Opening Day starter Scott Feldman was booed 10 minutes after the game started on Monday at Great American Ballpark. For those of you in attendance that day, I understand your frustration. When Cincinnati manager Bryan Price named Feldman as the starter on that sacred day, I instantly sank into a depression.
Nothing personal against Feldman, but you go with your best. And he isn’t the Reds best. Brandon Finnegan should have gotten that start. Or Amir Garrett. Or Rookie Davis.
I would have vented more against Price than Feldman, since he ultimately made that decision.
But there was one time–just once– I booed a Reds player. And this article is to atone for that.
It happened during the 1983 season, so it came out of frustration. The Reds finished last in 1982, were heading for another last place finish in 1983 and Russ Nixon was the Cincinnati Reds manager. Times were hard.
One of the Reds pitchers on that 1983 team was Bruce Berenyi. Bruce came up to the Reds during the 1980 season and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year Award voting in 1981. That season, he finished with a 9-6 record and an ERA of 3.50 and I looked at Berenyi as a lock for a #3 or #4 starter for Cincinnati for years to come. He was 6’3” tall, a power throwing righthander and was 26 years old. He had good stuff and was a presence on the mound. His biggest problem in ’81 was control– he walked 77 hitters in 126 innings of work.
But the Reds went from baseball’s best record in 1981 to an unmitigated disaster in 1982. They had the National League’s worst offense. Bruce Berenyi finished with an 9-18 record, which was incredibly misleading. Those who favor eliminating the “win” as an official statistic should look no further than Berenyi. He had a very respectable earned run average (3.36) pitched 222 innings, allowing 208 hits while striking out 157 and walking 96.
He was one of three Reds starters who were victimized by their team. Mario Soto (14-13) and Frank Pastore (8-13) also pitched better than their records would indicate. But that Reds team was 60-102 in 1982. They were truly a bad team and from a record standpoint, the worst in franchise history.
Many times that year Berenyi would go deep into the game, allowing just one or two runs and either lose or get a no-decision. He was the poster child for what a hard-luck pitcher is. The losing and frustration must have got to him too because an article appeared in the Cincinnati Post in which he was critical of Reds fans late in the 1983 season.
His next start after the article appeared was against the San Francisco Giants on September 29, 1983. My buddy and I were two of the 8,067 fans who showed up for that Titanic Struggle at Riverfront Stadium. We both had seen the article and didn’t really appreciate what Berenyi said. His remarks were directed at Reds fans specifically and Cincinnati in general and they were all negative. Other fans had seen that, too. The mood in the blue seats at Riverfront that night wasn’t favorable towards Bruce Berenyi.
And so it was that the Reds trailed 3-2 after four innings that night against the Giants. Berenyi took the mound in the 5th inning but didn’t retire a batter. He gave up a double, issued a walk, gave up a single, and then former Red Joel Youngblood crushed a three-run homer. The only out recorded in that inning was when a Giants runner was gunned out at third base by centerfielder Eddie Milner.
Down 6-2, Nixon had seen enough and walked to the mound to pull Berenyi. His stats on the night weren’t pretty: 4 and 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 6 runs, and two home runs allowed. He probably wasn’t in a good mood as he went to the dugout. Ted Power took over on the mound. Reds fans started to boo as Nixon took the ball from Berenyi.
And I joined in. For the first time in my life. I booed a Cincinnati Reds player.
The Giants went on to win that game 11-7. Milner went 4 for 5 and, for the last time, I saw Johnny Bench at the plate; he collected a pinch hit single that drove in a pair of runs. All of us in our section gave Johnny a standing ovation that night when Gary Redus replaced him as a pinch runner.
Other than that, this game was nothing to write home about. It was another losing effort in a lost cause in a bad rebuild situation. (Sound familiar?) Skeeter Barnes finished the night when he grounded out for the last out of the game.
Berenyi finished the 1983 season with a 9-14 record and his ERA climbed to 3.86. The Reds traded Bruce at the June 15 deadline in 1984 for Jay Tibbs and Eddie Williams and Berenyi was out of baseball after the 1987 season.
I doubt if Bruce Berenyi will ever read this article. But I would like to apologize to him for what I did that night at Riverfront Stadium. He was a Cincinnati Red. He was a competitor. And he was probably just as frustrated as I was and many Reds fans were that night.
I’m sorry Bruce. That was very uncharacteristic of me.
And I’d love to interview you for The Nation.