Reds Memory: Dave Collins’ clutch hit | Tom Mitsoff

[This Reds memory was submitted by Tom Mitsoff, who writes about the Reds. Thanks, Tom!]

My status as a living, sentient being for the past 57 years has given me the opportunity to experience some of the greatest moments in the history of the Cincinnati Reds franchise, among other basic life functions.

My parents’ business had Reds season tickets for several years in the late 70s and early 80s, so I was fortunate to be able to personally witness many great moments, including:

Reds down by two runs, bottom of the ninth, game three of the 1976 NLCS vs. Philadelphia:


And then:


On September 17, 1983, a full house at Riverfront Stadium was on hand to honor Johnny Bench, who had announced his retirement following the season, when this happened:


Over the past 57 years, the Reds have won three World Series, six National League championships, and fielded arguably the greatest team of all time in the Big Red Machine. Three members of that team are in the Hall of Fame, and there are others who also should be.

All-time greats like Tom Seaver and Dave Parker passed through and had great years along the way. One sight I will never forget is Willie McCovey hitting a home run off Seaver at Riverfront. From my field-level perspective, when the ball left the bat, it looked like it was going completely out of Riverfront Stadium. At its apex, the ball cleared the circular opening that covered the upper-deck seats. But the moon shot was higher than it was far, and as it descended, it landed in the right field seats. It was hard to believe a human could hit a ball that high in the air with such power.

Speaking of which …


On August 10, 2004, Adam Dunn crushed a 535-foot home run that DID leave the stadium at Great American Ball Park. I know because I was sitting in the upper deck bleachers and saw the ball fly over the batter’s eye, out of the park, then bounce down some concrete staircase walkways, across the street and into the river.

With nearly three-score years worth of memories, the one that stands out most personally is not one that you’ll see on the typical Reds highlight reel of greatest moments.

It was 1979, the first post-Sparky Anderson and post-Pete Rose season. John McNamara’s band held off the Houston Astros to win the NL West, and faced Pittsburgh in the National League Championship series (back when there were only two divisions, no wild cards, and only one pre-World Series playoff series per league).

The Reds lost game one at home, 5-2, and played a day game the next day. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the home team looked like it was about to go into an insurmountable no-games-to-two hole, as Pittsburgh relief ace Kent Tekulve came in to close them out.

Hector “Heity” Cruz reached Tekulve for a double to put the tying run on second base, bringing up Dave Collins (Collins’ dramatic AB starts at 2:41:35):


CLUTCH! Everyone in the building knew that if the Reds lost that game, it was all but curtains for the post-season. That was the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh team that went on to win the World Series. It isn’t evident on the video above, but that was the loudest sustained crowd cheering (closer to screaming) I have ever heard for any sporting event I’ve attended in person, and it was an amazing rush to experience.

This differed from the NLCS comeback against the Phillies mentioned above because against Philadelphia, the Reds were already up two games to none, so had they lost that game, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. On the other hand, Dave Collins’ hit felt to myself and nearly 55,000 others like a revival just as the priest was prepared to administer last rites. It lasted only briefly, as the Reds lost that game in extra innings and were swept in three games by the Bucs. But what a moment.

It’s those moments that we sports fans live for – our teams exceeding expectations, sometimes to the ultimate degree. If it weren’t for moments like Collins’ hit and the others listed above, would we spend hundreds of hours watching “our team” getting pummeled during “rebuilds” like the past several years?

No! But because we are emotionally invested in our teams of choice, we suffer with them during times of trouble, somewhat like personal relationships in our lives in which we are emotionally invested. “Revivals” like we are hoping for this year for the Reds give us a chance to scream, yell and otherwise overtly celebrate like we would if our spouse, parent or sibling completed a great achievement. We are emotionally invested in the Reds, and we long for more moments like those above. Maybe this year will deliver some, if and when the season does begin.

Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

2 Responses

  1. Bob Williams says:

    As I remember that 1979 series, weren’t there two controversial non-catches (trapped, possibly) by Dave Collins, one each in games two and three?

  2. Tom Mitsoff says:

    You are correct. If you notice, immediately after Collins slid into second base with his hustle double, he was talking with the umpire, who I believe was Dave Pallone. Pallone was the umpire who earlier in the game called what Collins thought was a sliding catch a trap, and Collins hadn’t forgotten about it.