Reds History

Baseball Is Life: Five Things We Miss About Riverfront Stadium

Largely Unidentifiable Concession Stand Offerings:  A trip to a current Reds game means that an out of town guest may sample the vast majority of the unique cuisine Cincinnati has to offer without leaving Great American Ball Park. Lame. This is sheer laziness on the part of your guest.

In my day, we had one form of food to choose from at a ballgame, and one alone: Weird hamburgers, odd-colored hot dogs, and flavorless soft serve from General Mass Production Cuisines, Inc. The truly refined and ambitious traveler appreciated such an adventurous meal.

People have no idea of what’s good anymore.

An Orderly Existence: Riverfront Stadium was a giant circle capable of seating about 40,000 people. This made for a towering fan experience when the game was the likes of one in the last week of the season in 1984, when it was you and four other people seeking the wonder of making an extremely echoey flushing noise in a cavernous bathroom. It was one big concrete hug.

The giant capacity rightly tested the faithfulness of the fans. My parents attended a Bengals game when my mother was seven months pregnant with my sister. The angle of the way-up-there red seats made for precarious walking through the row, but my father, in his wisdom, knew that this unborn child and his mate must be made ready for the rigors of a Cincinnati fandom.

This was a joy only fans of the Reds knew…as long as they never traveled to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta, St. Louis, Houston, New York, Washington DC, or Philadelphia. Outside of the product on the field, there was absolutely nothing to distinguish Riverfront from virtually every single one of their competitors. It was useful to know that if you were supporting the Reds in Atlanta, you would, much like a Catholic attending Mass in a foreign nation, know exactly what the traffic patterns were. Very comforting.

Useful Lessons in Thermodynamics: As a schoolteacher, my mother was granted an early peek at the then-under construction Riverfront. The Astroturf was in the process of its grand, green unfurling. Beneath it, she told me once, was blacktop.

“It looked like a parking lot,” she said. “I remember thinking that it would probably be pretty hot during games.” Shortsighted woman! Such was the proving furnace that produced the greatness of the Big Red Machine. Our young 2017 Reds are not felled by starters who fail to reach the fourth inning; no, it is this business of troublesome actual grass. They are soft, now, with untested sweat glands.

Free Pop Flavoring: These kids today with their smartphone tickets and their hoverboards and their polio vaccinations and their cup holders have been cruelly exempted from the exotic culinary treat that was a Pepsi which had spent the last five innings shoved under your seat. Reaching between your legs to remain hydrated builds character. There was none of this dandified business of having a beer mere inches from one’s hand.

And that wasn’t all. The longer your wax chalice remained on the concrete, the more interesting would become your floating collection of bits of rubber, gum, peanut shells, shoe detritus, and any number of things which makes baseball so special. There is no telling how weak my immune system would be were I raised with a baseball team which provided cupholders.

That stadium saved lives.

Valuable Life Lessons About Sharing: The Reds’ home was the Bengals’ home. The Bengals’ home was the Reds’ home. In the late summer months, this made for faint slashes of a gridiron across the green expanse of the outfield, and a bizarre circle where the pitcher’s mound was. This made for a jewel of an experience for both sports in most seasons, one which said, “We have no idea which sport is actually holding forth right now, but we’re pretty sure they’re not going to make it out of the offseason.”

Made us men and women, my friends.

25 thoughts on “Baseball Is Life: Five Things We Miss About Riverfront Stadium

  1. Can I say something good about the stadium? In the last seasons, when the outfield was torn out, the Bengals had moved, and the grass was real, it was a pretty attractive stadium. Also, three world titles. I don’t think it’s the same going to the new place yet.

  2. I’d add one more to your fine list MBE: A Glimps of the Future. Until I made my first pilgrimage to Riverfront to see my beloved Reds in person (thereby disappointing an entire New England fan base devoted almost exclusively to their Red Sox with the exception of those backwards Yankee treasoners down in the murky corners of Connecticut) I had seen only the cozy colonial Fenway home of Boston baseball, still somehow hosting games since before Abner Doubleday was Abner Singleday. This new space rocket of a stadium was George Jetson and George Foster all rolled into one, a modern miracle after the George Washington experience of the Green Monster. This was what a budding engineer should aspire to, this was the future of baseball and life. This was Hope itself in a continuous concrete circle symbolizing the eternity of man’s every aspiration. Plus unlike our current plodding rebuilding years saved only by Hamilton’s feet, Chapman’s arm and Votto’s bat, you could imagine that the Big Red Machine might soon just go ahead and win EVERY World Series. Oh to be 12 again and seeing into the future! Thank you for this stroll down Cincinnati memory lane!

