CINCINNATI — From afar it looked as if Justin Bieber tickets has gone on sale.
Fans lined up in humid weather under threatening skies.
They dressed in red and white.
The over-under on ball caps with a red ‘C’ was about 80%.
This is Cincinnati.
This is a baseball town.
The best? Either here or St. Louis.
They lined up to tour Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, get autographs and have their pictures taken with Hall of Famers. The hottest selling jersey these days is Etobicoke’s Joey Votto.
The three-storey building outside the Great American Ball Park is acclaimed as the second best Hall behind Cooperstown.
“Reds fans believe it is their game, that they own baseball, they have an unbridled passion, it has been that way for 141 years,” Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench said. “They had the first pro team here, the first night game was played here. They had the Big Red Machine and the Reds swept Oakland A’s in 1990 World Series.”
Third baseman Chris Sabo, who played seven years, including with the 1990 team, was inducted in the Reds Hall of Fame Saturday along with work horse reliever Pedro Borbon, from Big Red Machine, and the late Tony Mullane, who pitched with the 1886-93 Reds. A total of 15 red-blazer wearing members — Joe Morgan, George Foster, Mario Soto, Leo Cardenas, Jerry Lynch, Wayne Granger Jim O’Toole, Tommy Helms and other past Reds applauded the speeches before a sold-out crowd.
The 1869 Red Stockings were the first pro team. English cricket player Harry Wright came up with the idea to pay his players. They toured — all the way to San Francisco — playing amateurs, beating Atlantic 32-10, Keystone 43-30 and Buckeye 71-15. Centre fielder Harry Wright earned $2,000 as the highest-paid player, but $2,000 a season went a lot further 141 years ago than it does now.
“Kids grew up listening to fathers talk about the old days, parents see guys from 1990 and they’re back in their front room watching TV,” Bench said. “Or telling a story about driving to a game, seeing a homer. We all live on nostalgia.”
The auxiliary scoreboard in the museum from 1990 shows a 4-4 tie in the 10th. Joe Oliver decided matters with a game-winning single in Game 2 against the A’s.
We remember being here in 1984 as Pete Rose collected career hit 3,999. Bruce Berenyi and Frank Pastore issued Rose four walks, as 18,923 at Riverfront booed.
“Heck, 90% of those people think they know me, 75% are probably right,” Rose said.
When Colorado Rockies centre fielder Dexter Fowler returned to the dugout Friday after stealing a homer from Jay Bruce he received a standing ovation from Reds fans.
“Of course they love baseball here, do you think they’d care about the Bengals,” asked a fan from Nashville, Tenn., wearing a Rose jersey.
Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt was a Reds broadcaster and pitched for the Yanks. We remember Rose telling us about the Yanks being in Chicago and two palookas walked into the clubhouse and told Babe Ruth that “Da big guy wants ta see ya.”
“Hoyt goes with the Babe to the hotel, they take the elevator to the penthouse and it’s Al Capone,” Rose told us years ago.
When Bob Howsam took over as general manager in 1967 he made it a regional franchise. The Reds, beamed out on WLW, were the home team for Ohio as well as Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere.
“I had no idea how regional this team was until I did the caravan,” said manager Dusty Baker. “When I came to town with the Dodgers and the Braves it was intimidating. Every storefront window had pictures of Tony Perez, Rose, Morgan, Foster, and Bench. Then you get to the part and it was a sea of red. You could get psyched out pretty quick.”
“When you are a regional franchise it makes it so important to win at home, or else fans are disappointed on their 3-4 hour ride home.”
This isn’t the Rogers Centre.