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:

Blue Seats

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.

Paul Sommerkamp

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.

Peanut Jim

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.

First Game

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.

Mario Soto

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.

Promotion Nights

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.

Batting Practice

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.

Post Script

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?

Fire away.

42 Responses

  1. Jim t

    Saw Hank Aaron hit HR off Jack Billingham which tied Ruth’s record. Saw Pete Rose run over RAy Fosse in extra innings to win All star game. Was also at last game at Crosley field. Reds bested the Giants 5-4. Marichal pitched for giants versus Mcglothen of the reds. First game was 61 series against Yankees game 4. Whitey Ford beat us 7-1 to give Yankees 3-1 series lead. A few of my highlights as a fan.

    • Rick

      I was there for Tom Browning’s perfect game,I remember the game not starting until almost 930, my dad,brother,and wife were minutes from leaving. When they finally started it was kind of a boring game Tim belcher was pitching for the dodgers and I believe he had a no-hitter through five ,it wasn’t until the 7th inning until I realized what was going on and from there it was the most exciting game I’ve ever seen.

      • Votto4life

        I was there too! A Rainey Friday night.

    • Les

      Crowley field 100x better than riverfront for a baseball game,I was there in 1966 as a ball boy,I still to this day cherish the time I spent there,met many hall of famers

  2. LDS

    Seaver’s no-hitter from the blues – a row or two behind 3rd base dugout.

  3. LuciusRuber

    Beer vendors yelling “the Reds are hot but the beer’s not” or “I’ve got beer colder than the Reds”
    The small piece dixieland band playing in the stands
    Watching Concepcion bounce the throw to first off the turf
    Fans being allowed on the field (behind ropes) to chat and take pictures of the players
    Seeing the relievers warm up outside of the base paths
    I liked when a section was taken out of the stadium near the end-allowed for some nice breezes
    Great memories, John

    • Jim New

      I remember the beer vendors at Crosley singing “Get moody with Hude” or “End ythe day with a 14k”.J

  4. Indy Red Man

    1978 I think. Danny Driessen hit a 2 out inside the park HR bottom 9 off the CF wall to tie the Phillies. Half the people were shuffling out to beat the rush and ran back to their seats. Crowd was still buzzing when Bench took Tug McGraw out to left to win it. My Dad doesn’t like baseball but he knew I liked it

    • Indy Red Man

      Mike Schmidt went nuts and kicked 3B out of the ground

      • Randy Kohler

        Attended the first game at Riverfront on June 30th, 1970. Saw Hank Aaron hit the first homerun at Riverfront that night. Attended 3 World Series games during the 72 WS. Standing Room Only tix. Caught a foul ball during a game against the Padres. Great times. I agree John, Paul Sommerkamp was the best……best.

  5. Tom W

    Great stories John! Thank you! I am from south central Pennsylvania. My first vacation was to Cincinnati to watch the Reds in 1968 (Crosley Field). Saw both Aaron and Banks this week as some of the seats were in the “sun deck”. Fond memories of seeing the back of Tommy Harper. I remember, as a 10 year old, telling Pete Rose as they came from under the stadium that I was going to take his place someday. He confidently said “I hope not sunny!” Isn’t that just like Pete? I had a passion for Pete Rose and baseball so my parents encouraged these annual trips to Cincinnati. We stayed downtown and remember seeing Ted Kluszewski’s restaurant. Onto Riverfront, we always stayed across the river and walked across the Roebling to the games. What a joy! I saw the following games, Hal King’s pinch hit grand slam, Pete’s 3,000th and 4,192. Also games 1 and 2 of 1990 World Series. Oh yes, and batting practice at Riverfront was unbelievable. I would go from the left field corner to the right field corner with my glove to get foul balls hit into the stands. Probably have more than 20 balls. Those Big Red Machine years were wonderful. Before Riverfront was imploded I was able to break away a small piece of concrete, going down a concourse, as I left the stadium for the last time. Loved Riverfront and will always love the Reds!

  6. vegastypo

    Love this post and the comments. What I was able to be in attendance for:

    –Tony Perez’s two-homer game in Game 5 of the ’75 World Series.
    –Hank Aaron’s historic Opening Day homer in 1974 referenced in comments above. (And Pete Rose scored from second on a wild pitch to win that game.)
    –Tony Perez’s two-run homer to cap a five-run ninth inning as the Reds came back to beat the Giants 14-13 in the first game of a twin bill. (Yeah, I remember those, John!) Giants pitcher Randy Moffitt failed to cover first base on Johnny Bench’s grounder to first that would have ended the game before Perez ever got to the plate. Freddie Norman pitched a five-hit shutout in the second game.

    Two that I wish I would have seen from that era:
    –Hal King’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth as the Reds came back to beat the hated Dodgers 4-3 on July 1 1973. The Reds were in fourth place the time but chased down the Dodgers and won the division.
    –Tom Seaver’s no-hitter.

    • Michael wilson

      I was at the Hal King 3 run home run game/ double header. Incredible moment because Don Sutton was dealing that day. Back up catcher Hal King of all people bailed us out. And Tony Perez doubled high off the left field wall to drive in the winning run in the second game, and I believe it was in extra innings. Two incredible games and like you said the reds went on a tear from that day on.