  3. You did not include the class/ caste system experience gained from we Red seaters being denied access to the Blues and infield Greens even later on in games when they were vacant and there were few if any nobles around who might have actually had to touch shoulders with us. Other than this right on.

    My family could afford outfield Green seats but after a couple of experiences with them, we realized the lower Red seats between first and third base were actually better seats than any of the “Greenies” not similarly situated. And on fan appreciation day, we could still boo when all the good prizes seemed to end up going to people in the Blue, Green and Yellow seats.

    • Yes! I also remember that in order to get autographs for the players you had to get a special pass for the blue seats, and could only remain there for a certain time before the game started, and then had to move back to where you originally were supposed to sit on your ticket.

    • It was our nightly goal to gain access to the blues. We were continually thwarted by the stalwart ushers. May God have mercy on their souls.

      • One season the daughter of a business associate of my dad’s was dating a guy who’s family owned business had eight Blues right behind home plate in the first 5 rows or so.
        Several times when the seats were about to go unused we got a last minute call to join in on a run to the game. Once the authorities were convinced of our bona fides, it was a totally different experience, almost like being back in lower realms of old Crosley Field. But I still booed all the blue seat winners at Fan Appreciation Day when I was up in the Reds.

  4. You always make me smile. I loved going to Riverfront. I saw a lot of baseball in the seventies and 80’s there and had great memories. Probably the best was going to my only Bengals Game in December. against Pittsburgh. The actual temperature that day was like -3. We sat the next to last row from the top of the stadium. If memory serves me well, and sometimes it doesn’t) Kenny Anderson led the Bengals to victory and we all got frostbite. What a great Day.

    • I hate to think how that cold day must have felt. In 1979, I copped a seat late to the Reds first playoff game in the LCS series versus the Pirates. The seat itself was great, it was a folding chair set down in the normal standing room area immediately behind the last row of green seats behind the Reds dugout. However an early October cold spell had descended upon Cincy and the conditions were brutal even though I had dressed well (I thought) in typical mid to late football season apparel,

  5. Mary Beth, you bring back some memories. I am so old, my preteen memories were of Crosley Field. When I was ten or eleven, a good pitcher named Brooks Lawrence was having a career year. Going into the game my dad and I attended, Lawrence was 13 -0.Unfortunatly, he gave up a three run dinger in the 8th inning and lost 4-3. The food was good (what eleven year old doesn’t love hot dogs). The unique thing I remember about Crosley field was that the warning track sloped up to the wall, to warn outfielders of the approaching wall. It probably saved some injuries. I attended Crosley field several times, but the night Lawrence had his first loss is the game I remember.

  6. Riverfront Stadium was easily my favorite place on earth. I now work with some of the world’s most prestigious architectural/design firms & I still maintain Riverfront was the man’s greatest architectural feat. Kidding about that extreme of course, but also kind of/not really. I loved everything about that place. The closest I ever lived to Riverfront was Chicago, but travelled there regularly from 1982 through 2002. I saw Tom Browning’s Perfect Game, Teared up when Junior trotted out to the first base line on Opening Day 2000, Watched Eric Davis bank one off the Red Seat facade in left to join the 30/30 club, I was there when Kevin Mitchell “hit for the rainbow” & I once made phone press credentials so I could ‘interview’ Eric Davis when he came in home ’96. I was there for 4 home openers & sobbed when it fell down in front of me December 29, 2002.

  7. One time I sat in the front row of the green seats in straightaway center field. The arc of the seats and the outfield wall actually nearly met at that point, so that we could lean over the railing and look straight down at the field!

    I was always there as a fan — for baseball games. But I also saw my beloved Colts play there a couple times. It was strange being there as the “enemy.”

