In case you’ve been celebrating UK’s eighth and Coach Cal’s first NCAA championship all summer, or if you’ve been on a southern sabbatical trying to find the lost scripts of Bear Bryant’s success on how to win football games at UK, our professional baseball neighbors to the immediate north, the Cincinnati Reds, are finally back in the hunt for another serious run at a World Series championship.
First, let me go back in time, if just for a couple paragraphs.
Many decades ago, most central and east Kentucky baseball fans of all ages adopted the Cincinnati Reds as their favorite professional baseball team, mainly for two reasons: simple geography and growing up listening to Wade Hoyt, Claude Sullivan, Marty Brennaman, and Joe Nuxhaull the on the radio with their father and/or grandfather.
With that lead, let’s drift back in time a little further before we talk about the present day.
I can’t put my finger on the exact day and time it all started, but in my eyes as a youngster during the 60s there was something special about sitting out on the front or back porch on a warm but comfortable summer night listening to baseball on the radio. This may sound crazy to the present young generation, but I can honestly say as I look back that I enjoyed those evenings every bit as much as watching a game today on TV with the colorful technology and surround sound that we experience. There was a certain mystery there when you could listen to but not see the action, and it made those few times you could afford to make that trek up north to see a game live that much more of a special experience
The first time I ever laid eyes on Crosley Field as a 10-year-old in the summer of 1963, I thought the well-manicured plush green grass of Crosley Field had to be what heaven looked like. The Reds actually lost a DH that day 12-4 and 13-5 to the same team they’re battling in the present day MLB playoffs. Willie Mays and Willie McCovey led the Giants back then, going a combined 14 for 22 with each one hitting two home runs.
It didn’t matter to me. I was hooked on the Cincinnati Red Legs in particular and baseball in general.
Baseball can do that to you, especially at a young and tender age. The general aesthetics of the game just tugs at your heart and wins you over for life.
Will it be a ‘Red’ October in 2012
To be painfully honest, when the doors to Great American Ball Park opened in 2003 there had only been four or five peek years of successful baseball played in the Queen City since the Big Red Machine years of the 70s, with 1990 being the only championship run led by Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, and Lou Pinella.
Then, in the off season between 2007 and 2008 the attitude of the inner circle of Reds ownership changed when the Castellini Family bought the majority controlling interest of the franchise and started the difficult task of building a solid base of talent in the minor leagues which is a must for a small market MLB franchise like Cincinnati.
Finally, in 2010, a couple years of quality drafting by the front office and the patient development by the Reds’ minor league staff paid off and the Reds won their first NL central division championship in over a decade. Now just two years later that same team, except for a couple bench players and one starting pitcher, have won a second division championship. But this team seems to be much more seasoned and confident for a deeper run into the post season and possibly the Reds’ first World Series title since the summer of 1990.
This particular year has been special in several different ways. The Reds have been a franchise for many years built on solid everyday position players intent on outscoring teams with a strong offensive presence in their lineup, and a special chemistry of hitting for average early in the lineup and power in the middle of the lineup with just enough pitching to get them over the hump.
That philosophy changed slightly when Walt Jocketty took over as GM. The Reds still have quality hitting in the important spots throughout the batting order while sacrificing a little in the number eight hole for a solid defensive player in Drew Stubbs. Now the new Reds have added a strong emphasis on quality starting pitching and solid depth in the relief corps. This year’s five-man starting rotation did not miss one start the entire season. Add to all that a special bench presence in the trio of Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwig, and Chris Heisey.
Johnny Cueto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto got the team through the first half and in position for the second half run. In the months of July and August, all 25 players on the roster had their own respective moments and the entire team coasted through September into the playoffs.
The Reds opened post season play this past weekend out on the coast in San Francisco and plastered the Giants with a two-day domination of pitching and hitting ending in a 2-0 whitewash and setting the scene back in Cincinnati for the first game at GABP as a possible elimination day for the Giants, which would send the Reds into their first chance at a NL pennant in over 20 years.
Just keep in mind that a Major League Baseball season is terribly long and a constant grind on the body over a seven-month period to earn a spot in the playoffs. But once you reach that plateau, you still have to win 11 more of the most emotionally intense gut wrenching games that a player has ever been confronted with before you can be crowned champions.
The Reds now have the Giants down 2-0 in a best three out of five series, but it’s hard to take the last breath out of anything, especially an athlete that’s battling for its competitive life.
That’s where the Giants are at, but don’t ever lose sight of Yogi Berra’s famous words: “It ain’t over until it’s over.”
Hopefully, the 2012 Reds are mature enough to understand and embrace Yogi’s remark, because it’s stood the test of time in all sports for many decades.
The Reds’ playoff information all the way through the World Series is listed below:
NL Division Series
Game # 1 - Reds - 5 Giants - 2
Game # 2 - Reds - 9 Giants - 0
Game # 3 Oct. 9th at GABP - Reds vs. Giants (TBS / 5:30)
Game # 4 Oct. 10th at GABP - Reds vs. Giants (TBS / Time To Be Announced) If Needed
Game # 5 Oct. 11th at GABP - Reds vs. Giants (TBS / Time To Be Announced) If Needed