I sit here looking at digital picture frame that is going through a slide show of friends, family and of course times at the ball field last year. Is it me or can you already see kids picking dandelions out in the outfield of a little league field if you close your eyes and allow yourself to wonder just a bit.
Which of course brings me back to memories of the first full season back being a Reds fan. I remember Opening Day, the hype of Dusty Baker was in full effect. We had big hopes for this team. A good combination of new, young blood with Bruce and Votto. Along with the season veterans Dunn, Griffey, and Freel to make it all stick together. For once I was way up in the nosebleed seats (for opening day the only ones I could afford) but this turned out to be a good thing since that put me and the girlfriend under the overhang of the outer wall of Great American Ballpark. Why you ask? I’m glad you did. It’s because it rained, and rained, and rained some more. It gave me plenty of time to sit quietly and think about the season ahead and find out that I really do enjoy cracking open peanuts and leaving a real mess in my wake.
This was all followed up with many of what I would have called “as seen in the brochure” games where it was partly cloudy skies and 70 degrees. The weather you want, the game you wanted to see, and anything you could have asked for providing you had the money to pay for it. Which came to my next find….Did you know they sell hard alcohol to the regular public? Yep Margaritas, whiskey and more..Being not really a beer guy I really ignored alcohol at the game because well it’s beer. But there’s one guy, in one certain area off the first base line who sells what I like, and you don’t have to buy it in a bottle or in a cup that looks like a coconut or a monkey’s head!
These were times that we still had hope of a good season in Cincy, and it actually felt pretty good to be one of the few that was still happy to come to a game. Unfortunately those days were numbered. Pitching, injuries, losses to the team and games we had no business losing. My heart sank for what was the start of the end of our season was nearing.
It started with the Cubs coming to town. My team wouldn’t let me down as they knew I was coming to town (Walt and Dusty won’t return my phone calls, but they won’t dare take my wraith when I’m actually at the game, it’s win or die time!!) they would end up kicking some cubbie tail much to my liking. I wish that would have been enough to make me happy, but it wasn’t. You see the Cubs were taking our division by storm as you well know. Cincinnati and Chicago aren’t exactly on speaking terms when it comes to fans. The Cubs see have a hundred years of losing and so well…they are better at it. Cincy fans are a mixture of St Louis fans, Pittsburgh, what ever other team is popular (I’ll say the Sox or the Yankees) and Cincinnati fans. So when the Reds are expected to lose, as they were in this game, they didn’t show. Ever see a sold out game at your stadium and the sea of fans and the color of the seats be the wrong color I did. We’re Reds fans, and all you saw was blue. It just wasn’t right. I could honestly say you could have sat all the Reds fans in the most expensive section of the stadium (right behind home plate, about 30 to 60 seats) and then gave the rest of the stadium away to Chicago. It was amazing if you were a Cubs fan, it was sickening if you were a Reds fan.
We followed up this game with a need for more punishment or maybe my need to see the Reds actually win a few more games. So we decided to go to Chicago for the second leg of this series and see how they do baseball Wrigley style. My girlfriend is actually a converted Cub fan…shudder.. but rest assured folks I saved her from that and changed her into a Reds fan like me. Now she just goes around saying “I’m really a Wrigley fan..” I didn’t know what that meant until I made this trip. The girlfriend and I made it up early one Thursday morning so that she could show me around the field, we had friends that we were going to meet up there as we got closer to this mid afternoon game ( a game in the middle of the day..how do you sell tickets to a middle of the work week game, during working hours? I’d soon find out) Anycase, we made it up there still fairly early in the morning and to my surprise they actually call the part of town the ball park is in “Wrigleyville” and man was it hopping. You would have thought it was a holiday or something. The beers were flowing before noon, kids were being bused to the stadium to watch, I actually got to watch baseballs fly over the right field wall and into the street where kids chased after them as souvenirs from batting practice. This is the stuff baseball dreams are made of. Now I want to take a moment and say there is a difference between Cincinnati fans and Chicago fans.
A Chicago fan comes to Cincy, we ignore you, you’re a tourist and someone who is taking up space that really we could have used, but thanks for spending money in our town so that we can make it better for us when you leave. Chicago fans are completely different. Here I am in the middle of Chicago, beer and hot dog in hand in full Cincy gear (Reds hat, replica Pete Rose Jersey asking for trouble) walking through town like it’s a normal day and what happens? Not what I would have expected..I get heckled. In a kind way, if there is such a thing. I spend the next 3 hours going through the Cubbie bear, Harry Carry’s and all the other bars and souvenir shops around the stadium and I’m actually getting heckled! People care! Some are letting me know that were going to lose (which they didn’t know who I was, and that of course the Reds don’t lose while I’m present…but who else besides me and a few others do right?) Some beat up on Pete, some beat up on Dusty, it was great! They all took it in good fun, and were proud of me for sticking up for my team. When the game ended we went back a c
rossed the street, my Cubs friends sad that they lost of course…sorry it’s a curse I show, Reds win. That simple. So here I am sitting in the Cubbie Bear all decked out in Red expecting to get bashed some more and what happens?
