Sometimes, even when you are tired, you have to seize an opportunity that will never come around again. When my college girlfriend and eventual bridesmaid, Sharon, contacted me to ask me if I would like to go to a Reds game in which the Big Red Machine, that we watched during our college and marrying years, would be reunited to honor Joe Morgan, who was having a statue placed in the plaza of Great American Ball Park during the weekend, the answer was simple. Are you kidding me? YES!
When Sharon, her husband and many of our pals were in college between 1972-1976, we got together, bought cheap seats, walked a mile to Riverfront to save a nickel, ate quarter hot dogs and generally did anything we had to do to get to a game. Filling the car with people was a given, as many as we could get into the vehicle.
We loved the Big Red Machine. It’s always fun winning; but we loved the entire experience, and we loved ALL the players, not just the ones who were brought back for this weekend’s festivities. The business of baseball was different then and considering the culture of the sport today, this will never happen again. The Atlanta Braves of the 90’s came as close as those of us will remember.
I knew I would be tired, so I paced my entire week for this event. My work day was purposely “unscheduled,” although in my line of work, you NEVER KNOW! It went well and I ran a couple of errands on the way home. Sharon would have beat me to my house, but she got lost. It would have helped to put MY street name into the GPS. I digress.
Off we were to Cincinnati and in spite of traffic, we were in our seats at 6:00 having dinner. While I am trying to eat healthier overall, one simply MUST have a hot dog at the ball park. That’s all there is to it.
I have to admit, I had misgivings about them tearing down Riverfront and building the Great American Ball Park. I didn't see it as necessary, but I now get why GABP is more of an “experience” than just a baseball game, which may not be needed for a diehard baseball fan like myself, but would bring a broader audience to love the game. This would be the first time for all of these players to be at the GABP.
Mike Leake pitched a fine game, with one mistake in the first inning to Hanley Ramirez of the LA Dodgers. That shot was gone from contact! I don’t even think Ryan Ludwick did anything but watch it. The Reds won the game on Joey Votto’s two run homer. This game had everything: first and foremost, the win; but we got to see phenom rookie Billy Hamilton steal a base. He is so fast it is amazing. We also got to see crowd favorite Aroldis Chapman strike out the sides in the ninth inning. Talk about crowd energy! I just watched the speed board. His 13 pitches ranged between 99 and 101.
Then, after the game, the Great Eight of the Big Red Machine was reunited as they took their positions on the field. First out was left-fielder George Foster, who just loves people and loves the world of baseball. He is such a happy man! Secondly was center-fielder Cesar Geronimo, a little less energetic, but looking great and just enjoying the moment. Then right-fielder Ken Griffey, Sr. came out. He has been around the Reds organization in the meantime and we've seen much of him, but it was great to see him again in this context.
Next was third-baseman Pete Rose. The crowd had a mixture of boos and cheers. The cheers won; but it’s obvious there is still disagreement about Pete Rose. Personally, I think it’s time to get over it. As long as A-Rod is still over there playing on the east coast, let’s get over this! Pete was touched. It was very obvious. Then they brought out short-stop Davey Concepcion, who just loves being in the ball park! What a delightful human being. After Davey was the finest catcher ever, Johnny Bench. No one would ever accuse Johnny of NOT hamming it up. He loves the crowd. Then, before Joe Morgan came out, the first-baseman Tony Perez came out. Everyone loves Tony! Tony loves everyone! He epitomizes the Big Red Machine.
And last, was the honoree Joe Morgan. He made a short speech as his big one would come the next day at the unveiling of his statue in the plaza. I will have to wait until next time to see that.
Seeing this team on the field all at the same time just took us back in time. Are we REALLY 59 and 60?? Really? We felt like we were kids again, cheering on the Big Red Machine at Riverfront Stadium. OK, that is until we climbed the steps to get back to the concourse, when our knees hurt.
It was a great moment that probably will never happen again publicly. I was very happy to be a part of it.
Then we stayed for the Friday Fireworks and that was spectacular too! Music from the seventies was used for the playlist. There was only one song that was missing. “We are the Champions.”