Last week, we took a fond and respectful, if urine-soaked, look back at the bathrooms of Crosley Field. We now visit our most excellent cement palace, Riverfront Stadium.

All I remember of the bathrooms at Riverfront were… a lot of grey. It seemed to somehow have more walls than other bathrooms.

That’s appropriate for Riverfront, I suppose. I seem to remember stalls painted the same color as the level layer, or at least a section of it. It’s appropriate for the level of warmth and civic distinctiveness that went into our concrete hug.

For all that Riverfront is considered featureless, it stands as perhaps the only sports home to snatch boldness and ingenuity from the jaws of basic, and it happened in a bathroom.

This is thanks to the still-nascent Big Red Machine, which stamped why most remember Riverfront fondly in the first place. For those of you who don’t know the story, the following photo tells it:

Indeed, this is one MLB Hall of Famer and one self-sabotaging not-MLB Hall of Famer on neighboring toilets. Famous as this picture is, I haven’t been able to find out who took it. And yet it’s in every single one of our lives because Pete Rose and Tony Perez decided to place a bet on who could first and best christen the Reds’ new home, because of course Pete Rose did.

In addition to the name of the noble photographer, I also haven’t been able to discover who won the dropping-off contest. I suppose it depends on who was spreading the story, but the more popular version favors Rose.

There’s a lot going on here, of course. I’ve seen this print hanging in various locations throughout my life– including, yes, the Reds Hall of Fame– but this particular version offers by far the best presentation.

Look at the care rendered unto this artifact. This fine heirloom-quality item is matted, and the framing carefully chosen– an excellent deep grey tone to highlight the cement palate of the crapper walls.  Then of course there’s the black frame to serve as a classic and elegant finish, worthy of the finest museums in all Christendom. It is a most and properly reverent showcasing of art, and it is of and from us.

I don’t mean to overemphasize this particular form of the photo (yours for $99.00) but if you want to understand the West Side, this is a good place to start. Our people not only wager on bowel movements, we do so in manner which bespeaks art– art which we then reproduce, carefully crop, authenticate with autographs, and hang in our dens.

Also notice that Tony Perez is pretty much naked. Maybe it’s the angle of the moment and there are in fact a pair of shorts in play here, but that’s certainly the impression we’re left with. It’s easy to get lost in the wonder of the moment, but fine art connoisseurs like you and me notice subtle details such as this.

I want to know two things:

-We must gather a master list of places this photo has been seen, as it will help future archeologists mark out who’s artistically advanced and who’s an East Sider.

-I was far more girl than lady in the Riverfront days, so I humbly ask my sisters to provide a woman-level context for the bathrooms there, one that’s more complex than a person in a pink terrycloth romper might have.


12 Responses

  1. Rednat

    i bought a copy of that photo many years ago but lost it in a move lol.
    i had some great times as a kid at Crosley. GABP IS a great atmosphere although the team has not performed well here. But man nothing beats Riverfront. i have some great memories and still am depressed they blew it up.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yeah the implosion was a “really?” moment. We had time to get used to the gap the last couple of years but to have it gone entirely was kind of unbelievable. I’m jealous that you’ve seen all 3 stadiums, and it goes to show that the team makes the field 🙂

  2. LDS

    Most of my Reds’ games were at Riverfront. I’ve only made a couple of trips to the GABP. I’m a good distance from Cincinnati. Most of what I remember about RF was how hot it was at certain times of day. The sun, the lack of air flow, and the artificial turf combined for a brutal experience from time to time. Not to mention the river and the humidity. The bathrooms? Don’t remember them.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Maybe it’s best we don’t remember the bathrooms?! I’m sure the players didn’t miss the Astroturf once they switched to grass.

  3. Rednat

    I loved the efficiency of riverfront. 2 ticket offices. I knew all the vendors by name.
    ” hi Bob, I want 2 In the green”. I would give him a twenty and he would slide the tickets to me. I didn’t have to give my email or phone number. There were 12 gates to enter. The ticket had the gate you were supposed to enter but if you were behind you could enter anyone you wanted and nothing was said. They would tear the ticket stub and you were in through the turnstile!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I really appreciated that it was impossible to get lost in Riverfront. Just keep walking forward and eventually you’ll wind up either where you need to be or where you started. I must have my people and my people’s people direct me where to go at GABP.

  4. Hanginwithem

    I remember thinking at the time (I was but a youth) that it was all but sacrilegious to allow a football team (a new one at that) to play on the same field in the same stadium as my favorite team. I would inwardly cringe when I saw the almost-erased football field markings crisscrossing the turf that was meant for baseball. It served them right, I thought, when a football player would stumble over the seam of one of the infield cutouts!

  5. Mark Moore

    I’ve been a fan since the early 70’s, but it was at a distance. The first game I attended was Spring Training 1997 in Plant City. The next games were in 2006 when our team did a UC project and I went to 5 games. So I have no personal perspective of Crosley or Riverfront, but I will say this one made me laugh. And I’ve seen more than a few minor-league ballparks and their facilities. In the early to mid-70’s we lived in Southern NY State and went to games at Dunn Field, home of the Elmira Pioneer Red Sox (short-season A ball).

    Ah, the memories … especially when there are photographs to back them up 😉

      • Mark Moore

        I don’t believe either I nor my pregnant First Wife had to use them. But we did have excellent seats for very cheap.

  6. Melvin

    “But we did have excellent seats for very cheap.”

    I remember walking up to Cinergy Field and asking for the best seats they had that night. They gave me right behind home plate for $14 each. 🙂 This is when Marge still owned the team. At least she spent money on the players and kept the prices low.