[Bill Lack, the Dean of Reds bloggers, started writing about the team on the old Reds email Listserve — before blogs. We’re honored that he’d share his Reds memories of a lifetime with us.]
When I was asked to write a “Reds Memory”, I tried to think of “A” Reds Memory and couldn’t come up with one. The Reds and Reds baseball have been a part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember, so, my memory is going to be more of a tapestry than a single memory. They’ve always been a part of my life.
In the mid ‘60s, my grandparents were the managers of a fairly large apartment complex on Harrison Ave on the westside of Cincinnati. At the time a number of Reds players lived there, Jim Maloney, Jim Coker, Don Pavletich, Deron Johnson, Art Shamsky (later part of the Miracle Mets) and Pete Rose. I can remember meeting them all, even remember watching home movies of Pete playing for the Reds in Pete’s apartment. Most nights, when he was leaving for the ballpark, he used to regularly stick his head in my grandpa’s apartment and yell, “Larry, wanna go to the game tonight?”
I remember going to a game at Crosley Field with my grandpa one night, and there was a big scheduled promotion. All of the Reds players were assigned a prize, they went into the stands and shook hands with fans and when the horn sounded, whoever they were shaking hands with won their assigned prize. Well, we had been given tickets that night by Reds ace, Jim Maloney, and he and my grandpa had cooked up a scheme. Maloney knew where we were sitting and right as the horn began to sound, he tore his hand away from the guy across the aisle, spun around and grabbed my grandpa’s hand. Voila, my grandpa had won a television. A few years later, he gave me the television, I think it was to pay me off for my part in the conspiracy.
I can remember going to another game at Crosley Field with my grandpa in, probably 1968, and after the game waiting outside to get autographs. I got a baseball signed by both Tom Seaver and Johnny Bench. (My grandpa was a “bird-dog” scout for the Mets, my grandma’s brother was their head scout (Nelson Burbrink).) Wish I knew what ever happened to that baseball, probably used it to play with my friends.
In the late ‘60’s, my family lived in Fay Apartments in Cincinnati and Tony Perez lived up the street. (Talk about a different time, wow.) I was about 10 years old and can remember seeing him walking to his car one day and asking him to autograph my glove, which he did. I kept that glove for a long, long time.
Then there was the first time the Reds broke my heart. 1972, the World Series. My dad and I watched Game 7 and when the Reds lost that heart breaker, I did not sleep a wink that night. I couldn’t believe that the Reds had lost to the A’s!!! They just didn’t compare to the Big Red Machine. (They’d prove me wrong by winning 3 World Series in a row, but what can I say, I was 14.) I’ve still never forgiven Bobby Tolan for Game 7.
I remember buying tickets for the first game of the ’73 playoffs vs the Mets. I swear I sent my payment to the Reds in cash (and some of it was coins) and couldn’t believe it when my ticket came and it was a yellow seat!!! For those that never got to experience Riverfront, the seats went from blue (field level), green, yellow, and red. The yellow seats were the only ones with padding, sweet!
The game was amazing, with the Reds trailing in the 8th, 1-0. Rose homered off Seaver to tie the game and then a walk off game winner by Johnny Bench off Seaver in the 9th. I left the stadium positive we were on our way and the Reds couldn’t be stopped that year. What do they say…good pitching beats good hitting? Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, and Jerry Koosman would prove that and the Mets would break my heart again.
July 25, 1974 is a date I’ll always remember. First, it was the day I got my driver’s license and my mom agreed to let me take the car to go to the Reds game that night. They were playing a twi-night DH vs the Giants. My buds, John McGuire, Phil Keller, and I jumped in the car and headed down to the ballpark. We lived close enough that in about 35 minutes from leaving the house, we’d be settling into our red seats (which I think cost about $2). I remember getting there late in the first game, the Reds being down 10-7, then giving up two more in the 7th and were down 12-7. In the bottom of the, 8th, Bench hit a two-run homer and we were only down 3; but Billingham gave up a homer to Bobby Bonds in the 9th and the Reds were down 13-9 going to the bottom of the 9th. Randy Moffitt (who is Billie Jean King’s brother) was pitching for Giants. With one out, Dan Driessen singled, Merv Rettenmund walked, Rose singled (driving in Driessen), Morgan drove in Rettenmund with a ground out and the Reds trail 13-11 with two outs. Bench singled in Rose so it’s 13-12 and the crowd of 40,000 plus is going crazy. Tony Perez comes up and hit a laser to CF that clears the fence for a two-run homer and the Reds win 14-13, scoring 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th. The second game, Fred Norman threw a 5 hit complete game shutout and the Reds won 5-0. What a great night.
I remember being a counselor at a local camp during the end of the 1975 World Series. For game 6, the counselors had gotten the kids to sleep and then snuck out to an empty cabin to listen to the game on a little transistor radio. We were all huddled together around the radio, trying to be keep out cheers and boos quiet enough that we wouldn’t get caught out of our cabins. The next night, the “powers that be” allowed us to get the kids to sleep then come up to the dining hall to watch the game on tv. I still feel the weight that lifted off my shoulders when that Morgan hit dropped in the top of the 9th, driving in Griffey with the go-ahead run. We were finally going to win one…and we did.
In August of 1976, I went in the Navy. I was in boot camp for the end of the season and through all of the playoffs and World Series. I was at the mercy of my company commander for baseball results and how long he’d make me wait the next day to hear about the game would depend on his mood. I will say this though, I really enjoyed collecting my winnings from the NLCS and WS, as there were a sizable number of guys in my company from Philadelphia and New York. Never have felt bad about spending those winnings.
My first “post Navy” Reds memory was 8/17/84, the night Pete came back to manage the Reds. A large group of my friends got together and bought tickets (want to say 15-20 of us) and were all there seated in the green seats in CF when Pete came up in the second, singled, driving in Gary Redus, and then going all the way to 3rd on an error by Bob Dernier, and going in with his patented headfirst slide. The place went absolutely bonkers…I’ve never heard a baseball stadium louder.
I attended a number of Opening Days in the ‘80’s, but the one I remember most was in ’84; but I’m not sure how good my memory of this really is. I remember it being REALLY COLD. I remember our group passing a flask of schnapps around to stay warm. I remember there being snow delays. I remember the Reds beating the Expos (that part is verified). But looking up the weather that day, it says it was in the 40’s, so….I may be remembering multiple Opening days, but there is nothing like the atmosphere of Opening Day in Cincinnati. It’s a city holiday, always has been, always will be.
The last memory that really jumps out to me is Game 6 of the NLCS playoffs in 1990. I’m not sure how we got tickets, but my pregnant wife and I had tickets in the red boxes in CF. She’s as big a Reds fan as I am and I remember us both being on the edge of our seats the entire game. Danny Jackson, then Norm Charlton held the Pirates to one run. Going to the bottom of the 7th, with the game 1-1, Luis Quinones drove in Ron Oester with the go-ahead run and the Reds were up 2-1. But the sharpest memory is, after Randy Myers walked Barry Bonds, Carmelo Martinez came up with one out and one on and hit a ball to right center field that looked like it might go out, but 6’3 Glenn Braggs just drifted back to the fence, jumped, and pulled it back over the fence. Myers then struck out Don Slaught and the Reds were headed back to the World Series for the first time in 15 years. I think you know what happened from there.
As anyone that was a part of the old Reds Listserv List or the early days of Redleg Nation can tell you, my Reds memories didn’t end in 1990, but this selection of them shows how important the Reds have always been to me and how they’ve always woven themselves into the other parts of my life. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little walk down my personal Reds Memory Lane.