A friend gave me a book about Cincinnati Reds history for Christmas. I’ve always been a Reds fan; Frank Robinson was one of my heroes when I was growing up. When the Reds traded him it was a dark day in an otherwise bright childhood.
I first started going to Reds games when they played at Crosley Field, then at Riverfront Stadium and finally at Great American Ballpark. The more I thought, the more I realized my trips to the ballparks over the years have resulted in some memorable events. Here are a few of the best, just in time to start thinking ahead to spring training, which considering the weather they might as well hold in Cincinnati this year.
• The perfect game. Yes, I was at Tom Browning’s perfect game. Usually how these things work is that 20,000 people are at the game and as years go by more and more people somehow remember they were there, so that by now half the city of Cincinnati says they were there. But I really was. The Reds were playing the Dodgers and the game was delayed. We talked about leaving, but we came all that way so we decided to hang around. Sure enough, they finally started the game. When it got to the ninth inning and the Dodgers were batting, the people who were still there were standing and cheering, and my wife and her friend looked at us and said, “What’s all the excitement about?” We had to explain about perfect games to them. They didn’t seem impressed, but they had a good time cheering right along with the rest of us.
• Ken Griffey’s applause. Ninth inning, a San Diego Padre hits a home run into the right field stands where we are sitting. My youngest son catches the ball. My oldest son, more attuned to the ways of baseball etiquette, tells him to throw the ball back. So he does. He throws it way back, almost to the infield. I was afraid he was going to bean the second baseman. As the Reds change pitchers, Ken Griffey Jr. wandered over toward the stands, looked up and applauded. It’s not everyone that can say Junior gave them a standing ovation.
• The Lindeman home run. Jim Lindeman is no relation that I know of, but we claimed him, anyway. He played for the St. Louis Cardinals. We were there when he hit a long drive to center field. Eric Davis went back to the wall, jumped up and caught the ball … but when he came down his glove hit the top of the wall and fell off. It went behind the wall. They later showed a picture of the glove, with the ball still in it, but since it wasn’t attached to Davis’ hand, it was a home run. Score one for the Lindemans!
• Art Shamsky, legendary slugger. My friend who lived next door to me invited me to go with him and his dad to game at Crosley Field. We spent the night in a hotel and everything. What an adventure! That night Art Shamskey came in the game in the eighth inning. The game went into extra innings and he hit three home runs. The next day, he hit a home run in his first at-bat, tying a Major League record with four home runs in four consecutive at-bats. He always was one of my favorites after that.
• The parking lot shake-down. You can get an education going to Reds game. In the old days, you could park at Union Terminal and walk to Crosley Field. My oldest brother was 14 years older than me, so I was still pretty young and he would drive us down to the game in his Jeep. We parked and a boy maybe 10-12 years old ran up to him and said, “I’ll watch your car for a nickel.” My brother pulled out some change and handed it over. The boy ran off. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “He’s not going to watch your car.” My brother replied, “That’s the whole point.” It took me years before I figured it out.
• Don’t give me popcorn. Back in the days when I played Little League baseball, we used to go to a Reds game once a year. We went to the game and I ate about a garbage bag full of popcorn. I wasn’t feeling well, and on the drive back on I-75 things got worse. That was in the days when driving on the highway was a constant “thump-thump-thump” kind of experience and everyone had big cars with lousy shock absorbers. I got home, made it to the back door and threw up all that popcorn on the porch. I don’t eat popcorn to this day.
• There are lots of other stories — the time I walked into the wrong restroom (oops!); the time my son and I went to Opening Day and a woman from Australia sat next to us and peppered him with questions the entire game; the day Lou Piniella ripped up a base and threw it into the outfield while arguing with an umpire; the day Eric Davis hit for the cycle; the many trips there with my brothers and my family. In fact, most of the good memories have more to do with the people than the actual games. That’s why this year, even though the Reds are likely to be awful, we’ll still probably make a trip to a game or two. You never know what might happen.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.