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Reds’ Hall of Fame & Museum looking to re-open soon


Fans can see the jerseys of former Reds’ greats. (Courtesy of The Cincinnati Reds.com)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

CINCINNATI — History is on hold.
The Cincinnati Reds have a long and storied history and would like to add to it this season. But Major League Baseball, like all other sports, is on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
And waiting for the Reds to give them more work to do is the team’s Hall of Fame and Museum that sits next door to Great American Ball Park.
Hall of Fame and Museum director Rick Walls said a lot of plans are on hold in hopes the facility is allowed to re-open soon.
“We don’t know that yet. The state of Ohio has come down with some new guidelines for establishments as far as museums. Right now, we’re on a list of wait and see. Hopefully, that changes sometime and we’re prepared for when that happens,” said Walls.
“We’re preparing to open our retail portion next week for members to pick up their items. No decision has been made on that yet. We’re going to be ready when we are able to open with all the safety precautions that can be afforded to the staff and to the guests. The goal is to have this museum open to the public at some time this year for sure.”
The museum went through extensive renovations and additions last year as part of the 150th anniversary of the Cincinnati Reds and the start of professional baseball.
Despite having to sit idle the past few months, Walls said the employees are still bubbling with enthusiasm, especially with the re-opening creeping closer and closer to a reality.
“With all the renovations we made last year we were excited about opening up this year. We’re still talking about baseball this year. We hope there will be baseball. Regardless, we think the museum will be open at some time this year and we’ll get a chance to show this place off once again,” said Walls.
The traveling “Shades of Greatness” art exhibit highlighting the history of the Negro Baseball League was open at the museum earlier. But due to the pandemic shutdown, the exhibit from the Negro League Hall of Fame Museum has sat in limbo.
“We’re hoping we can maintain that exhibit as long as we can,” said Walls. “Originally, it was only going to be here until mid-April. However, we’ve arranged for it to be here a little longer and hopefully the fans can see it.
“Outside of that, our focus has been on enhancing what we established last year and improving on some things, adding new elements and adding some new films and just give everyone a chance to view what was new.”
The museum has interactive features that are fan favorites as well as something Walls himself likes.
“To me, the Hall of Fame plaque room where visitors get to select any of the Hall of Famers and bring their story to life on the 360-degree video. People really enjoy that,” said Walls.
The broadcast section of the museum includes a Marty and Joe feature where visitors can sit at a studio desk and feel like they are on TV and record calling a highlight and have the recording emailed to them.
“You can be Marty (Brennaman). You can be Joe Nuxhall,” said Walls. “And you can design your own baseball card exhibit. It gives you three things that you can literally take home from your experience aside from all your memories that you’ll have from just being there.
Walls said the museum is another way to help bridge fans from different generations and “that’s when the magic happens.”
“The museum connects the generations. It pulls those families together. One will remember Joe Morgan, one will remember Tommy Helms, the next Brandon Phillips and then it will be Freddie Galvis. You never know which player you connect with, but we all know that baseball connects with everybody.”
More so than any other sport, baseball has a greater connection with its history as well as player and team statistics. Baseball fans hated the steroid era and the players who abused the drugs to enhance their production, thus skewing the numbers.
And that strong interest and love for history is what makes things like the Hall of Fame Museum so popular and important to fans.
“You need to look backward. It’s important for young fans today to know where you came from,” said Walls “You can’t ignore the people who have built this franchise and that’s players and even fans and administrators and everyone involved. It’s a big, big operation. That’s baseball. That’s the history of baseball, an important part of American society.”
And what a rich history Cincinnati has. There have been dozens of great players to wear a Reds’ uniform who helped win five World Championships that include 1919, 1940, 1975-76 and 1990.
The Reds had a cluster of standouts during the 1970s in the Big Red Machine era with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey Sr., Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Don Gullett, Jack Billingham, Gary Nolan, Clay Carroll, Rawley Eastwick, Will McEnanney.
But Walls said you can look back at the early players like George and Harry Wright to founded the first Reds’ team and players on the 1919 World Championship squad.
“There have been some studs and they’re all in the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Walls. “There are a lot of guys who have had connections who are in the National Hall of Fame and came through Cincinnati during their careers and that’s because we’ve had good scouts and good people developing the players.
“You have to pick the right guys, have the architects putting together a team that could work well together. You need a lot of good parts to make one good team. We’ve had Bob Howsam and Dave Bristol who coached before Sparky (Anderson).”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1990 World Championship team that featured Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Billy Hatcher, Jose Rijo, Chris Sabo, Tom Browning, Joe Oliver, Hal Morris, Todd Benzinger and, of course, the bullpen trio of Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers who were known as The Nasty Boys and for good reason.
“The Reds felt Tim Birtsas and Tim Layana would be a big part of the Reds pitching staff in the 1990s. The Nasty Boys wasn’t going to be two or three people, it was going to be all of them. But it kind of worked its way out that it was those three guys,” said Walls.
One thing the Reds did last season during the 150th anniversary was wearing the 15 or 16 different uniforms from past seasons.
“Every one of them made you feel like ‘wow, it was a long history of this club.’ You kind of felt like you were back in the day watching that game and made you wonder how they played in those baggy uniforms or those button-ups. I like the style. I like the history,” said Walls.
One key date in Reds’ history will be the 85th anniversary of the first Major League Baseball night game held on May 24, 1935, when the Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 at Crosley Field. It was Reds’ owner Powell Crosley, Jr., who led the push with the commissioner to allow night games.
President Franklin Roosevelt threw the light switch from the White House 600 miles away and the Reds played seven night games that season, one every National League team.
Paul Derringer — a founding Reds’ Hall of Fame member in 1958 — was the starting pitcher and the Reds are commemorating the historic night with a Derringer bobblehead this season.
“We had an artifacts collection last year that took us over the top. There were thousands of items that allowed us to create new displays. We changed a lot in and out so that you see something different one time and then the next. It’s allowed us to plan for travel exhibits which I think is the future,” said Walls.
“Online exhibits, travel exhibits, I don’t think you’ll ever get away from the physical artifacts. They’re the ones that tell the story by themselves. You look at a ball, you look at a jersey, you look at cap, what do they tell you? You start to look at the fabric, you look at the material, you look at the logo, you look at the detail on it. It puts you into an era immediately.”
With baseball getting closer to starting this year, fans can only hope the museum opens and the Reds’ Hall of Fame and Museum can begin a new era immediately.