Reds 2000 debut brings back memories

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2000

It was like stepping back in time last week when the Cincinnati Reds opened the 2000 National League Baseball season.

Saturday, April 08, 2000

It was like stepping back in time last week when the Cincinnati Reds opened the 2000 National League Baseball season.

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When Ken Griffey Jr. took his first bow for the cheering, applauding crowd, memories came back vividly for many of us as we thought about the Reds’ glory days of the 1970s when the Big Red Machine was in full force.

Ken Griffey Sr., who had a unique vantage point from the Reds’ dugout, wasn’t the only person in the collective crowd who had a tear in his eye when Junior’s name was announced over the loudspeaker.

Whether they win or lose, the Cincinnati Reds are a wonderful part of our heritage in Southern Ohio.

Younger folks might not remember Crosley Field, but most of us in adulthood can recall attending games at the old open-air field. Those games were a treat to be remembered for a lifetime. Greats like Joe Nuxhall, Ted Kluzewski and Gus Bell were our heroes, and their sheer love of the game was far afield from today’s free agents and million-dollar babies.

One of my prize possessions as a youngster was a miniature bat, purchased by my father for me during an afternoon doubleheader at Crosley Field, with an engraved signature by Gus Bell.

As a young adult, I watched Crosley Field bulldozed into oblivion as Riverfront Stadium lit up along the Ohio River and drew crowds to fill the stands that seemed to reach up to the sky.

One of my most poignant memories is a season in the 1970s when Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Sr., Tony Perez and Johnny Bench were in their playing prime. I was working at the newspaper in nearby Hamilton, and I was fortunate enough to have season tickets in the covered seats behind home plate.

A woman and two small children had season tickets directly in front of me, and as fate would have it, that woman was Mrs. Ken Griffey Sr.

Mrs. Griffey Sr. always arrived early to every game ­ no getting caught waiting for an elevator like what happened prior to last week’s opening day ­ and she always was dressed impeccably.

She would sit down, placing a child at each side of her and admonish them to "sit still and watch the game."

"Junior," as sportscasters call him today, was intense even as a child. He wore his Cincinnati Reds baseball cap proudly and was on the edge of his seat, especially when his father would come to the plate.

There was an air of baseball potential about Ken Griffey Jr. who has blossomed into one of today’s most respected players.

Of course, his first few times at bat last week weren’t that fruitful, but don’t count him out. Junior may just be what the Reds need to rev up the motor again on a millennium-style Big Red Machine.

Those of us who have been faithful through losing seasons, ownership changes and even a strike all are smiling that perhaps our team’s day in the sun has come again.

Play ball!

Jennifer Allen is publisher of The Ironton Tribune.