Even in these dark days. it’s important for us to focus on what the Reds do have to offer– if even in the form of their opponents. My mother completely overawed my godson when she told him that she’d once seen Jackie Robinson at Crosley Field, and I chances are excellent that my grandfather saw the likes Ernie Lombardi and Joe Nuxhall. My father saw the core lineup of the Big Red Machine. And stories like this, Phil, is why it’s so very difficult for us to simply go somewhere else.

As Joey Votto continues to pass his nightmare of a season by hiding bobbleheads in Instagram-friendly places, I know that he’s the one the next generation will want to hear about. Did you see him hit a home run, Aunt Beth? Did you see him up close? What was he like?

I have plenty of time to think of good answers, as Votto’s tale isn’t over yet, but I must think back a bit to think of the others. Among them:

Sean Casey: In his latter years, his status as a growing social media star begins to eclipse his prowess as an All Star. He could be the next Tony Romo, only without the girlfriend baggage. Perhaps it was always meant to be thus.

The Nasty Boys: If only to attest that there was indeed a time in which bring the Reds bullpen into the game did not mean an automatic loss.

Johnny Bench: The Big Red Machine was long past, but he hung on. A gift to be able to say that the beginning of my baseball consciousness coincided with his presence behind the plate.

Jose Rijo: They might not ask about him, but I’ll tell them anyway. Strong. Dependable. Underrated.

Pete Rose: They’ll ask, and all I will say is this man presented an example of how to not represent oneself, one’s team, and one’s city.

Marty and Joe: Their voices will echo beyond thier own lives. I heard them not as legends, but the day-to-day voices of home.

On the other hand, I wish I’d seen–and asked my grandparents more about:

Ernie Lombardi: The Bench before Bench. If we didn’t have the actual Bench, we’d hear much more about him.

Wally Post: Not a marquee names, but fully entangled in the daily history of the team. The king of the suits.

Ted Klusezewski: Another name not known nearly widely enough. He was famous for his hitting, but my fellow Reds Hall of Fame and Museum employees were always eager to tell of his gentle nature and indispensable role as the hitting coach of the Big Red Machine.

Chuck Harmon: Integration of America’s oldest team should have happened much sooner, but when it finally did arrive, I would have liked to have been present for such an event.

Ruth Lyons: Not a Red, but she might as well have been one. She saved the team by helping to found the Rosie Reds and once doing her best to stuff the All-Star ballot box on their behalves.

Now you tell me:  Who have you seen, and not seen?




38 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Mario Soto – just fun to watch
    Tom Seaver – because I was originally a Mets fan as a kid growing up in that area
    Eric Davis – something very special to watch out there in CF
    Barry Larkin – Almost made me forget about Dave Concepcion
    Dave Concepcion – and his innovative skip throws to first
    Joey Votto – because of course he’s on my list
    Chris Sabo – just the kind of hard-nosed ballplayer we love to see play

    The list could go on and on. The memories run so thick you have to brush them away from your face with your hand. Thanks for bringing them to the front, MBE.

    • LDS

      All those plus Morgan, Perez, Foster, etc.

      • Mark Moore

        How could I have forgotten Foster. The man was a complete monster with the bat.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thank YOU for quite the list!

  2. Luke J

    Those aren’t the memories nor the things I will pass on regarding Pete Rose.

    • Gonzo Reds

      +1000. He did all of those things in spades as a player. That’s why he was Charlie Hustle. I consider his managing days about 5% of his story that currently is wrongly portrayed as 100% of his story. Free Pete!!!

      • Doug Gray

        Is the other 95% of the story about what happened between him in the 70’s and a high school girl? Because that’s even worse than when he was betting on games as a player and manager.

      • Gonzo Reds

        Goodness Gracious Great Balls Of Fire… can always count on Doug to balance out my love of Rose the baseball player. I do agree that we can’t defend some of the things he (or Jerry Lee Lewis or Jerry Seinfeld for a couple more of many such examples) did off the field/stage other to say that you can’t judge folks on their actions 50 years ago by today’s standards. Fortunately, things have come a long way since then as far as how we view and treat women.

