Friday, September 27, 2002

From The Brain of the Giant Head

A Farewell to Sneaking from the Red to the Blue

Last weekend I said goodbye with thousands of others to one of the most memorable, most colorful and ugliest baseball stadiums to ever grace our great nation. The artist formerly known as Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati held it’s final games this past weekend and I had a chance to waive farewell from the blue seats where I sneaked down to from the red. And on Monday night, I got to see the Big Red Machine play one last time. Bench, Griffey, Morgan, Perez, Concepcion, Foster, Geronamo and of course, Charlie Hustle himself, Pete Rose. I even got a Pete Rose Bobblehead.

So many great memories will be locked away forever with the closing of the stadium that looked more like an ashtray than a baseball field. All I need to say is 4192 to Cincinnatians and everyone knows what I am talking about -- the price of two hot dogs and a beer. Or I could mention the time Lou Pinella challenged the first base umpire to a Frisbee contest and tossed the first base bag out in right field. Pinella won. His prize: an ejection.

While most kids my age weren’t alive when The Big Red Machine held center stage, we did witness the resurgence in 1990 with the Wire-to-Wire team that swept the powerful Oakland A’s. Eric ‘The Red’ Davis was every young boy’s hero. Barry ‘Hometown’ Larkin became the greatest shortstop of our generation. And I sported the Chris Sabo goggles game in and game out, even though I didn’t need glasses. And as much as you try to deny it, I know you owned a pair of Sabo Goggles too. You probably still wear them late at night when no one is around.

These are the heroes that make Riverfront memorable -- that and the one-inch of urine on the bathroom floors.

My greatest memory at Riverfront was my 9th birthday. My dad took me down for a game. We parked in Indiana, as many people have to with the lack of downtown parking, and hustled over to the park -- well, I hustled as my Dad strolled, but I had to because his legs were twice as long as mine. It was a 0-0 game in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and no one on. Paul ‘I kick the ball to the shortstop’ O’Neill came to the plate, and with two strikes hit a ball (that still hasn’t landed) over the right field fence to give the Reds a 1-0 win. The fireworks exploded immediately. And as my Dad and I left the ballpark, I found a $5 bill on the ground, which my father made me give him to reimburse him for my ticket. It was the greatest birthday of my life.

I’d try to pick another favorite moment, but it’s hard. They are all my favorite moments. I was at game two of the World Series when Joe ‘I have a mullet’ Oliver had the game-winning hit in the 10th. I was there when Norm ‘Nasty Boy’ Charlton crashed into Mike Scioscia at home plate. I was there the day before Tom ‘My Arm Fell Off’ Browning pitched his Perfect Game (DAMN!). And I was there the day they turned off the lights for the last time.

It’s hard to imagine the Cincinnati Skyline without the round bowl out front, but by next spring Cinergy/Riverfront Field will be no more. On December 29th of this year, the Stadium will come falling down by way of the biggest implosion in Cincinnati history. They Stadium that took 4 years to build will evaporate in 38 seconds. It cost $3 million to erect. Once you stop laughing over me using the word ‘erect,’ step back for a second and realize that it will take $25 million to knock it down. The home of our memories may disappear, but the heart will always be alive, especially each time we pay 7 bucks for peanuts.

And while I’m sure Major League Baseball will fine me a million bucks for mentioning the banished Pete Rose’s name at the beginning of this column, I’m sure I can sell his bobblehead on eBay and still walk away with a profit.

We’ll miss you Riverfront -- sort of.

I’d like to give a shout out to Lu and Derek. Thanks for reading my column. (And for not throwing garbage at me when you met me in person.) Tell your friends. If you keep on reading I’ll keep on writing. I have plenty of info stored in this Giant Head of mine and I’m happy to share it. --The Brain