I didn’t venture close to Great American Ballpark in 2022. Nor did I go to Wrigley Field or St. Louis or even to the South Side of Chicago to see Tony LaRussa nap during a game. I used to ‘track’ the games I went to; I’d write down the date, score and anything notable that would happen but I got out of that good habit years ago.

So while slowly getting hit with the realization that we will have David Bell as our esteemed manager in 2023 and understanding that the Reds organization has the philosophy of firing the workers instead of the Boss, I reflected on better times with the Reds and listed below are five of the best games I ever saw in person.

Johnny Bench’s home run #388

I didn’t see his home run on Johnny Bench night at Riverfront Stadium but I did see the one before that at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was on a Sunday afternoon and naturally, Reds Manager Russ Nixon didn’t start him that day. The Reds were trailing 4-1 in the 9th and Cardinal closer Bruce Sutter was on the mound when Bench was sent up as a pinch-hitter and two runners on the bases. By luck, I got a photo of Bench connecting with a 35mm zoom lens and he signed it for me (and asked for a couple of copies.)

The Reds and Nixon ultimately lost the game 5-4 and finished in last place in 1983 – but on that day, it just didn’t hurt as much.

Opening Day 1984

Every Opening Day is special, right? Just like 2022 and Phil Castellini. Reds fans will always remember that one. I do too, but 1984 is special to me because it’s the only one that I’ve been to and the Reds socked the New York Mets that day behind Mario Soto’s pitching and the bat of Eddie Milner.

Sandy Koufax

Non-Reds related but this was my first game ever at Sportsmans Park in St. Louis in 1965. I had two older brothers – one a Dodger fan, the other a Cardinal fan. But I still got to go and I watched Koufax strike out 13 Redbirds in a 2-1 win over Ray Sadecki.

I couldn’t take my eyes off Koufax. I couldn’t believe how hard he threw. He’s still one of my favorites of all-time.

Jay Bruce’s home run

I had my best seat ever at Great American Ballpark to see Jay Bruce clinch the 2010 Central Division title with his 9th inning home run for a historic walk off. I ordered the seat while en-route to Cincinnati that morning. I stayed in Kentucky. Walked across the River. Caught a late cab back to Kentucky.

Game winning Tony Perez hit

I was devastated when Bob Howsam traded Perez for Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray after the 1976 season. The move was more to get Dan Driessen in the lineup and the return was plain awful. The Reds Opening Day starter in 1977, Fryman quit in the middle of that season. That was one of Howsam’s worst trades, ever. Regardless, when Tony Perez returned as a player to Cincinnati, I saw what he did best – get a clutch hit late to win the game and he did that against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 2, 1986.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 10th with the bases loaded and one out, Manager Pete Rose had Tony Perez pinch hit for Rose the player and Perez delivered with a game winning double. John Franco got the win.

Driessen turned out to be good, but not great. He’s in the Reds Hall of Fame and I have no problem with that. I liked The Cobra. But Tony Perez will always be a special Cincinnati Red for me. Always.

Your top game ever in person? Share it with the Nation.

43 Responses

  1. TJ

    In St. Louis, in September of 1983, I was a teenager who went to the game with a buddy of mine with our church’s men’s group. There weren’t many people there from what I remember. Bob Forsch threw a no hitter against the Expos. We had pretty good seats and had a few shots at a foul ball or two. If I went digging I might be able to find the ticket stub, remember those.

    Reply
    • TJ

      I was also at Busch Stadium when Griffey Jr. hit his 500th home run with three friends of mine. We sat behind the Red’s dugout on the home plate side. I kind of felt bad that we had better seats than his family did. The game was much more exciting than the no hitter.

      Reply
  2. LDS

    Seaver’s no-hitter. A young rookie named Davis hitting 2HRs in Candlestick.

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  3. Redsfan4life

    Game 2 of the 76 series will always be my favorite game attended. It was really cold, but when Perez delivered the game winner I didn’t feel the cold.

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  4. Kevin Patrick

    I was at the game in Wrigley where Pete Rose “tied” Ty Cobb’s record on a September day in a rain delayed Chicago day game. I swear however that I was blessed with seeing him usurp the record that day because they credited Cobb with an extra hit. I was at a game where Danny Graves beat the Giants as a starter in San Francisco…and still got to see Bonds homer. I was also at the game where Paul Wilson rushed Kyle Farnsworth on the mound…Wilson didn’t look too good afterwards, but forever earned my respect. I went to the game where Larkin went up to the press box and asked the fans for one more year too…that was weird. I mention these games because they might mean something to you guys…but the best games are the ones where my son gets an autograph. He used to be like a heat seeking missle…on those poor players. Tyler Mahle must have signed a billion times for him. I think Josh Van Meter actually recognized him on a Winter Caravan…lol.