People came by sat for a few minutes to tell me their favorite moments of today’s game, favorite Reds moments, patted me on the back and said
I would love to say this would happen in Cincy, but if it does I’ve never seen it. Quiet in, quiet out. This part of Chicago really breathes what baseball should be like, and it breeds the kind of fans that can last 100 years tried and true without winning. It was simply amazing.
I enjoyed watching games on tv for the rest of the season till it was time for the last home game of the regular season. We went to that and it just didn’t feel the same since we all knew there was no real skin in the game for us. It reminded me of the quote in For the Love of the Game where the catcher says “It’s a throw away game chapi, you don’t need to do this” and Kevin Costner’s character replies “It’s not to Red Sox” that was what that game was, it meant nothing to us, but everything a lot to the Brewers who where of course fighting to stay alive in the pennant race. We won that game too, which kicked a few people as you can imagine.
I then wrapped up my season with a fan favorite the mid day, mid week, make up game from earlier in the year. This was the bad news, the good news was it was against our now World Series Champs The Rays. So I got to see them right before the heat really started to catch up to them! At that game I also got to experience something else that I probably never will again. I walked into the park and one of the ushers said to me
“Sit where ever you like, and hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn and cokes are free”
There were so little people there and so little going on I had entire rows to myself behind the visitors dugout. It was a fans dream came true, short of not actually making it to the world series.
So if you made it through this entire blog, congrats. Now you have most of my actual at the field stories of 2008 at your finger tips. I had a lot of fun living them, I hope some you got a few laughs out of reading about them.
Being a Reds supporter it’s hard for me to be objectionable to our
baseball commissioner.. In many ways he ruined baseball in Cincy. Pete Rose, to Marge Schott,
to the wild card race, and much more to mention. So for those looking
for a neutral opinion of him you may want to go somewhere else.
reading about Mr. Selig you find a man who really didn’t grow up in
baseball. This is not the story of a man who was brought up on the
sport, but actually a man who saw a tremendous business opportunity and
then developed a passion around his work. Now there is no denying that
he has been around baseball since the early 70’s when he purchased the
Brewers. The Brewers which at the time was named the Pilots and were
not in Milwaukee. Mr. Selig saw money growing for a Wisconsin based
team and knew he had to do something which in turn was to create a team
for this need. Hence the purchase of the Pilots, and then renaming them the Brewers.
the 80’s and 90’s he moved from ball club owner to acting leader of
game for the current president of baseball’s health was failing and
there was no sure sign of when his time would be over. During which
Mr. Selig did not just keep the peace and follow the lead of his
mentor, no sir. He went about making some of the biggest changes that
baseball ever encountered. Many have speculated what this did to
baseball, after almost two decades we can see it turned baseball into
what it is today. A business, instead of a national past time. Now
who’s to say it wouldn’t have done this anyway with out Mr. Selig, I
cannot say for sure. What I can say however if there was a boost of
power to make it happen sooner than later it was during this time.
This in turn brought forth a player strike that took many fans away
from baseball (me being one of them) and set the ground work for the
issues that would soon arrive.
What direction would this go in
when moving our way into the turn of the century? You guessed it,
gimmicks, steroids, and ploys to gain the loyalty back of the fan
base. Instead of having faith that good, honest, all American baseball
would rebound on it’s own. Mr Selig took the bull by the horns and
sold it, sold it hard and fast in any way he could to get the American
public to give the game another try. This blitz did generate a lot of
new fans, but it did a lot of the opposite as well, it made baseball
even more what it didn’t need to be. A business. It killed baseball
cards by flooding the market with so many different types and ways to
collect it was not special anymore. It took a simple seat and a hot
dog experience and turned it into a complicated media frenzy. Most
importantly it turned baseball into a higher end more civilized and
more expensive game for the players and the fans. The only fans who
truly go to games like they used to are the ones of Cubs and they do it now more out of tradition for the city than they do out of love of the game.
2012 Bud Selig is set to retire (it was supposed to be this year, but
due to PED he decided that it was a good idea to stick around and clean
up his mess) I hope the one that follows in his footsteps put a little
more distance between the game and it’s money. Some how, some way as
baseball is bigger than football or basketball. It has larger
responsiblities than both of them combined. It is our nations past
time, that’s why we have people who represent it in DC, and why we are
held to review by Congress. It’s simply put, more important to get
this game back to being pure and good than it is for it to be a billion