During the summer of 2009, I was in a Kentucky sports bar across the Ohio River and was gazing at Great American Ballpark. The new Cincinnati Reds park had been open for six years and shortly after ordering a cold one, it occurred to me that GABP had no special baseball memories for me after seeing games there for that period of time.

Nothing. No playoff games. Losing teams. Poor pitching. It was a nice ballpark and the Reds Hall of Fame was awesome but inside GABP?

Nothing. Six years of under .500 records. The best was 80-82 in 2006.

Then, I looked where Riverfront Stadium used to be. Our Riverfront Stadium. The one that was maligned by some by loved by a lot. And baseball memories were so thick in my mind having four or five more Budweisers wouldn’t erase any of them.

I can’t list them all. Not just of special games I attended but great players and teams.

Want a sample? Bench and Rose. The 1999 Reds. The Big Red Machine. Junior. Concepcion and Larkin, two of the greatest shortstops ever for the Cincinnati Reds. The Big Dog. Little Joe. Mr. Perfect. Chris Sabo in 1988. George Foster in 1977. The Nasty Boys. Hal King’s majestic home run in 1973. Tom Seaver’s no-hitter in 1978.

But a year before my reminiscing, Jay Bruce made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds. And he started with a bang. The Reds, slowly but surely, got better. Bruce was in the thick of it.

And then on September 28, 2010 it happened. The Reds just needed one win or a Cardinal loss to the Pirates on that night to clinch the National League Central. On a whim, I took the day off and made the five-hour drive to Cincinnati, ordering a ticket on the way. I got a front row seat down the third base line. The Reds were playing the Houston Astros, the team I love to hate.

That was the night– as most of you know– that Bruce hit the game winning home run off Astros left-handed hurler Tim Byrdak on his first pitch in the 9th inning and the city of Cincinnati celebrated, big-time. I did too. I joined a legion of fans who walked from GABP to downtown to celebrate near Fountain Square, just like I did during the days of the Big Red Machine.

It was a great night. It was a long night. It was worth it.

Jay Bruce retired from baseball last Sunday. It was just a ripple among MLB news of the day, but it was sad news for me. Bruce was my favorite Reds player for years. I met him once at Redsfest and our picture is in my sports room.

Bruce was traded from the Reds in 2016 during their “rebuild” which they blew miserably. Bruce’s trade was a perfect example. The Reds sent him to the New York Mets for Max Wotell and Dilson Herrara. Enough said.

That ranked nearly as bad as the Aroldis Chapman trade. And it was just as disastrous as the Johnny Cueto trade for three Kansas City Royal pitchers. (Oh, but they were all left handed!)

I’m not the first to say this– and admittedly I’m biased– but Jay Bruce should be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame down the road. I think his stats are worthy of it and the impact he made with the Reds.  Along with Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and a great pitching staff, he was one of the centerpieces of those Reds teams in 2010, 2012 and 2013.  He was a good right fielder and there were times I would sit in the right field bleachers just to cheer him on when I went to Reds games at GABP.

Looking back at Reds history—as I like to do– here’s where I would rank Jay Bruce with the right fielders in the modern history of Reds baseball. (That era is defined as since 1956– Frank Robinson’s rookie year.)

  1. Frank Robinson
  2. Ken Griffey
  3. Dave Parker
  4. Jay Bruce
  5. Reggie Sanders

Honorable Mention: Paul O’Neill and Wally Post.

I’m sure the Reds will honor Jay Bruce down the road. They are slow to make decisions, have trouble finding a shortstop and they love bobbleheads but they do the little things right. I’m confident in saying Jay Bruce will be a Reds Hall of Famer.

Now I can look at GABP and think of a lot of good things: the career of Joey Votto, the windup of Johnny Cueto, Homer’s two-years of greatness and at last, a Reds Cy Young Award winner although we weren’t allowed to be at baseball games in 2020.

But the top of the list? Jay Bruce’s home run in 2010. In a sense, it baptized the park and also led to a great celebration of a City and a fan base that needed a shot in the arm.

Thanks, Jay.

20 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    Thanks for all the memories Jay! It was fun watching you debut and then send us to the playoffs.

  2. SultanofSwaff

    In 2006 I a couple hours to Clinton Iowa to see this can’t miss prospect play the LumberKings. I was running a tad late and was hustling from the parking lot as the game started. All of a sudden a foul ball flies out of the stadium and I pick it up. I made it into the stadium to see that it came off the bat of Jay Bruce. He made a good first impression lol and I was a fan ever since. One of those solid dudes you simply can’t root against or get too frustrated with.

  3. Scott C

    If I had a vote Bruce would definitely be in the Reds hall of Fame.

  4. Brad

    Love Jay. Went and saw him play in Toledo as a prospect with my g/f who later became my wife. I explained to her how he was going to be the next big thing and that night she switched from an Indians fan to a Reds fan to join me in my Bruce fandom.

    That Home Run was one of the best nights watching, I was so excited.

    Have a great retirement, I hope he makes his way to the Reds Hall.

  5. DaveCT

    Easy, easy power is all I’ll say.

  6. jazzmanbbfan

    After taking a look at the list people in the Reds’ Hall of Fame, in my opinion he’s easily a candidate for selection as soon as he’s eligible.

  7. Chris

    Could the Reds sign Bruce to play right field for the two games that Castellanos is suspended? Let him end is career as a Red!

    • Doug Gray

      Probably not, no. He retired. He wasn’t released. If he comes back, at least for the time being, he’s a Yankee.

    • Matt WI

      Great thought though… that would have been incredible!

    • Daytonnati

      That was my first reaction. One of my favorite Reds. Sign him for one day, and let him retire as a Red. They should do the same for Brandon Phillips.

  8. Redgoggles

    I was in attendance during the game he won to clinch. Best baseball atmosphere that I’ve experienced. Always will remember Bruce as a class act and for that classic moment!

  9. Roger Garrett

    Humble guy.Game will miss guys like him.

    • Jim Forry

      Thank you Jay Bruce for avgrest career.
      Best of Luck in your retirement.

  10. TR

    All the best to Jay Bruce, the pride of east Texas. It was a pleasure to watch you play for the Reds.

  11. Gusnwally

    my second favorite Red off all time after big Koi, a real class guy.

  12. Gusnwally

    That was big klu of course, this tablet does crazy things

  13. MK

    Bruce is probably the most streaky hitter in my memory. When good he was very good when bad he was abysmal.

    I remember when he was in Dayton he had known Roger Clemens as an amateur and had played Summer ball with Rogers’s oldest son. When in Dayton to buy a gravestone for his mother Roger called Jay’s apartment. Jay’s roommate Bo Lanier answered and the guy on the other end asked for Jay and said “this is Roger Clemens”. Bo said yeah right and hung up.
    Undaunted Roger and his son came to the ball park and showed up in the Dragons’ dugout. I told the guy next to me that look Roger Clemens and the guy next to me gave the same answer “Yeah right”.