    • I sat in those seats once too, directly behind Eric Davis. As a 11-year-old alongside my 13-year-old brother, our singular task that day was to get Davis to turn around and wave at us. I don’t think he ever did, but it was joyous nonetheless.

  8. 33 seasons at Riverfront:
    5 World Series
    2 AFC championship games
    8 MLB playoff years
    1 Play in Game
    4192 Rose
    714 Aaron
    Freezer Bowl

    Over that time frame, perhaps only Three Rivers had more big games ( Steelers dynasty) amongst the cookie cutters?

    Not a bad run

  9. From opening in 1970 until 2000 Riverfront seated over 52,000 for baseball.
    My first game was Reds versus the Cubs on a summer Saturday in 1972. There were over 37,000 at that game, and plenty of room for another 15,000 more.
    It was a five hour trip from the coalfields of WV.

  10. 1977 (I think?)…Reds were down 2 to the Phillies with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and my dad and friend were filing out and in the tunnel but I had to watch the last out! Suddenly the Reds got a guy on and Dan Driessen hit a game tying inside the park HR off the wall in left center! People came rushing back to their seats and the crowd hadn’t quieted yet when Bench hit the game winning HR off Tug McGraw! I still remember Mike Schmidt kicking 3rd base!

  11. I remember going to the one-game playoff loss the Mets in 1999. The Reds had a scoreboard that obstructed the view of at least half the seats in center-field red seats, and they never sold enough tickets to put anyone back there… except that day. My friend and I went to buy tickets as soon as our classes at Thomas More College were over, and that was all that was left. How long was that scoreboard there? Did it disappear during Bengals games? Surely people sat there for football games all the time!

    Also, google some images and look at the concrete footprint of that place! We’ve come a long way.

  12. Good and bad memories of Riverfront. I saw my first ever game there, as a 4-year old. I don’t remember it at all but my parents saved the tickets. I remember walking up a lot in my twenties and even early 30s and getting “Top 6” tickets for something like $4 each, always sitting behind the plate. I remember sitting in the first row of the lower-red-seats and Jeff Bagwell hitting a foul-ball right up to me. I also remember sitting in good seats behind 1B on a really hot day in July and being miserable, hot and in pain wearing a huge plaster cast on my recently broken right-arm, as an 8-year-old.

  13. saw a lot of great stuff here. remember my friend and i bought half season tickets right after we got our first jobs out of college. lower reds… just past third base. could not afford them but felt pretty grown up. forgot to tell my future wife that she was going to a doubleheader against the phillies in 81.
    saw bench hit the playoff home run against the pirates
    standing room against the red sox in 75
    seats for the yankees in 76. was removed from my seats for screaming at billy martin at seats provided for my mom and myself by vern benson… an old reds coach my mom grew up with. needless to say my mom was not pleased.
    played a lot of tennis with pete and his attorney at eastern hills indoor in the offseason early friday mornings. always had a supply of tickets when needed during college years.
    saw the freezer bowl in 1982. marveled at how nonchalant isaac curtis dropped the ball over his shoulder after a touchdown.
    hated the steelers… smart. yelled for jack thompson to replace ken anderson… not so smart
    finally… always ate at the rib barn on gano alley late after games…. especially because that is where opposing teams ate at. dodgers especially. hated the dodgers.
    lots of great memories before i moved away

  14. Riding up the escalator on our way to Three Rows From the Top in the Reds during the ’79 playoffs (we had no chance, of course, because after all, They Were Fa-mi-ly!). Amazing my Dad as he watched his 8-year-old son mow down his first SuperDog all by himself. Cheering through the popcorn-box-that-folded-out-into-a-megaphone (remember those?) and lining the concrete walls on the outer concourse to watch post-game fireworks. Riverfront. *sigh*

      • Mine too! But you know what, I didn’t include it because GABP has its own modern version., albeit thinner. And I learned that it has a…technical name which I forget. It’s placed at certain joints in the construction to allow for expansion and contraction of the concrete in the cold and heat. I used to stand my school groups on it and say, “This is the most fun you will have in this ballpark.”

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