      • Doug Gray

        I wasn’t alive in the 70’s but I can’t imagine it was acceptable at the time for dudes in their mid-30’s to be sleeping with high school sophomores.

      • Doc

        I was alive back then. It was called statutory rape. It was not acceptable in the 50s and 60s when I lived in Cincy and I doubt the 70s got a reprieve.

      • Luke J

        I wasn’t there and neither were any of you. So I won’t judge something he adamantly denies and was reported by a person who had a vendetta against Rose.

  3. Rednat

    i have to disagree with you on your assessment of Pete Mary Beth. I thought a lot about him a lot last year when we had 2 players on pace for 200 hits at the all star break (winker and Castellanos). they would finish well below that mark and I thought how hard it would have to be for Pete to do it 10 times!

    i even took my grand daughter around his old neighborhood in anderson ferry. Could the hit king be from anywhere else on the face of the planet? He was tough ,gritty and stubborn. yes If he was raised anywhere else in Cincinnati he may have been a nicer person, and would have probably made better decisions, but he certainly wouldn’t have collected 4,256 hits if he grew up in Indian Hill lets say. i always found it interesting that Ty Cobb also had a very difficult childhood in the hills of North Georgia and lets just say he would never have won any citizenship awards.

    I think Pete Rose is Cincinnati. Not perfect, but man he had a passion for the game that was unmatched

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      If Pete Rose is Cincinnati then we need to burn the entire city to the ground and start over. Pete is an ego maniac, a liar, a convicted felon, and someone who was dating sleeping with a 14-year-old when he was in his mid-30’s.

      A lot of people grow up in bad situations and don’t turn out that way. Pete could play baseball better than almost anyone. He’s in no way any type of good person.

  4. Frankie Tomatoes

    Big Klu: He had arms that made Paul Bunyon’s look small and weak.

    Johnny Bench: redefined what it meant to be a catcher and very few have ever come close to being in the same sentence as him at the position.

    Jose Rijo: Maybe the best starting pitcher in the history of the franchise.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      New generation knows zip about Big Klu. Totally underrated.

  5. Doc

    Of the last five you mention, I cut my Reds teeth watching the first three play in Crosley Field. I don’t recall Harmon. Back then, knothole league baseball players, in uniform, were admitted free with an adult for a dozen games during the season. The sun deck was our general location, though I recall times when we migrated to the first base area. Big Klu certainly looked a lot bigger from there than from the moon deck.

    I remember Ruth Lyons well. Firstly, when hospitalized for observation over Easter weekend with a possible concussion, I received a B-52 model airplane kit from a Ruth Lyons fund that supported hospitalized children. I still can visualize the boy in the bed next to me, yes, we were in wards then. He had been operated on for a brain tumor and the semi-circular stitch line on the side of his shaved head looked eerily like the seams on a baseball.

    Secondly, I remember several Ruth Lyons’ composed Christmas songs. My kids, and now my grandkids, laugh when they hear me sing, “Have a merry, merry, merry merry Christmas, Have a hap hap hap hap happy holiday. get yourself into the glow, underneath the mistletoe, Have a Christmas in the good old fashioned way.” A couple of decades ago I acquired a book of sheet music of her compositions and it remains a part of my piano library.

    Thanks for the memories.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I have her Christmas albums! I was thrilled to be able to experience those songs.

  6. John Shaw

    Maybe some of the more recent stars, with their unique talents:

    Billy Hamilton – was an absolute terror on the bases…he just couldn’t get on base.
    Greg Vaughn – was the heart and soul of the ’99 team. Forced the Reds to give in on their facial hair policy.
    Adam Dunn – was a force of power hitting when he connected. Almost equal to Bench’s career strikeouts in half the years of service, though.
    Todd Frazier – would swing the bat at any pitch to get a hit. Won the home run derby at home.
    Yasiel Puig – Only a short time with Cincinnati, but endeared himself to Reds fans by taking on the entire Pirates bench (even after having been traded).

