Growing up in Cincinnati, you cannot help but get pulled into baseball – at least in April. I was born in the middle of the Big Red Machine era. The Reds from 1970-1978 have been considered one of the greatest teams assembled in baseball history.
Unfortunately by the early 80s the wheels had fallen off the Big Red Machine. Most of the key parts had moved onto other teams. But still, we were only a few years removed so there was always that hope.
For a boy, going to your first baseball game is a rite of passage. More so than football or basketball. There is something about that first game! I took my son to a minor league game last year. Just wasn’t the same so I still consider him not having been to a real baseball game yet
One evening in April 1983 my dad came home with two blue “things” sticking out of his shirt pocket. I heard him mumble something to my mother, then he said “These are tickets to a Reds game next week – want to go?” Want to go? What kind of question is that to a third grader who has never been to a game! Heck yeah I want to go! The tickets were for Friday night April 22.
The school week drug on for years. I distinctly remember that day at school. My teacher, Mrs. Rudisill was as excited for me as I was. And it was a gorgeous spring day in Cincinnati. Picture perfect for baseball.
It was home. Wait for dad to get home. Then onto I-75 South towards downtown. My dad had this “thing” with finding a meter to park at instead of paying for parking. I never understood until I started driving on my own and realized that paying to park was insane!
Riverfront Stadium was one of the classic 1970s “bowl shaped” stadiums that was built with astroturf and designed to host football and baseball. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Atlanta had very similar venues. I remember walking across the walkway going over Ft Washington Way with glove in hand. Our seats weren’t shabby. We were in the blue seats – this was the lower level and we were about 20 rows up from the Reds dugout and on the aisle. I mean these were outstanding seats!
The pitchers that night were Steve Rogers for the Expos and Frank Pastore for the Reds. Steve had a few good years in the 80s, while Frank was an average pitcher – nothing spectacular. Unfortunately the night belonged to the Expos. Gary Carter hit two 2-run homers (both with Al Oliver on first after drawing a walk). The Reds – never crossed the plate. Steve Rogers pitched a complete game shutout 4-0
Here is the actual box score from that game:
As it turned out, I was as close to catching a foul ball that night then ever. I did have a friend once snow cone a foul ball of Barry Larkin’s bat in April 1989. He was sitting two seats down from me
Frank Pastore would go on to become a Christian radio personality on the west coast. He had a very large following in California. One day in November of 2012, he wrecked his motorcycle and would ultimately succumb to his injuries on December 17
Gary Carter would go on to win a World Series with the Mets in ’86 and get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. In May 2011 he went to the doctor due to experiencing headaches and memory loss. While running tests they discovered he had four malignant tumors on his brain. He would die in February 2012 – not before becoming very public about his faith in Christ. Much of his biography was written about his faith.
I wrote last year about my mom dropping friends and me off for Reds games. I literally grew up in Riverfront Stadium. I had a view from a nearby building the morning the imploded it in December 2002. Great American Ballpark was constructed but I will always miss Riverfront (***the naming rights to Riverfront was bought out by Cinergy in 1994 and thus became Cinergy Field during its last years)
I have been to many, many sporting events, but few will stand the test of my memory like the Reds vs Expos on Friday night April 22, 1983!