Let’s do a “Throwback Thursday” to the summer of 2013 when I had the opportunity to visit Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds, for the second time. On my first visit in the summer of 2011, our seats were located in the lower bowl, so this most recent visit, with seats in the upper deck, I was able to truly appreciate the beauty of the Stadium’s location. The view from our seats on the third base side of the upper deck, was absolutely spectacular. The stadium overlooks the scenic Ohio River, allowing fans to watch boats lazily glide down the river during breaks in the action. Having a view like that nowadays is rare, as most stadiums are oriented with the open end facing the city skyline. The energy in the stadium was electric with the Reds taking on rival Pittsburgh. Even with an interrupting rain delay, the stadium and fans were impressive, allowing my family to have an enjoyable visit at the ballpark
Before the Reds’ Great American Ballpark and the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, both teams shared Cinergy Field, formerly and more commonly referred to as Riverfront Stadium. This was in the “cookie-cutter” stadium era, when it was common for football and baseball teams to share occupancy of a venue. In the 1990s after 20 years of sharing, both the Bengals and Reds felt the stadium lacked needed amenities, and lobbied for new stadiums. Their wish came true, when in 1996, Hamilton County voters approved an increased sales tax to fund the construction of both venues. After two possible locations for the new baseball stadium were proposed, citizens settled the debate in 1998 by voting in favor of construction on the riverbank in an area called the “wedge”, between Riverfront Stadium and US Bank Arena. After agreeing to a lease with the city, the Reds broke ground on October 4, 2000 and played their first game in the new stadium on March 31, 2003 in front of a sellout crowd.
Great American Features
With the rich history of the Reds, Great American Ballpark is able to accomplish merging the old with the new in unique ways. One example of the organization’s embrace of history is the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, adjacent and connecting to the stadium. Another example located on the third base side exterior of the stadium, is a sign bearing the expression “rounding third and heading for home,” the traditional sign off phrase of longtime Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall. Here are a few more of the many features that I enjoyed on my visit:
The Gap is an actual 35 foot-wide break in the second and third decks, between home plate and third base. This opening, aligning perfectly with Sycamore Street, allows a view from downtown through the ballpark toward the Ohio River, and also frames a view of the city for those in the stadium. The Gap is bridged by a walkway on each level that offers fans a great view of the ballpark, or of downtown.
Honoring Pete Rose
Pete Rose, the all-time Major League hits leader and one of baseball’s most well-known figures, is the inspiration behind a number of features at the stadium. Rose was caught betting on his teams’ games as a manager and was subsequently banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame, although he still remains a staple in Reds history. Debates rage on about whether he should or will ever be allowed to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Two smokestacks located in right-center field pay tribute to Rose’s legendary career. The smokestacks, embodying the steamboat heritage of the region, are each made from 7 bats, symbolizing Pete Rose’s No. 14 jersey that major league baseball restricts the Reds from displaying with the other Cincinnati legends. The smokestacks also serve as added entertainment for the crowd by lighting up, and shooting flames and fireworks after Reds victories and home runs. In addition to the smokestacks, a rose garden in honor of Pete Rose is located adjacent to both the stadium and museum, in the vicinity of where his record-breaking 4,192nd hit landed in the old Riverfront Stadium.
Paying Homage to Crosley Field
In front of the main entrance of Great American Ballpark is a monument built to honor historic Crosley Field, the home of the Reds from 1912 to 1970. Crosley Terrace consists of statues of Crosley-era greats Joe Nuxhall, Ernie Lombardi, Ted Kluszewski, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Frank Robinson, depicted playing a game of baseball. Grass in that area is even sloped to match the incline of Crosley’s outfield. For me, the history and symbols are the most valuable part of a stadium. Although Great American Ballpark may not have the lavish history of ballparks like Fenway and Wrigley, it finds ways to incorporate objects and tokens to remember and honor the great moments, players, teams, and stadiums of the past. Someday it will be considered ancient and house traditions and memories integral to baseball’s past, but until then, you can take in some elements of Reds history while watching boats traverse the great Ohio River.