Welcome to our We Refuse to Acknowledge Winter series. We’re exploring every time the Reds were represented on the cover of the spiraled-out Sports Illustrated. If you missed the earlier installments, undo that right now: Part 1 is here, Part 2 est là, and Part 3 es aquí. (Thank you for bearing with me in my attempts to make two years of French and two semesters of Spanish pay. No, it still wasn’t worth it. Yes, I still had to look up all four of these words.)

Now if you were paying attention, as you ought, to Doug’s Important Dates post, you know that the great nightmare of coldness has ended. We are past the meridian. I don’t care how many basketball games we have to sit through before Opening Day; the pitchers reported yesterday, the on-field workouts begin today, and nothing else matters. It’s Spring Training and the long national nightmare of day-to-day clawing through the snow in search of live baseballs hitting actual gloves is behind us.

Of course, we’ve been here before:

This isn’t just my favorite of the Spring Training covers; it’s one of my favorites of the whole run. This is just… baseball. If I had to communicate the quintessential in-game fan experience to someone without using words, this is the picture I’d hold up. It’s so… pure. It’s what actually happened and should always happen all at the same time.

Then there’s the team itself. These were the 93-61 Ragamuffin Reds, a scrappy outta-nowhere team close to the hearts of those who watched this season unfold.

These guys finished 28 games out of first place in 1960, and had such ugly welcomes for pitcher Joe Nuxhall that he asked for a trade right out of his hometown. The manager bailed. The owner died. Star Frank Robinson was jailed overnight in the offseason.

Then they won the league a good two decades beyond the last time they’d done so. Pitcher Jim Bronsan compiled his diary of the season for the highly readable Pennant Race, a must-lister for every Reds fan.

But first: Spring Training, and this cover on March 6. Opening Day was just 6 weeks off.

Now let’s vroom ahead to March 3, 1975:

The away jerseys of this era were tragically fug and I won’t hear arguments otherwise.

Somewhat less importantly, this appeared at perhaps the apex of the Big Red Machine. I probably don’t need to tell you what these boys went on to accomplish: National League champs, then world champs over the Red Sox in a 4-3 for-the-ages Series.

Go ahead: Name your machiners in the comments. No visible numbers for three of them, so no cheating allowed or possible.

Back at it in 1979:

I’m such a fan of this watercolor throwback style. And the Tampa palms in the background mark the territory beautifully. Baseball Is Art.

The Reds did not appear on an SI cover after they moved their spring operations to Goodyear in 2010, so it’s up to you guys to send me some nice cacti photos with maybe some baseball in the background.

If you’re wondering or you’ve forgotten whether the good-luck kiss of the Spring Training cover carried over a third time, I’m happy to tell you that this team won the division in 1979, annnnnd it’s probably best to fade out on that moment.

 

21 Responses

  1. Optimist

    Nolan, Gullett, Carroll, Billingham, and I give up on who’s in back.

  2. David

    Yeah, Optimist; Gary Nolan on the left, then Don Gullet, Clay Carroll throwing, and Jack Billingham on the right (Carroll’s left).

    The guy in the background might be Clay Kirby.

    That’s all I got.

    • NorMichRed

      Ah, Clay Kirby. I remember the fanfare when Reds picked him up from the Padres, if I remember right. I was in grad school at U.C. at the time and saw a good number of games in that memorable season, including the home WS games. Old memories remember strange things: what I remember most about Clay was one of the Cincinnati Post (I think) writers doing a post-game story on one of his wins over the Metropolitans. His delivery landing apparently brought down his plant foot kind of side-saddle and he had a habit of regularly destroying his cleats. The headline (all I remember about the story): “Shoeless Clay Kirby Kicks the Mets.” Had to share this, in part because I don’t know why the mind sometimes remembers little snippets like this one. Kirby came with far more fanfare from San Diego than Fred Norman, but it was Little Fred who had a good extended time with the Reds and so often came through with unexpected gutty and clutch starts.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        It’s those stories that make baseball what it is. It might not have been something major, but it’s part of your experience. His too!

  3. LDS

    It’s not the uniform. It’s the man wearing it. As for two years of French and Spanish? I had six years of German, four in high school and two in college. After 50 or so years, I remember little more than Guten Tag and words that aren’t fit to print in a family forum.

  4. RedsFanInFL

    Just saw Don Gullett passed away. Injuries prevented a potential HOF career. RIP

  5. Mark Moore

    Definitely fug as noted. Didn’t realize the “vest” look happened back in ’61. Equally fug in my opinion along with the hats that bled pink.

    I’ve been to a grand total of one ST Reds game (only 2 total for any team). Plant City on a Sunday evening. We played the WLB’s and I had scored center aisle seats just a couple rows back (for really cheap). Todd Worrell was making a comeback and was clocked at 94mph in his warm-ups.

    Onward we go to 2024! Hope springs eternal once again. Thanks for keeping our seats warm, MBE. We appreciate it.

  6. Jerry Vickers

    Nolan,Gullet,Carroll,Bellingham,Zachary?

  7. Melvin

    “Welcome to our We Refuse to Acknowledge Winter series.”

    Good series. I hate winter. 😉

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Living in FL for a few years absolutely ruined my ability to withstand it. It was never my favorite but now I demand compensation.

      • Melvin

        “but now I demand compensation”

        Good for you. 🙂

  8. Oldtimer

    Reds competitive in 1980 but finished 3rd. Reds had best W-L record in all of MLB in 1981. Reds were competitive in 1985-86-87-88 but finished 2nd each year. Reds were competitive until injuries struck after ASG in 1989 and the Rose banning took place.