[This is the second installment of John’s monthly columns on the 1999 Reds – a team celebrating its 20th anniversary this season. The first column “The Opening Day Meltdown” can be found here.]
On May 14, 1999, the San Diego Padres defeated the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 5-2 in front of a crowd of a little over 20,000 fans at Riverfront Stadium.
The Reds record fell to 14-18. Denny Neagle took the loss and he was winless (0-3) on the year. Slugger Greg Vaughn’s batting average dipped to .208 but he was in good company. Barry Larkin was at .236 and Dmitri Young was struggling with a .191 average.
Only Sean Casey, who went 4 for 4 that night, was on fire with a .393 batting average. Pokey Reese was at .308 but more often than not, the Reds were struggling on offense, which was supposed to be the strength of this team as it always seems to be with Cincinnati.
Sound familiar, Reds fans, to our current plight?
But the Reds bounced back to knock off the Padres in the final two games of the series, first behind a journeyman pitcher named Steve Parris. Casey’s two-run triple led to the win but Parris pitched 6 and 1/3 innings for the win and rookie Scott Wlliamson closed the deal with a spotless effort for a save. Brett Tomko then pitched his best game of the year in a 3-0 Reds win with Williamson saving another game.
And then the Reds traveled to Denver, Colorado to play at Coors Filed in a park notorious for offensive games. And the Reds modestly won their third straight game with a 7-2 victory over the Rockies. Casey and Vaughn both hammered two-run homers and Pete Harnisch (3-4) got the win pitching into the 9th inning before lefty reliever Dennys Reyes struck out Todd Helton and Neifi Perez to get a save.
And then, the next night it happened.
At 18-18, the ’99 Reds finally climbed over the .500 mark with an incredible win. It was a win for the ages. It was one of the best offensive performances in Cincinnati Reds history.
And it was a turning point for this Reds team– after this win at Coors Field, the Reds had a swagger, an arrogance, a personality that matched their uniforms (black, white, red pinstripes) and their basic approach to the game.
In front of 41,044 fans at Coors Field on May 19, 1999, the Reds hammered the Rockies by the score of 24-12 [boxscore]. Cincinnati bludgeoned seven Colorado pitchers for 28 hits and six home runs.
Sean Casey led the attack with 7 plate appearances and was 4 for 4 with two homers and three walks, scoring five runs. Jeffrey Hammonds walloped three home runs and was 4 for 6 on the night, knocking in five runs.
The Reds gave Neagle a 6-0 lead going into the home first inning but the Rockies tied it up 6-6 after just two innings, knocking out Neagle in the second inning.. Tied 7-7 after three innings, the Reds scored 17 runs in the next four innings. Steve Parris got the win, despite giving up three runs in his three innings of work. Gabe White allowed three more runs in the 6th inning but then Ron Villone came in and tossed three shutout innings for the save.
For sure, it was a Coors Field-type of game. Runs come easy there. But the 24-12 rout was, well, impressive.
The ’99 Reds were on their way to making it an exciting season for Reds fans.
Next Month: The Reds make their move to challenge for first place against Houston and the last hurrah for Riverfront Stadium.
Photo of Riverfront Stadium by Blake Bolinger. It was slightly modified to fit the site. You can see the license for the photo here.