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    • Kevin Patrick

      …I’m going to also come out of the closet on my most embarrassing Reds game. For years I only listened to the Reds on WLW and had no idea how to recognize players. Every now and then, I go see em though. I took my then wife to a game…for the life of me, I can’t remember which one…but we stayed in Covington and took the tank to the stadium. Along the way, I sat across from other fans on the bus…small talk about the Reds…I declare how worried I am about Ryan Dempster and how my wife calls him “Dumpster”…the lady with the big rock on her finger across from me was not amused and the man sitting next to her assured me that Dempster would be fine. It took me a few months but I put two and two together and realized later that it was in fact Ryan Dempster. I’m still embarrassed about it. There…its out now. He even asked, “Do you ever…like see him…on TV…or anything?”…I’m cringing and blushing as I type this. So much shame…

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    • Oldtimer

      I was there, too. My cousin Eric Deye (his Mom was United Airlines flight attendant) came up for the game. We kept score on a scorecard. We hurried out to O’Hare Airport and got Pete to sign our scorecards. I still have mine. Priceless.

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      • Kevin Patrick

        Awesome! I’d love to see an image of that scorecard.

      • Oldtimer

        It’s in one of my moving boxes (moved back to Cincinnati in 2022). I’ll try to find this weekend.

  5. Jim Walker

    Oct. 2, 1964>>As events transpired, the Reds could have clinched no worse than a tie for the National League pennant by winning this game versus the Phillies at Crosley Field. Instead, the Phillies mounted a 4 run rally in the 8th inning to overcome a 3 run deficit and defeat the Reds 4-3.

    The 15 year old version of me was sitting in the field level boxes along the left field line, no more than 10 rows, at most, back from the playing field. One of the pivotal moments of the game happened no more 150-200 feet essentially directly in front of me.

    In the bottom of the 4th inning with the Reds leading 1-0, the first two batters, Vada Pinson and Frank Robinson reached base on a walk and a single. With the runners in motion, the next hitter, Deron Johnson hit a screaming line drive toward left center which appeared certain to split the gap to the wall in the vicinity of the center field edge of the scoreboard.

    In left field, another man named Johnson, the Phillies left fielder, Alex Johnson (who was destined to become a Reds player just a couple of years later) broke across the field and up Crosley’s infamous outfield terrace in what appeared to be fruitless pursuit of Deron Johnson’s drive. Back on the infield, the Reds 3rd base coach,. convinced the ball was uncatchable was cranking the green light to the runners.

    As AJ and the path of the ball converged, he took a running leap at it, gloved left arm fully extended. Incredibly and much to the dismay and disbelief of the Reds and their fans, the ball ended up in AJ’s glove. With Pinson around 3B and Robby almost half the way between 2B and 3B, completing the triple play was a mere formality for the Phils.

    There was of course no JumboTron replay at Crosley Field and if film of the Alex Johnson catch and subsequent triple play exists, I have never seen it. At the time, I (and many others around me) initially thought the ball was past him and wondered where it was. A couple of folks spoke up and said they thought had caught it. About that time Johnson had gathered himself and flipped the ball to the infield for the triple play to be officially recorded.

    The events of the Phillies 8th inning were more controversial and have been debated and talked about more than the triple play during the ensuing decades; but, without that triple play in the Reds 4th inning, it is very likely the Reds would have had the game even more in hand than they appeared to when they took the 3 run lead into the 8th.

    As for the 1964 pennant, the Cadinals also lost on October 2 and then again on October 3 when the Reds were idle which left the Reds and Cards tied going into the final game of the season. On that fateful Sunday, the Reds got blown out. The Cardinals won and advanced to the World Series where they also emerged victorious.

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    • Vottolife

      I was too young to follow the 1964 NL pennant race, but from what I have read about it, it must have been incredible to follow.

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    • Daytonnati

      John Tsitouris … remember it well. That ’64 pennant race was crazy.

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      • SOQ

        Bristol was “saving” Maloney for the WS.. Lesson learned too late

    • Bob Purkey

      Jim: I remember that game and the whole Phillies series that the Reds had the pennant in hand and blew the entire series and the Cardinals walked in.

