was my favorite Opening Day. The Reds were coming off their first winning season in a LONG time. They won 91 games and the division in 2010, Joey Votto won the MVP, and the Reds made the postseason for the first time since I could remember. 2011 was following up THE first year that I have experienced some sort of winning success as a Reds fan in my adulthood. The team had a young core that was solidifying and had players that were fun to be fans of.

I remember it was also the first year that The Banks gave fans a centralized spot to meet up and hang out before the game. The Reds block party started this year somewhat out of default. The block party was never really a planned thing, but I remember walking down Freedom Way and being surrounded by thousands of Reds fans hanging out on the street just enjoying the day. That was the first year for such a unique thing that our city has come to offer and be known for on Opening Day.

The game itself was also the best Opening Day game that I have ever been to. The Reds were down 6-4 to the Brewers in the bottom of the 9th inning when Ramon Hernandez hit a walk off three run home run to win the game. 2011 was a disappointing season overall for the Reds, but that Opening Day was special.

So enjoy the day, Reds fans. Here’s to hoping this years Opening Day takes over the number 1 spot on my list.

I’ll leave you with this:

Photo of Riverfront Stadium by Rick Dikeman. The license for the photo can be found here.

11 Responses

  1. zigbee

    Any win on opening day is a great event. After so many years though it’s hard to remember all of them. 1990 opening day was pretty important because of the win streak it started and the wire to wire division, NL, and world title it led to.

  2. Jeff Gangloff

    I wish I had the pleasure of experiencing those Opening Days. All of the teams from the 70’s and the 1990’s team seemed like so much fun. One day…

  3. Nate

    2011 is my favorite also. I remember the crowd had almost deflated after Bruce struck out and Ramon came up to bat. I was on the third base lower level side just past the infield dirt. The Brewers fans in front of us that had been obnoxious all game were super cocky. One evening said it’s time to celebrate after the first pitch strike. Then the crack of the bat and everyone had a sense of this could be a hit but kept going and carried into the bullpen. Pandemonium, joy, and cheers that were louder than Ohio Stadium when Ted Ginn Jr. ran a punt back against the team up north. Great memories.

  4. Greg S

    1978, Tom Seaver’s first opening day start for the Reds. The Astros chased him in the 4th inning, taking a 5-1 lead, but the Reds came back to win 11-9. The game also featured the only triple play I’ve ever seen first-hand (three outs on one play without a ball being hit – strikeout of Driessen, Morgan caught off 3rd and Foster caught off 2nd, to the best of my memory).

  5. BoldOD

    Remember 1996 the game that wasn’t with John McSherry. I was there. Such a strange day.

  6. vegastypo

    1974 — Hank Aaron hits home run No. 714, only the tip of the iceberg for what turned into a great game. Pete Rose scored from second on a wild pitch to win it in extra innings. The only Opening Day I’ve been to.

  7. Matt Esberger

    Been fortunate to go to opening day from 1977-1989, 1991-1997, 2003 Here are couple that stood out. Not including 1996 because was late to the game coming from Friday’s in Covington and can only say thought it was weird when everyone was walking out as we were arriving and didn’t know what was going on.

    1980 Tom Seaver scratched from start and Frank Pastore throwing 3 hit shut out complete game against Braves. For some reason can remember Bob Horner throwing error from 3rd that almost hit the green seats facade behind 1st base. Totally airmailed it.

    1985 I was living in CA at time and in town during spring break. It was Pete’s first full season as manager and there was a buzz that opening day unlike any I been to. Pete driving in 2 runs with a double to take lead and the weather changing from snow to sunny and warm back to snow in the first few inning.

    • Jeff Gangloff

      Great memories! Maybe Castillo can match Pastore’s performance today!

  8. TR

    My one Opening Day was in 1954 when a couple friends and I skipped school and saw the Reds and Milwaukee Braves at Crosley Field with Hank Aaron playing his first ML game in right field. The Reds had a real good offensive team led by slugger Ted Kluszewski who had 49 home runs that season. And a real good outfield of Greengrass, Bell and Post along with an outstanding double-play combination in Roy McMillan and Johnny Temple. The pitching was not strong enough to contend, but Joe Nuxhall, Corky Valentine and Art Fowler each won 12 games.

  9. RM

    How can 1974 not =be most memorable. Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth with a home run in the first inning. Pete Rose won the game scoring from second base on a wild pitch. That game far outshines and other opening day in Reds history

  10. Michael Petry

    My personal favorite was 2005. Basically on a whim I decided to take off work and drive home to just absorb the Opening Day fun. When I got home, I found out my Dad had worked some connections and got two tickets. Naturally he told my brother and me to take them. Then we found out the tickets were about three rows up from Mets dugout.
    It may have been my favorite even without the crazy comeback.
    But then what a game.