      • Votto4life

        I remember listening to that game on my front porch. It turned the whole season around.

    • Gordon

      I remember the Giants twilight double header also. My best friend and I drove to the game from Dayton. The Reds were down 3-0 when we got to the game. A scalper sold us first row green seat tickets behind home plate since he needed to sell them. The two out, two strike home run from Perez got about to our eyeball level as it headed to dead CF. The stadium erupted in cheering and we were still cheering and standing when the second game started.

  7. vegastypo

    And I wonder if there is an audio clip anywhere of Sommerkamp as the Reds were taking the field. The memory of that voice still sends a chill down my spine.

    • TR

      If there is an audio clip of Paul Sommerkamp’s melodious voice, it’s probably at the Red’s Museum at GABP. When he spoke and announced the lineups at Crosley and Riverfront it was time for baseball.

  8. Mariners77

    My grandfather had a preference for (true) double headers, especially weekend afternoons. Hotter than all get-out in the red seats, but what kid didn’t love two games with the BRM in one day??

    Also loved the Kid Glove Game. Didn’t count, but who cared? Seating was first come, first served – probably my first time being in anywhere other than the upper deck!

    • Votto4life

      I loved double headers! I almost forgot about the KID glacé game. Remember when it was an exhibition game with the Tigers?

      The Reds also used to play their Triple A affiliate Indianapolis Indians in an exhibition game during the season.

  9. Votto4life

    My memories are personal. My father was a operating engineer and helped build Riverfront Stadium.

    I was 8 or 9 when it was being built. A few weeks before the stadium opened my father and his co-workers painted their names and the names of their spouses at the top of the stadium. A reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer saw it names, snapped a photo. My parents names made it to the front page of the Enquirer. I never forget my mom being worried that my dad was going to be fired lol. He wasn’t.

    I remember as a family watching the 1970 World Series. None of us were interested in baseball at the time, but we watched to see the baseball park my pop had built.

    A couple of years later I became interested in the sport and for my birthday my dad took me to my first game. The Cubs v Reds. Fergie Jenkins vs Jim McGlothin (who would die a couple years later of cancer). I saw something like 8 future hall of famers that day. The Reds lost 6-0 but it was a perfect day. Just me and my dad.

    Like everyone else I followed Hank Aaron in 1973. He was chasing Ruth’s record. Sometimes late at night my radio would pick up the Braves play by play. In 1974, the Reds opened with the Braves. I begged my father for tickets. Opening day sold out, but he was able to get tickets for the last game of the series. I saw Hank Aaron play a day before he broke Ruth’s all time home run record.

    Over the years, I attended hundreds of games at Riverfront. I was at Johnny Bench night. I was at the infamous “Dave Pallone” game. I was at Tom Brownings perfect game I saw the Reds beat the Pirates to clinch the 1990 NLCS. I was heartbroken when the 1999 team lost to Al Lieter and the Mets.

    Riverfront Stadium was eventually demolished.
    My buddy wanted to go and see Riverfront imploded. But, I had no interested in watching that. It would be like watching a friend die. I stayed at home that day.

    My father died in 2014. There aren’t too many things he built that are still standing. Most have been demolished and replaced like Riverfront Stadium.

    When I see pictures of Riverfront Stadium, I think of my father. I miss them both very much.

    • Brad

      I was there in 90 when they were announced the western division champs. Rain ended the game early, but they party continued on.

  10. KDJ

    I remember as a kid watching Foster slowly walk to each patch in the left-field AstroTurf and tap it with his foot before each inning.

  11. Old-school

    My first memory was a game against the Padres and i was like 5 or 6
    Randy jones pitched

    I remember sitting in the green seats was a big deal on a Saturday against the dodgers and looking forward to that all week

    I remember saving ticket stubs and $1 hot dogs and freezing in the top 6 on college night in a 3-2 16 inning game

    I remember watching OD and john McSherry collapsed and we went home

    I remember the excitement of getting my in laws season tickets for a date night

    I remember my sons first game at 1 month old
    Mike Piazza hit a booming laser beam into the yellow seats in CF only to have the Reds proceed to hit multiple home runs triggering fireworks triggering cries.

    I remember walks will haunt and Paul Sommerkamp repeating the last name of each player.

    I mostly remember being proud to be a Reds fan

    • Michael Wilson

      I grew up across the river in Indiana but married a California girl when I was in the Marine Corps. Ended up living in LA for 45 years. So most of my Reds games at the ballpark were at dodger stadium and the padres ballparks. Even though all my friends and co workers were big dodger fans they could not win me over for nearly 50 years. I’ve been a reds fan since Big Klu, Gus Bell, Wally Post and company. Once you’re hooked you cant give it up. So no matter how bad the Reds get I will check the box scores everyday and go to at least a few games every year. I’m in Nashville now so I can check out the Bats when they are in town or shoot down to Chattanooga for a AA game or make the long trip to Cincy. Semper Fi Reds fan.