      The ironic part of your story is that Alex Johnson had to be one of the worst outfielders in the history of the game. . . Dave Kingman, Manny Ramirez and Kyle Schwarber were 10x bettter than Alex. He was as good for a laugh in the OF as was Yogi Berra playing LF for the Yankees in the ’61 series, standing at the top of the terrace and running down for all balls as he couldn’t manage going up the terrace.

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      • Jim Walker

        @Purkey>>> I agree about AJ and playing the OF. I wanted to get that in but felt like I was running long 😉 For you somewhat younger guys than Purkey or I, think Kevin Mitchell et al when you see AJ’s name and outfielder in the same sentence.

        I have always wished I could see a replay of the catch becauae in the back of my mind I have always thought perhaps the ball found AJ more than he found the ball and that he was fortunate enough to hold onto it. From my vantage point, I was sure I saw the ball going by above his front, right, shoulder as he was flying through the air with his gloved left hand extended ahead of him at or slightly above shoulder height. But I (obviously) did not see the glove and ball come together.

        I guess the Occam’s Razor explanation would be that AJ turned his body enough in a final midair adjustment that his right shoulder blocked the view. This would also explain why the ball appeared to myself and several folks around me to have passed him, because it did go behind his body to get to his glove. And finally, this also suggests that the ball was cutting/ hooking sharply and came to the fielder in those last fractions of a second.

      • Jim Walker

        Yep. Those 2 shutout losses to the Pirates on Tuesday and Wednesday of the last week, the second of which you highlighted below were the real back breakers for the Reds in retrospect.

        And Hutch’s situation was the underlying story behind it all.

        Just think. One more Cardinals loss to any team except the Reds or Phils would have resulted in a 3 way tie.

    • SOQ

      Jim, I was so crushed by the Reds losing the pennant 1964 and Hutch’s death, that my “Man Cave” is a shrine to that team. I even have a sleeve of WS tickets that the Reds started printing on the Monday of the last week of the season.

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  6. Votto4life

    Wonderful article John. I am so jealous that you got to see Sandy Koufax. Yesterday, was the anniversary of his retirement at age 31. Some people forget, but Sandy played basketball at the University of Cincinnati.

    1. May 1973. Reds v Cubs. My first game I saw Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Sparky Anderson. I also saw Pete Rose. Not bad for your first game huh?

    Fergie Jenkins defeated Jim McGlothlin 6-0. The Red’s starter Glothlin would die of leukemia a couple of years later.

    The Reds lost the game 6-0 but it was the happiest day of my life. I spent the whole day alone with my dad.

    2. April 1974 Braves v. Reds. I saw Henry Aaron play one day before he broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 Home Runs.

    3. 1988 I believe. Reds v Mets What became know as the Dave Pallone game. I was sitting right behind the first base dugout right where all of the action took place.

    4. 2010 Reds and Astros. Saw Jay Bruce clinch the NL Central Division with a walk off home run to centerfield.

    5. October 1990. Game 6 of NLCS. Saw Reds clinch the National League Pennant.

    Honorable mentions:

    Yankees v. Tigers. I saw the Yankees blow a 7-0 game to against the hapless Detroit Tigers and cost Roger Clemons his 300th victory.

    Game 2 of the 1990 NLCS. The game where Paul O’Neil nailed Andy Van Slyke at third base.

    Wildcard play off game against the Dodgers in which Reds pounded Hideki Nomo to clinch the series.

    One game play-off game against the New York Mets in 1990. The Al Lieter game. So disappointing.

    Final game of the 1995 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. I can still see Javy Lopez home run sailing over the fence crushing my dream of a Cincinnati-Cleveland World Series.

    Last game at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field

    All three home games of the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. I watched as the series slowly slipped away.

    And so many other games to mention. I look forward to the day when there is new Red’s ownership, so I can return to the park and watch the team that has been so much a part of my life.

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    • Votto4life

      The One game play off against the Mets was in 1999 not 1990

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      • Votto4life

        Forgot to mention the game in which Norm Charleton ran over Mike Scisocia.

