If you are a baseball fan, you certainly will enjoy a popular attraction at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The colorful (and fun) place to visit is the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, which is filled with rare artifacts and memorabilia going all the way back to the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional team in baseball. The HOF and Museum provides an interesting account of Reds’ tradition-rich history along with several interactive exhibits.
Before you travel to the Queen City next time to watch the Reds play, you may want to consider visiting the reasonably-priced HOF and Museum. If you do that, plan to arrive at the stadium about 1.5 or perhaps two hours early before the game. And that’s what we – my two pre-teenaged kids and I — did last August.
Even though we actually were not primarily Reds fans (my son and I like the Pittsburgh Pirates, while my daughter follows the San Francisco Giants), we had an enjoyable experience. Seeing pictures and memorabilia of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, among others, brought back my childhood memories when they played at the old Crosley Field. While three of us liked nearly everything about the place, Rick Walls, the executive director of the Reds HOF and Museum, was asked his opinion about what has been the most popular item or display in recent years. “In my nine years with the Hall of Fame, the Johnny Bench exhibit has to rank at the top in popularity due to amount of items collected and displayed, many of which came from Johnny himself,” wrote Walls in a recent e-mail. “The exhibit was promoted in conjunction with a set of five Bench bobbleheads that we offered to visitors and members.
“Tying it all together to make it the ‘Year of Bench’ (in 2011), we conducted a brick campaign to raise funds for the creation and installation of a Bench statue, which was installed that year at the front doorstep to the Hall of Fame and Museum.” During his HOF & Museum tenure, Walls said he has seen a lot of great moments, including the famed Big Red Machine’s appearance in 2013.
“There have been so many memorable experiences in my time at the Hall of Fame, but one that ranks at or near the top was the reuniting of the (Big Red Machine’s) Great Eight — Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, David Concepcion, Tony Perez, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey — on the field for the first time since 1976 when they won their second consecutive World Series championship,” he said.
“Witnessing the behind the scenes discussions, antics, and emotions leading up to their being announced on the field in front of a huge crowd for the historic moment was special. They had been together many times in smaller groups, but they had never all been on the field together since ’76. Emotions were running high as the team, often labeled as the best ever in baseball, was back together again.”
While the youthful Reds may struggle on the field this season, the fans still will see some excitement at the HOF and Museum.
“This will be a special year indeed for the Hall of Fame, highlighted by the long-awaited induction of Pete Rose into the Reds Hall of Fame,” said Walls. “During the weekend of June 24-26, we’ll host the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the 1976 World Champions, induct Pete into the Hall, and officially retire Pete’s No. 14.”
Rose, who is the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball, is the next player to be inducted into the Reds HOF. In addition, his No. 14 will become the 11th jersey number retired by the club.
The team’s CEO, Bob Castellini, has said this will be one of the greatest moments in Reds history.
The 75-year-old Rose is still ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because he has been banned from baseball for betting on the sport. Commissioner Rob Manfred, however, has given the Reds permission to celebrate Rose’s weekend appearance at the stadium.
Walls also pointed out that the showcase of bobbleheads will be the main exhibit for the year.
“The exhibit explores the exciting bobblehead phenomenon made popular through stadium giveaways,” he said. “Over 800 bobbleheads from baseball and across entertainment and sporting spectrum, including three 6-foot and one 8-foot bobbleheads, now greet visitors to the Museum.”
This year’s Reds Hall of Famer bobblehead series includes Jim Maloney (April), Lee May (May), Pete Rose (June), Jack Billingham (July) and Gary Nolan (August).
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There are a couple of new baseball books which came out in early April and these hardcovers are getting good customer reviews on Goodreads.com and Amazon.com. I have started to read one of them and it’s pretty interesting.
That book is “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports” by Jeff Passan (Harper, $26.99). The author did a lot of traveling over nearly four years and interviewed many players, including Sandy Koufax, for the 358-page book. It says 25 percent of the major league pitchers today have had Tommy John surgery, a procedure that replaces a ligament tearing at rates doctors believe epidemic.
And it is scaring to learn that many Tommy John surgeries are being done on teenagers.
The second book, titled “Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life” by Ron Darling with Daniel Paisner (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99). While I haven’t read the 241-page hardback, it is published to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the New York Mets World Series championship. Darling was the starting pitcher for the Mets from 1983 to 1991 and currently serves as a TV analyst.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. Reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.
Photos by Jamie H. Vaught