  7. Scott French

    I have been a fan for 45 years but I would have liked to have seen Ernie Lombardi catch or Joe Nuxhall pitch. More recent players seen and will always talk about…

    Votto: On his way to Cooperstown I hope.

    Aroldis Chapman: 105!

    2010 Starting rotation: Cueto/Arroyo/Leake/Wood/Harang…I don’t think they missed a start all year

    Homer Bailey: 2 No-hitters and his inability to stay healthy

    Todd Frazier: Home rum Derby in Cincy!

  8. Gonzo Reds

    What are we going to tell our children and grandchildren about the Reds…

    One day long ago there was a baseball team, the first ever baseball team actually, and they were living in the Garden of Hall of Fame where all was still pure. We were respected by most and honored each year by the tradition of playing on the first day of the season a day before the other teams. Many great players came and went, some staying in the garden forevermore, Bench, Morgan, Larkin among them and from their hard work those flying pennants of championship seasons lined the top of the stadiums we played in.

    This renaissance period of Reds baseball lasted just over a century and came to a close shortly after the Nasty Boys helped the 1990 team go wire to wire for a championship. Only a few glimmers of hope since all ending in disaster (and sometimes no post season hits/runs) and only one brave soul destined for permanent residence in the once mystical Garden, a Sir Votto.

    Yes, sadly evil began to seep into the Reds organization and baseball as a whole. Perhaps it started with Marge’s issues and being forced to sell the team, perhaps not, but it hasn’t been the same since. The Reds aren’t the crown gem of baseball anymore and all respect for them has been lost around the league. They are instead labeled as a small market team whose payroll must align with resources and thus are destined to be no better than the Pie-Rats and the Stupid Cubbies. Gone are those glorious pennants as well as many staples we remember fondly… playing in proper defensive position, double switches, small ball, and having to earn extra inning base runners to name just a few.

    Today’s grimm tale include various incarnations of the evil that has set into the organization and seemingly can’t be driven out by any normal means. For example, there’s an ogre with designer sunglasses under one of the bridges going over the river doing his best to keep fans from coming to the stadium. Plus, his associates, while perhaps not as ugly, don’t have any idea how to own, run, or manage a winning team. Instead 100 seems to be the new goal and that’s not a new 100 million dollar deal for a superstar, not 100 wins, no instead it’s 100 losses.

    Sad days in the River City. Memories live on and it’s a good thing we have those as that’s all that we have left…

    • Rednat

      i think the game has changed so much it is hard for the reds to compete anymore. just not enough talented ballplayers to go around. drive around town on a nice summer’s day. no kids are playing baseball. the game is collapsing from the bottom up and the reds are just one of the first victims

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Absolutely. Thanks for the follow-on column 🙂

  9. Old-school

    Brandon Phillips for about a 5 year run was super exciting with a bubbly personality and some speed and some power and a competitive player who wore the Reds jersey with pride and one of the few 2b you would pay money to watch play defense. He had a smile on his face and was a joy to watch and embraced the fans and kids.Ill choose to ignore the last year or 2 of his time as a Red but most careers don’t end well for proud competitive accomplished players.

    I dont have any difficulty with cognitive dissonance as it applies to Pete Rose. He was a great leader/player for the BRM who helped the Reds win 2 WS and set lots of MLB and team records. He also helped bring back some much needed enthusiasm to the franchise in the mid 1980’s. Off the field is unfortunately part of his legacy too and those chapters are sad and bad. Both accounts can be simultaneously correct.

  10. Oldtimer

    1950s. Roy McMillan. Best defensive SS in NL then. One of two Reds to hail from Bonham, TX.