  7. gusnwally

    John, I absolutely love reading your articles and the wonderful memories they conjur up. A game that stands out in my mind is a game I saw in Candlestick Park.I had recently got out of the USAF and had moved to Sacramento and shared an apartment with my best friend. We went down to S.F on a gorgeous sunday afternoon to see the Reds and Giants. Jim Maloney vs Gaylord Perry. My buddy and I are both fair skinned and not sun and beach type looking guys. So, we naturally sat in the shade. About the third inning I realized we were not holding our beers. We would sit them down after taking a drink and put our hands back under our armpits. I finally said ” this is stupid, let’s move into the sun” So we did. There was 2 young black couples immediately in front of us. A ball was slammed to deep center and Bobby Tolan made a spectacular running catch. I jumped up and yelled something like Way to go Bobby. Well the daggers out of their eyes was enough to frighten Dirty Harry. I then told them I was from N.Ky and a big Reds fan. We laughed and had a great time the rest of the day. Lee (big slam) May hit a homer off of Perry to win the game. Great memory.

    Reply
    • Greenfield Red

      Roughly 1989 at Riverfront against the Mets. Friday night. Best seats we could get (2 couples) were on the foul pole in the Red seats. My friend and I left our gloves in the car. There was no way a ball would come up there.

      Daryl Strawberry hit a towering BP home run. Hit my friend in the hands in his seat. I did not chance a drive for it given we were 2 rows above the rail. To this day, I don’t have a major league baseball that I caught.

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  8. Bill J

    1953 or 1954 my dad took me see the Reds-Pirates, Big Klu hit a ball over the centerfield fence off the building across the street off the top of a semi-trailer back into the park. Also seen Heisman Trophy winner Vic Janowicz catch for the Pirates

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  9. Old Big Ed

    Mine was the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees playoff game at Fenway Park — the Bucky F. Dent game. I kept score, but never recorded the final pop out by Yaz, which was met with a deadly quiet. Even Yankee fans knew to shut up.

    The second was the Rick Ankiel meltdown game in the NLCS in St. Louis against the Mets. I was two rows behind Frank Robinson, who was on the front row near first base.

    Third was the Game 1 of the 1990 World Series, which featured the electric homerun by Eric Davis.

    Fourth was the 7th game of the 1986 World Series, won by the Mets over a visibly shaking Calvin Schiraldi.

    I’d have to think about some others, which included watching Fredie Patek hit 3 homers in Fenway, and my last game at Crosley Field in 1967, when Lee May absolutely killed a homer to left field.

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    • Votto4life

      OBE the Red-Sox/Yankees one game play offs must have been something to see in person! I watching it on my 15 inch black and white TV. I rushed home for school to watch it.

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      • Old Big Ed

        The day before was fantastic, too. The Red Sox played the Blue Jays, and a Blue Jay player hung a pre-game “9” next to the Indians on the manual scoreboard on the wall. Luis Tiant shut out Toronto, 5-0.

        The Yankees lost to the Indians, 9-2, behind a gem by Rick Waits. The score of the Yankee game was filtering through a somewhat mediocre out closing-day Fenway crowd, considering the Red Sox had won 7 in a row, and the buzz in the crowd kept growing throughout the day.

        The potential playoff game, to be played in Boston, had not sold out, and I had got tickets before the game, just inside the Pesky Pole. (Bleacher tickets were $2 in those days, and it was usually first-come first serve seating there, so I don’t know how they sold the bleacher seats or for what.) The Fenway crowd was frenetic when the scoreboard in centerfield read “Final Score: Cleveland 9, New York 2. Thank you, Rick Waits.” And there was a mad dash to buy the remaining tickets.

        There has been a lot written about that game, but the key play was made in the bottom of the 9th by Lou Piniella. Fenway at that time of the season has a wicked sun field in right field, and Jerry Remy came up with a runner on and one out. I told my friend that if a line drive was hit to Piniella, there was no way that he could see it. Sure enough, Remy hit a one-hop line drive to Piniella, who couldn’t see it, but stabbed his glove at the ball’s general location, caught it on the bounce, and held Rick Burleson at second base. Jim Rice then hit a flyball to the RF warning track, which would have scored Burleson to tie the game.

        Piniella later admitted that it was total luck that he grabbed that ball.

  10. Oldtimer

    September 30, 1964. Jim Maloney vs Bob Veale. Reds lost 1-0 to Pirates in 16 innings. Maloney 11 IP, Veale 12 IP.

    August 22, 1959. Frank Robinson hit 3 HR and Reds beat Cardinals that day.

    1979. Phillies beat Cubs in Wrigley Field, 23-22. Kingman hit 3 HR including estimated 600 foot HR to LF that is the longest I’ve ever seen.

    June 30, 1970. That magical opening night at Riverfront Stadium. Reds lost to Braves.

    June 24, 1970. The Reds last game ever at Crosley Field. Reds won that one on two late inning HR off Juan Marichal.

