I never made it to a baseball game at Crosley Field.
The first time I saw it off Interstate 75 was in 1971 on the way to the Cincinnati Gardens and a Royals basketball game, it was being used by the city to store abandoned or stolen vehicles.
While I would have loved to gone to Crosley, I grew up with Riverfront Stadium. Riverfront was the third major league baseball park I had been to in my life, the first two being Sportsmans Park in St. Louis (where I saw Joe Nuxhall pitch for the Reds) and Busch Stadium which opened in 1966.
My first trip to Riverfront was during the 1972 season when the Reds hosted a weekend series against the Atlanta Braves. In all, I estimate I watched around 45 games there, which pales in comparison to a lot of you readers and participants of The Nation. But it was my baseball home away from home.
Back then, before The Banks– Riverfront was basically isolated by a walkway over the Interstate and downtown Cincinnati. It was the State of the Art 70s stadium– multi purpose (football and baseball) Astro Turf, rain outs were very rare and then General Manager Bob Howsam built a team tailored for that ballpark– not Crosley Field.
Personally, I loved Riverfront. Some say it was bland and a cookie-cutter stadium. But I have great memories there and, for the most part, the Reds were more than a competitive team.
The bad years were– 1982 (horrible team), 1983 (bad team), 1989 (Pete Rose suspension) and 1991 (big let down from 1990). The rest of the time was solid except for player strikes that ruined pretty good seasons in 1981 and 1995.
Some say Riverfront was an eye sore before it was torn down. Much of it was neglect from Reds Ownership in terms of maintenance. And now we have Great American Ballpark which, in some ways, is more fan friendly than Riverfront but the two bad things are a horrible baseball team and high prices, especially if you want a beer or some food.
Here are 10 of my favorite memories (both on the field and about Riverfront) of my time there:
The best seats in the house. My first game there was August 4, 1972 and I had yellow seats. They were good, Green was better but Blue was the best. Blue was where you wanted to be. Red seats, not so much. But the 50-plus times I was there, I sat all over the place, depending on the size of the crowd. But blue seats were where you wanted to be.
The Voice of Riverfront Stadium and before that Crosley Field. His trademark, besides his deep, rich voice, was repeating the players’ last name. Such as, “Now batting, the shortstop Dave Concepcion. Concepcion.” Paul also would introduce the Reds as they took the field in the first inning. “And now introducing the Cincinnati Reds . . .” and he would go position by position. He did the PA for 34 years at both ballparks.
My first time at Riverfront I saw Jim Shelton hawking his fresh roasted peanuts as we got close to Riverfront. He was a tall guy with a top hat, a tie and a tuxedo. He had a half-lit cigar in his mouth. Peanut Jim was always there until his health failed and he passed away in 1982. I found out later he had a shop in Over The Rhine. I always bought my peanuts from Peanut Jim. All the fans knew and liked Peanut Jim. They loved his peanuts, too.
Tom Hall was the first Reds pitcher I saw at Riverfront. The Reds won that game against the Atlanta Braves 6-5 in 11 innings. Pete Rose was 4 for 6. Bobby Tolan won the game with a home run and was 3 for 6. Clay Carroll was the winning pitcher. Ross Grimsley pitched a gem in the second game of that twin bill, beating Atlanta 3-2, allowing just a two-run homer by Dusty Baker.
Best of the Best:
Riverfront is where I saw the best catcher in baseball in 1972 (Johnny Bench). It’s where I saw the best centerfielder in baseball in 1986 (Eric Davis). It’s where I saw The Nasty Boys in 1990. It’s where I saw Junior in 2000.
July 4, 1980
That Independence Day I saw Nolan Ryan strikeout Cesar Geronimo for his 3000th strikeout. But Charlie Leibrandt threw a complete game six-hitter and the Reds beat Ryan and the Astros 8-1.
I saw two of Soto’s best performances as a Red at Riverfront. In 1980, after Bruce Berenyi was knocked out after just 1/3 of an inning and allowing six runs, Soto pitched 8 and 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout in relief in an 8-6 Reds win against Houston. In 1984, Soto won on Opening Day against the Mets and Eddie Milner rapped a home run. Ironically, I also was at Riverfront for Mario Soto’s last appearance as a Red on June 16, 1988.
Remember Farmer’s Night? Banner Night? The latter was when Reds fans paraded around the field with home made banners between the games of an actual double header (remember them?) and prizes were awarded. There were bad promotions too, but that’s the way it was back then. Now, it’s bobble heads and fireworks. But there wasn’t a Reds Hall of Fame, either and Cincinnati has the best team HOF in baseball.
The Calvary Charge
Piped music to rally Reds fans when Cincinnati was at the plate was cool. The slogans on the scoreboard were corny (“Walks haunt”) so Riverfront wasn’t perfect.
Yes, back then you could watch both teams take BP and there was nothing like watching the Big Red Machine do just that. Foster, Bench and Perez, especially. My eyes were glued to Hank Aaron when he took BP. Same for Willie McCovey.
When the Reds sold naming-rights to Riverfront and it became ‘Cinergy Field’ it was a name I ignored. I know Marty and Joe had to use it on the radio but I never did. It was always Riverfront to me. Destroyed by a controlled-detonation in 2002 to make way for progress, Riverfront Stadium will always be a special place for me.
Good memories there. Certainly, more good than bad. I still remember that 1970 All-Star Game with the Pete Rose/Ray Fosse collision when Rose scored the winning run on a Jim Hickman base hit off Clyde Wright and he beat Amos Otis’ throw from centerfield to the plate after being waved home by third base coach Leo Durocher.
Any certain games for you that stand out on this 52nd anniversary of the opening of Riverfront? Any special memories?