    Don Newcombe. Among the few players to win ROY, CYA, and MVP in his career (all as Brooklyn Dodger). The best hitting Reds pitcher I ever saw. Batted .268 for his CAREER (all of it as a pitcher).

    HOF opponents like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Nolan Ryan, Billy Williams, Willie McCovey, and many others.

    1960s. Vada Pinson. Overshadowed by Robinson, Mays, Aaron, and Clemente in that timeframe. But his first (full) 10 years in MLB (1959 through 1968) were as good as anyone.

    Frank Robinson. The best Red player (in my lifetime) prior to BRM days and among the Top 3 Reds whom I ever saw play. Very under appreciated in Cincinnati.

    Joe Nuxhall. The friendliest Red to kids my age during the 1960s. Past his prime then but still a good pitcher. Maybe nicest Red ever.

    Fred Hutchinson. Next to Sparky, maybe the best Reds manager of my lifetime. Died way too young.

    Jim Maloney. The fastest Reds pitcher whom I ever saw except Aroldis Chapman.

    Pete Rose. Among the few players ever to make ASG at five positions. 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, and RF. He was the gasoline and spark plug who made the BRM what it was.

    Tony Perez. Averaged 26 HR and 104 RBI in his prime 10 years (1967 to 1976) as a Red. (For comparison, Frank Robinson averaged 32 HR and 101 RBI in his 10 years as a Red) Still effective as part time player in mid 1980s when Perez was in his early 40s. The heart and soul of the BRM.

    1970s. Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. Among the Top 3 Reds whom I ever saw play and maybe #1 and #2 in either order. Bench the best C ever. Morgan one of best 2B ever. PS Morgan is the other Red to hail from Bonham, TX.

    Dave Concepcion. The best SS in MLB during 1970s. Highly underrated,

    George Foster and Tom Seaver. Foster maybe the best Reds slugger on BRM teams. Very underrated. Seaver is the best Reds pitcher of my lifetime.

    Sparky. Best Reds manager of my lifetime. BRM had talent but Sparky made it happen.

    • Old-school

      My dad talks about Roy McMillan.

      If I could pick one Red to watch play who I never got to see… it would be Vada Pinson

      My understanding is he was the 5 tool Center fielder before 5 tools were such a thing

      • Oldtimer

        Most Hits by MLB player BEFORE his age 30 YO season:

        Ty Cobb 2136
        Mel Ott 1939
        Rogers Hornsby 1916
        Alex Rodriguez 1901
        Hank Aaron 1898
        Vada Pinson 1881

        6th ALL TIME in this category. That’s how good his first 10 full seasons were.

  11. Oldtimer

    PS to Mary Beth Ellis on integration of Reds in 1954. Chuck Harmon was indeed first but Nino Escalera was a very close second.

    The Reds would have been integrated in 1953 except for Rogers Hornsby as Reds manager then. The Reds traded Joe Adcock in a complex deal and were supposed to get Jim Pendleton in return. Hornsby nixed that because he wanted no black players on the Reds. So Rocky Bridges was substituted for Pendleton, whom the Reds later acquired from the Pirates in 1959.

  12. RedsFanInFL

    We are going to tell the children that the BRM would’ve never existed if MLB had the current economic model that is in place today. The Great 8 would not have occurred because the young stars that the Reds drafted and developed would have left at free agency or been traded away before they could leave by free agency. We would’ve never have traded for stars like Morgan and Seaver. And there will never be anything close to the Reds being a dominant team for 10 years if MLB doesn’t address the economic disparities currently in place.

