The way I remember it, the Cincinnati Reds have always been a part of my life. Growing up in Northern Kentucky, the summers annually revolved around being a Reds fan. Whether it be listening to Marty and Joe, squabbling with my Dad and brothers over what moves should or shouldn’t have been made by the manager or spending a night at the ballpark, the Reds were a constant throughout my childhood and teenage years.
The team would become even more of a presence in my life during my early adult years. While in college I secured a part-time job working as a member of the grounds crew for the Reds, a position I held for nine seasons. For nearly a decade, I was fortunate to be at field level for some great games and at sometimes fingertips-length with some of my idols. I’ve witnessed Ken Griffey Jr. chasing history, going after his 500th and 600th career home runs. I’ve been able to meet seven of the great eight from the Big Red Machine, minus Cesar Geronimo. I even made sure I was the last person to lay down the chalk lines at Cinergy/Riverfront Stadium and the first to do so at Great American Ballpark. I’ve seen the debuts of Homer Bailey, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Adam Dunn. I’ve also gotten to see the curtain calls for Barry Larkin, Sean Casey and Riverfront Stadium.
Two years ago, I moved away from the Cincinnati area for the first time in my life, but I’ve held strong to my Reds fandom (as my fiancée can attest), following each and every game through MLB.TV and making as many trips back home to GABP as possible. As frustrating as it is sometimes, I still love being a Reds fan.
The sport of baseball requires a certain patience. A season plays out over 162 games, nearly seven months of what can at times be painstaking aggravation For all of the nights of going 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position, there are those days where being a Reds fan is just….Wow! These are the little moments that drive us to loyalty. It might be a game you attended as a child, the debut of a promising prospect you’ve heard about for years or even just the memory of sitting in the moondeck on a warm August night. Below, in no particular order, are my top-10 “Just….Wow” moments of being a Cincinnati Reds fan. Feel free to discuss yours in the comments section below.
-Adam Dunn Walk-Off Grand Slam -June 30, 2006
For some reason I remember this game like it was yesterday. Well, I remember the last inning like it was yesterday. The Reds were putting together one of their patented seasons of starting out hot, before floundering late and entered the game seven games over .500 in first place at the end of June. After putting up zeros for the first seven innings, the Reds trailed 7-0 going into the bottom of the eighth. The offense put up a four-spot that inning, but after giving up another run in the top of the ninth, trailed 8-4 entering the final frame. The Reds pushed across a run to make it 8-5, but the game still seemed out of reach with one-man on (Brandon Phillips) and two outs. Then, Bob Wickman couldn’t find the zone, walking the fearsome offensive duo of Ryan Freel and Felipe Lopez to load the bases. Dunn ripped the next pitch over the right field wall capping an improbable comeback.
-1990 World Series Game Two Victory
There were a few different moments from the only world championship season of my lifetime that I was thinking about, but this stuck out above all the rest. With apologies to Glenn Braggs’ NLCS game-saving catch of Carmelo Martinez’s home run. I wasn’t at the stadium, but the video and Nuxie’s call is burnt into my memory forever. An overmatched Joe Oliver reaching to hit the outside pitch, Umpire Randy Marsh’s fair call, and Billy Bates, an improbable inclusion on the Reds’ postseason roster hustling around third for the victory.
-The Return of Prime Time – May 1, 2001
This one may not stick out to many, but it was a memorable moment for me. After four years out of baseball, the Reds surprisingly signed NFL superstar Deion Sanders and added him to the roster by the time May rolled around. In his first game back, Sanders sparked the Reds to a victory over the Dodgers going 3-for-3 with a home run and a stolen base. It wasn’t as dramatic as some of the other moments on this list, but it was a day that I’ll remember because of the buzz a personality like Deion left around the stadium.
-The Arrival of Ken Griffey Jr. - Feb. 10, 2000
It was a cold, blustery evening in Cincinnati on Feb. 10th 2000, but that didn’t matter, the Reds now had the greatest player in baseball on their roster. Ken Griffey Jr. had been traded to his hometown team from the Mariners and I was among a crowd of hundreds waiting for The Kid to arrive at Lunken. We waited, waited and waited some more, eventually Griffey arrived and those waiting caught a glimpse as he was ushered out in Carl Lindner’s Rolls Royce.
-The Old Lefthander’s Send-off
This Reds memory tugs at my heart strings more than any. Soon after Nuxhall, arguably the most iconic sports figure in the city of Cincinnati, passed away, the showing of support by the Cincinnati community was both overwhelming and uplifting. The touching messages posted on Cincinnati.com message boards measured in the thousands and the seemingly never-ending line at his funeral showed what Nuxhall really meant to the entire tri-state region.
-Jose Rijo’s Final Start
This is one of my favorites, because Rijo was one of my favorites. After being out of basesball for six years, Rijo made a miraculous comeback towards the end of 2001 and returned to pitch 31 games in 2002. It was the last season at Riverfront/Cinergy Field and Rijo appeared in 31 games, mostly out of the bullpen. As the season grew closer to the finale, Rijo began politicking for the chance to start the final game and the Reds abided. Although he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, the reception Rijo got from the home crowd was one of the warmest I can remember.
-Phillies 1, Reds 0 – July 8, 1988
Not sure why this game sticks out. It is one of the first games I remember attending, at least vividly. Being only seven years old, I did have to look up the exact date. I was sitting with my father in the upper red seats. It was hot, but a nice night. I remember Jose Rijo was dominant. He went 7 2/3 innings, giving up just three hits, one of them a solo shot that just eeked over the centerfield wall by light-hitting Phillies lead-off man Milt Thompson. As a seven-year old, when there isn’t much to dislike, I despised Milt Thompson, at least for a summer.
-Jay Bruce Clincher – Sept. 28, 2010
After being a member of the Reds grounds crew for nine years, 2010 was my first year away from the team on a day-by-day basis. So what do they do? Provide probably the most memorable season of my lifetime. I was watching from Chicago when Bruce connected on his walk-off winner and even though I was 300 miles away, the excitement I felt was equal to these guys, sitting just feet away when it happened.
-Mark Lewis’ Game 3 Grand Slam
This moment sticks out the most, because I shared it with my Dad and two brothers as we were in the red seats to witness it all. The Reds were up 3-1 they had just knocked Hideo Nomo out of the game in the sixth inning and Hamilton native Mark Lewis, pinch-hitting for Jeff Branson, connected on a grand slam to lock up the victory for the Reds, sweeping the Dodgers. Mayhem broke loose in the nose-bleeds and the brooms came out.
-Reds 4, Astros 1 – Sept. 28, 1999
This game stuck out as the high point for me during what was a tremendously heartbreaking season. The young upstart Reds finished off Houston behind a fine pitching performance from Pete Harnisch, who went eight innings, giving up four hits and one run notching his 15th victory of the season. The game was the sixth straight victory for the Reds and put them one game up on the Astros with just three remaining. With the Reds en route to face a struggling Milwaukee team and the Astros heading home to face the Dodgers, I remember thinking all they have to do is win two of three and they are in the playoffs. Three days and a long rain delay later, the Reds had to squeak by the Brewers just to make it to a one-game playoff against the Mets, where Al Leiter became every Reds fan’s worse enemy.