Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fathers, Sons, and Baseball - Cincinnati Reds Memories

I know the Big Red Machine did not win every game they played, but as a kid, it sure seemed like they did.  Even when they were trailing in the late innings, I always believed they would pull out the win.  And more often than not, they did.

My first Reds television memory was the 1970 World Series.  Brooks Robinson’s superb fielding for the Baltimore Orioles still frustrates the eight-year-old boy in me. 
Outside of the post-season though, few games were televised.  There was the radio, but I did not listen much unless we were in the car.  The Dayton Daily News was my primary source of information.  The Dayton Daily News was an afternoon paper then and was usually on our doorstep when I got home from school.  By that time I usually knew if the Reds had won or not, but I read the box score, looking especially at how well Johnny Bench did the night before.  Then I would read the articles describing the game.  Si Burick and Hal McCoy wrote so well that I almost felt I was there.

Almost, but not quite. There is nothing like actually being there.  My dad took me to my first Reds game at Crosley Field in 1969.  My only recollection is of bright sunshine, green grass, and cigar smoke.  It is not much of a memory perhaps, but whenever I get a whiff of a cheap cigar, I am instantly transported back to Crosley, watching the Reds with my dad.

Reds fans today can watch practically every game on television.  The internet provides instant information.  You can have scores and updates delivered to your phone - but not if you are a kid with an 8:30 bedtime.  The newspaper, and I mean the delivered-to-your-front-door Columbus Dispatch, remains an important source of information at our house.  Then eleven-year-old Matthew is usually the first to grab the sports section to check out the score, especially if it is a late game.  Then six-year-old Daniel scours the box scores.  Daniel can always tell you how many saves Aroldis Chapman has and which pitcher will start the Reds next game.  But he also looks at the box scores for other games, something I never did.  Last year Daniel asked me what team former Red Aaron Harang pitched for.  I said I thought he played for the Padres.  But why did the paper say he won a game for the Dodgers, he asked?  So we looked it up (on the internet), and sure enough, Harang was now a Dodger.

My wife Lisa and I have ten children.  All of them have played baseball or softball.  And they play wiffle ball before they are on a real team.  So I was not surprised last year when Daniel started off well in t-ball.  But I noticed his hitting was not very consistent.  One game he would do very well, and not so well the next.  During a game his brother Matthew explained why.  He said that Daniel would bat like Brandon Phillips one game, and the next game he would be Ryan Ludwick or Todd Frazier.  I yelled, “Just be Daniel!”  Turns out Daniel’s natural swing is just like Brandon Phillips!

We usually get to one Reds game a year.  Last year we attended the Reds-Cardinals Sunday night game in July.  It was then five-year-old Luke’s first game.  The weather was clear and warm.  The sold-out crowd was loud.  Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips (our favorites) had hits.  The Reds won and Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban Missile, got the save.  There were flames and fireworks.  So what will Luke remember?  It is hard to say, but I guess it will be the sundae in the mini-Reds helmet.  

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