    My first game at Crosley Field was in the summer of 1958. Reds lost to Dodgers that game. I don’t remember the exact date but the next 12 years of my life were filled with Reds memories as a result.

    Honorable mention to WS game vs Yankees in 1961. The 1961 Yankees were the best team I ever saw the Reds play against. Playoff and WS games in 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976. ASG in Riverfront Stadium on July 14, 1970. We had season tickets from 1961 through 1979.

    Reply
      • Oldtimer

        I am lucky to have seen the Reds often in the 1960s and 1970s. Arguably the Glory Days of the Reds franchise.

  11. jessecuster44

    September 1999. Reds up big on the Cardinals until Fernando Tatis ties it with a dinger in top 9. Reds trail by a run in the 12th, and somehow win on a 3 run Pokey Reese bomb. I ran up and down the aisle in section 155 high fiving everyone.

    Honorable Mention: Game 6 1990 NLCS; Soto’s near no-hitter in 1984, and Dave Parker walking it off on Monday Night baseball vs the Giants in 1987.

    Reply
    • votto4life

      I was also at the Pokey Reese game. The final month of the 1999 season was so exciting.

      Reply
  12. TR

    Nothing quite like the memories of baseball and a few of mine are: Opening Day 1954 at Crosley Field which was Hank Aron’s first ML game. Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th. homerun at Dolfin Stadium in Miami in 2008. Sitting in centerfield in old Yankee Stadium in 1962 and seeing Jimmy Piersall of the Senators make an incredible catch near the monuments in deep centerfield. And attending games in three old ball fields that are now gone: Briggs Stadium in Detroit in the 50’s, Sportsmans Park in St. Louis in 1957, and the BRM versus the Phillies at Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium in the 70’s.
    a

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  13. Daytonnati

    Game 2 of the 1990 World Series. Great seats. Joe Oliver walks it off in the 10th with a single down the left field line off the unhittable Dennis Eckersley. Billy Bates rounding 3rd and the crowd going crazy. Reds, miraculously, up 2 games to 0 on the defending, invincible World Champ A’s.

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  14. Michael

    When I was a teenager I had a chance to see Mark Whitten and he hit 4 freaking home runs against the reds 🙁

    Having said that it was amazing to see.

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    • Votto4life

      I was at that game! He was with the Cardinals at the time. They called him Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten Lol

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    • Redsfan4life

      I was at that one as well. Double header. Reds won game one something like 14-13 in 10 innings.

      Reply
  15. Votto4life

    I attended a game at what was then Cinergy Field against the San Francisco Giants. I am not sure what year it was but I assume the late 1990s.

    It was memorable because I saw Deion Sanders score from first base on a ground ball to Shortstop.

    The Reds were playing the Giants. Sanders was on first base and took off on the pitch. The batter hit a ground ball into the hole at Short. The SS Rich Auerilla threw to first base. Deion kept running past second. The throw pulled the Giants first baseman, J.T. Snow, to the right field side of first. Neon motors around third base. Snow threw to the catcher but Sanders scored easily. I have never seen anything like it, before or since.

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  16. Vottolife

    John Ring, Thank you for this article and thread. It brings up a lot of great memories!! I have throughly enjoyed it.

    I would love to see more articles here on baseball history.

    Reply
  17. doofus

    June 21, 1964- Crosley Field. Reds lost 4-2 to the Dodgers. However, for his first MLB game a starry-eyed 6 year old got to see Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Sandy Koufax and a late pinch hit appearance by Pete Rose (who did not start).

    The next night he saw the Reds drop a game to the Giants that included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey.

    Those games are still etched in my memory.

    Reply
    • Jim Walker

      And the “kids” wonder why we are not all gaga over the current crop of players. 😉

      Reply
  18. Rick

    The most memorable game I ever went to was the perfect game that Tom Browning threw august 16 1989 it wasn’t the best game ,waiting two and a half hours for the game to begin ,no hits from either team until the 6th inning ,but the last 2 innings were the most exciting innings I and the 3 million people that said they were at the game have ever seen.

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  19. Jason Franklin

    The first Reds game I ever saw (at Riverfront), was on August 4th, 1989. I had no idea what was in store. It really was surreal and probably spoiled me forever (and made me expect too much from the team that year). Somehow, (it felt magical at the time), the Redlegs score 14 in the first inning. I was even getting hotdogs with my dad as the inning started. When we sat down I think it was 4 or 5 to nothing? Can’t totally recall but it lit a nice Reds fire in my young soul.

    Reply

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