By Mark Carpenter –
Inspiration this week came on the drive home down 41 on Sunday afternoon, after putting in a weekend afternoon at the office. On the Extra Innings show on the radio after the Reds game, the topic was your “first visit to a big league ball park”, which of course got me to thinking about my own experiences and my own “first time”, at the ball park.
All I can tell you is that my first major league baseball game came in the late 1960s at Crosley Field, but I have no clue when it was. I asked my parents last night as they obviously would have taken me, and they couldn’t recall either. All I can remember about Crosley Field is parking at Union Terminal and then walking past the Kenner Toy building to get there and that is where the memory ends. I racked my overworked brain all the way home on Sunday but just couldn’t pull out anything of the inside or a game at Crosley Field, so I moved a step forward.
I do remember my first game at the then “new” palace known as Riverfront Stadium, because it was a pretty big game, the 1970 All-Star Game. Funny how that worked out because just the night before my son had been asking me how many Hall of Famers from other teams I had seen play and the first thing that came to my mind was how many were on that field in 1970, 21 to be precise. That’s pretty impressive and something that is very doubtful to happen in this age of baseball. I also went to a lot of what they called “Kid Glove” games. Do they still even do that? Our Knothole teams would sell tickets to a game between the Reds and Detroit Tigers and not only get to go to the game but also ended up with some new equipment courtesy of the Reds and their cooperation with Knothole.
I miss the old ball parks. We made a trip in my youth to the old Fulton County Stadium to catch a Reds-Braves series. How many of you remember Chief Noc-A-Homa? Better not try putting a poster of him up in the Peebles gym! We also made a trip to the Astrodome, which was definitely one of the wonders of the world then. I remember more than anything the scoreboard and all its antics when the Astros did something good, like Jimmy Wynn hitting one a country mile. “The Toy Cannon.”
My dream one day would be to take my son and make one of those trips where you go to a game in every major league park, but Mr. Lottery is going to have to shine down on me for that one to happen any time soon. We already knocked Citi Field off the list a few years ago, of course.
The first time in Great American Ball Park was for some sort of exhibition game before they played any regular season games there, and I think they played the Indians. Now, going to GABP has kind of become old hat. It’s a nice little place for a ball game, but I still miss the red, green, and blue seats, and the Astro Turf bounces, and the Big Red Machine.
Like many of you, my memories of Riverfront Stadium are not limited to baseball. Heck, I saw Eddie Money, Steve Miller, and the Eagles there in 1977, sitting in the lower level red seats. Remember those? I traveled many a roller coaster ride at Riverfront with the Cincinnati Bengals, first going to games as the tag-along with a good friend and his parents, then owning my own season tickets for over 25 years, before they got out of my price range. Now, I just sit in the press box, which isn’t the same, but the price is right.
The tragedy in Orlando last weekend again makes you think about how many crowded stadiums you have been in and wonder whether you were ever in any danger. The world continues to be crazy and I believe it is our memories of the wonderful days gone by that help us keep our sanity. So on your next drive down 41, get your brain in motion and think, do you remember your first time…at the ball park?