  12. JohnnyTV

    The bratwurst, mettwurst and Hudepohl.

    I can taste them now, 35+ years later.

  13. Mark A Verticchio

    I remember my first trip to Riverfront in 1977, from Illinois, my 2 brothers, myself and my best friends went. We went to a Reds Dodgers 4 game series. When we got there we couldn’t find a hotel room. I remember one clerk telling us no rooms man, Reds – Dodger series and Elvis in town. That turned out to be his 2nd to last concert, he performed the next day in Indianapolis. The Friday game was Tom Seaver’s first in Cincinnati as a Red, he was out dueled by Tommy John 3-2. The Reds won Saturday and split the Sunday double header. We sat in the red seats but didn’t care. It was a packed house all 3 days, boy how times have changed. By the way, we ended up staying at a Red Roof 20 miles north of the City. I have returned to Cincinnati many times to see the Reds but, that first time was really special for a 19 year old kid out with his brothers and best friend.

  14. Oldtimer

    The first game on June 30, 1970. The ASG in July 1970. The playoff and WS games in October 1970.

    More playoff and WS games in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1979. Did not attend playoffs or WS in 1990.

    In 1973 or so, the Reds trailed SD by 9-1 score but tied it up 9-9 late in the game. Alas SD won after all.

    The sad Opening Day when John McSherry died behind home plate. The night Pete Rose got into an argument with Dave Pallone and bigger trouble afterwards. The only time I ever felt unsafe in Riverfront.

    Many MANY games in summers 1970 to 1974. We had first dibs on Husman’s seats. Row 20, blue seats, right on the aisle (top row) behind home plate. At least 100 games (maybe more) those five summers.

  15. Tom Mitsoff

    My five greatest memories:

    1) 1976 NLCS, Reds won game 3 against the Phillies and the league championship. Trailing by 2 in the ninth, Bench and Foster hit solo homers to tie it, then I believe Griffey hit a chopper to first that scored Concepcion from third to win it.

    2) Johnny Bench Night — 1983 as I remember without researching the date. Blue seats, third-base side. Bench hit a homer. Amazing moment.

    3) 1979 NLCS vs. Pittsburgh — game 2 — Dave Collins hit a single in the bottom of the ninth scoring Heity Cruz to tie the score. Loudest crowd I have ever heard at Riverfront for baseball or football.

    4) Opening Day sometime in the late 70s — Frank Pastore pitched a complete game. Ninth inning was played in snow.

    5) A weekend afternoon game against St. Louis, I believe. It started to absolutely pour rain, and my mom and I sat through it and got drenched. We just smiled and laughed. A wonderful memory.

  16. Jerry Tracey

    My first Reds game was with my dad in 1952 or 53. Local Western Hills High School product, Herm Wiemeier, pitched for the Reds. He would fit right in with todays staff. I was there for Hank Aaron’s homer to tie Babe Ruth and also Pete’s collision with Ray FosseIn the All star Game.

    • Oldtimer

      I went to Purdue with his son Rik Wehmeier. His Dad actually was successful elsewhere than with the Reds.

  17. John Ring

    Great stories from The Nation– that’s what I was hoping for. We shared some awesome stories.

  18. John Ring

    JohnnyTV– I forgot about how good the rats were– thanks!

  19. A.C.

    I was there for Mario Soto’s one hitter against the Cardinals. My dad, brother and I all thought we were actually going to see a no hitter. Great memory though.

  20. James

    Unfortunately I was raised in Eastern Kentucky and never got a chance to see the Reds play at Riverfront…

    The only game I saw there was in the 90’s with my dad – Bengals vs Browns and Eric Metcalfe returned a kickoff for a TD. Unfortunately this led me to being a Browns fan which I gave up on after the Watson trade this year.

  21. Scoop1600

    Johnny Bench’s dramatic game-tying home run against Pittsburgh in the 1972 Playoffs.

  22. Everett

    Around 1973-74 My now deceased uncle took me with the little league teams from Bloomington. I’m pretty sure he carried a cooler in with him. Johnny Bench hit a towering HR that just cleared the left field wall. Reds beat the Cardinals 3-1.

  23. Clint Turner

    My Dad took me to my first game, a Weekend day game in 1986, I was 12. Eric Davis stole home and my Dad told me “we may never see that happen ever again, and we were here!” So far he is correct.

  24. Jim New

    Saw 2 opening day games. 69, Rose and Tolan went back to back off Drysdale in the 1st, Reds lost 3-2. 74, Light snow fell in Hamilton that morning but the sun came out and I got to see Aaron hit #714, Vice President Ford and Pete score the winning run from 2nd on a wild pitch. My son’s first game saw Soto no hit the Cards for 8 2/3 until George Hendrick hit one far beyond the wall in center. Sommerkamp was Reds baseball and I got to hear Bob Shepherd at Yankee stadium. Their style was similar. Nolan Ryan shut down the Reds in the strike shortened 81 season to keep them out of the playoffs. The greatest era of the Reds was the 1970’s at Riverfront. Between 70 and 76 they averaged 97.5 wins and that included 79 in 1971. Those were the days!