Remembering the ‘Big Red Machine’Published 10:43am Wednesday, December 26, 2012
When the memories of growing up in Ironton during the glory days of the “Big Red Machine” flooded his mind like the waters of the Ohio River rising after a storm, Rich Cardwell knew what his first novel would be.
“Little Boys Enthralled by the Big Red Machine,” recounts Cardwell’s childhood in 1970s Ironton as the Cincinnati Reds were establishing themselves as one of the best teams recognized in professional baseball.
“I have great memories of growing up in Ironton,” Cardwell said. “The book is positive to my hometown and sports. With all the scandals, bad stuff and focus on money in society today, I choose to remember a much simpler, quieter time. I still think it is possible for families to turn off the TV and go outside together.”
Those values are something Cardwell said he learned from his life in a small town, values he seeks to pass down to his own children and others through his book. He said he wants “Little Boys Enthralled” to be a book fathers, both young and old, could read and remember their own memories of the Big Red Machine.
“It is my hope they will take these memories, whether their own or those supplied from their fathers, and pass them to the next generation so we all remember one of the greatest teams in baseball history,” Cardwell said.
Cardwell graduated from Ironton High School is 1981. He left for Columbus to attend college and received his law degree from Capital University Law School. He has practiced construction law in Columbus, Cincinnati and Nashville, Tenn.
He said during his time in Cincinnati the gears really started turning for his book.
“I would go around the city with one of my buddies and would find all these Big Red Machine Sports Illustrateds and it would take me for a trip down memory lane,” Cardwell said. “I remember being in my garage overlooking the Ohio River again, listening to Marty Brennaman and having flashbacks of Ironton.”
Cardwell said he had always wanted to be an author and looked up to John Grisham, a fellow lawyer turned author. He said he may not rise to the fame of Grisham, but feels he is filling an important void in sports literature.
“During my research I could not find many books written from the fan’s perspective — especially from a young boy’s,” Cardwell said. “I think this is an untapped niche and I hope my book is successful and other organizations see books like this one worth investing in.”
But pioneering a niche comes with a price — and for Cardwell the price was publishing his own novel. He said it was his choice in the end, and he feels it was the right one.
“The reason I self-published my book is that I wanted total control over its content and timing,” Cardwell said. “Authors in most traditional book publishing deals lose ultimate control over their product and the timelines are very slow. We did have a learning curve with the Amazon.com CreateSpace book process and technology but once we learned how to use the book interior and exterior templates we were fine.”
“Little Boys Enthralled” has sold dozens of copies, three of which are shelved in the libraries of Ironton Elementary, Middle and High Schools. Dean Nance, Ironton City Schools superintendent, said it is an honor to play a part in bringing these books back home to their beginning.
“Rich has been fantastic,” said Nance. “He stays in contact and is proud to be from Ironton. We have so many successful Ironton graduates and we take pride in showcasing their work. We have a copy of his books in each of our school libraries to provide a role model for kids today.”
Cardwell and Nance also worked together during the construction of the new Ironton school buildings. Nance said when he needed someone to consult with, he knew the Ironton High School graduate and construction lawyer was the one to call.
“When you have a construction contract you deal with a great deal of paperwork, and Rich was a perfect fit for us,” Nance said. “He wanted to help maintain the history of Ironton and look out for the taxpayers dollars.”
Cardwell said he may have moved from Ironton, but the memories have never left him and he was happy to help out the school district that sent him out into the world prepared for success.
His new home is in Franklin, Ky., just outside of Nashville, Tenn. Cardwell says Franklin is very similar to Ironton and he feels it is also a good place to raise a family. However, he still makes it home from time to time.
“One of my sisters, Anita, still lives in the Tri-State area in Wheelersburg, Ohio, just down the road,” Cardwell said. “Given that all of us five siblings grew up in Ironton and graduated from Ironton High School at various times, we try to hold an annual family reunion somewhere close to Ironton either in the summer or fall.”
Cardwell said his family also plans to come back to Ironton every year when possible to see the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade and afterward go to Cincinnati to see a Reds game.