    Lastly we can tell them to enjoy the run of Joe Burrow and the Bengals as long as they can

  13. Daytonnati

    Top Ten:

    1. July 7th, 1962, my first Reds game versus Houston Colt .45s. Our Dayton Little League attended. Bob Purkey who pitched and won, along with Vada Pinson hit homers. It was fantastic.
    2. 1963, I got brushed off by Stan Musial between games of a double-hearder in the tunnel at Crosley from the lockers rooms to the field. I did get Julian Javier, Leo Cardenas (who could sign with either hand), Dal Maxvill and Bob Gibson, before we knew he would be BOB GIBSON!
    3. Saw Dick (then Richie) Allen hit one over the Longine clock at Crosley. It might still be in orbit?
    4. Saw Art Shamsky hit is 4th consecutive homer pinch-hitting against the Pirates. He had hit three in a row two games before.
    5. Was there for the last game at Crosley. Reds trailed Giants 4-3 in the 8th when Bench and Lee May went back-to-back (as I recall), taking a 5-4 lead. Defeated Juan Marichal. Willie Mays! Willie McCovery! Bobby Bonds! Remember a helicopter taking the home plate away.
    6. Attended Game 2 of the WS against Oakland in 1972 – Joe Rudi robbed Denis Menke of a bases clearing and game-winning hit with a spectacular climb-the-wall catch.
    7 . Attended Tom Seaver’s first start at RF; he lost to the Dodgers. Saw him later downtown walking to a hotel with a garment bag over his shoulder.
    8. Saw Pete extend his hitting streak in a double-header against the Phillies, games 40 and 41. Seems like had to drop a bunt down late in the game to extend. I remember Dayton’s own Mike Schmidt charging but realized he had no chance and basically ate it He smiled and gestured to Pete.
    9. Attended Pete’s “return” game as player manager. First at bat was electric. He singled to left-center and the ball was misplayed and rolled to the wall. Pete ended up head-firsting into 3rd base. Just spectacular!!
    10. Attended Game 2 of the 1990 WS against Oakland in 1990. It was more fun! Joe Oliver clutch hit off of Dennis Eckersly. Billy Bates racing home to a blizzard of empty cups, wrappers, etc.

    I know Sparkey was a Hall of Famer, but I always thought Dave Bristol was responsible for a great deal of the BRM’s success. And Sweet Lou was the manager they needed in 1990, but Pete should get a shoutout.

    Pete’s story is Shakepeaean or Greek in its tragedy. He destroyed himself.

    • SOQ

      I admire your memory. I would remember more if I didn’t enjoy the beer so much. Gotta give a nod to Vada and Hutch. I cried when he passed

    • Oldtimer

      Good comments on down the line. Agree on Bristol. He developed Rose, Perez, Bench, May, Helms, Tolan, Nolan, Carroll, Granger, and others. His 1969 team became the Big Red Machine, Rev 0 (in 1970). I told his son that (credit due his Dad) on Facebook.

      I was there for #5 and #6 too. Leo Cardenas eats Sunday dinner between 3 PM and 4 PM almost every week at Bob Evans in Florence, KY.

  14. Jerry Tracey

    My memories are of Frank Robinson, the first and maybe the only MVP in both the National and American Leagues.The Worse trade in Redlegs history.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I missed him. Sorry I did; he sounds incredible.

  15. Tar Heel Red

    I was fortunate to meet several members of the BRM and some of their families. I will always treasure (most) of those memories. Among those I met were…

    Joe Morgan’s mom and dad at the ’75 World Series. Very, very nice people. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for their son. Met him twice, he was an ass both times

    Tony and Petuka Perez could both be described by the same word – class. Antonio was a very nice young man, too

    Never met Pete Rose, but did sit across the aisle from Carolyn. Best that can be said is no comment

    Big Klu was a gentle giant of a man who would literally give you the shirt off his back…if for no other reason than to show off his biceps. George Foster the same way

    Other memories…Tom Seaver, best pure pitcher the Reds ever had…Jose Rijo, most talented pitcher…Eric Davis, most talented player I ever saw. Crying shame he couldn’t stay healthy…Johnny Bench, prior to his lung surgery the greatest catcher who ever played (and it wasn’t even close)…Two hustle guys who were among my favorites until they both got caught cheating, Pete and Chris Sabo. Finally, two guys that were just fun to watch play…Tom Browning and Dave Parker