With the 2016 Opening Day rapidly approaching for the Cincinnati Reds, below are some fun facts and interesting stats about the professional baseball team just north of the Ohio River. Cincinnati boasts the first professional baseball team and for decades hosted the initial game of the Major League Baseball season. The Reds’ first of 162 regular season games is on April 4th.
Getting excited for the first day of the new baseball season is a long-standing tradition for people in the greater-Cincinnati area. Former Reds’ catcher Joe Oliver said, “A lot of clubs have great openers…but I never saw an Opening Day that got the attention of an entire city the way the Reds opener does.” The legendary Sparky Anderson, the winningest manager in Reds’ history, explained, “It’s a holiday—a baseball holiday! Ain’t no other place in America got that!”
The Findlay Market Opening Day Parade has been going strong since 1920 and is an excuse for many locals to suddenly feel too sick to go to work or school, but somehow well enough to attend the parade and baseball game. Cincinnati native and former Red Buddy Bell stated: “If you don’t try to get out of school on Opening Day, there’s something wrong with you! It’s right up there with Christmas.”
Though many baseball experts predict Cincinnati will finish dead last in their division this year–let’s hope they are terribly mistaken–fans never know what will happen. That is why they play the games; each season is a fresh, exciting beginning. Said Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton: “I loved opening the baseball season in Cincinnati. It is a sea of red…I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, this is the way America is supposed to go about baseball!’”
The 2016 season is almost here. Let’s go Reds!
To get you excited about the new season here are some highlights and other notable events from previous seasons. How many do you remember?
- May 4, 1869: The Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional team, begin their first regular season with a 45-9 win over the Great Westerns of Cincinnati. The Red Stockings finish the season with a perfect 57-0 record. Their winning streak lasts 81 games.
- April 25, 1876: The first Opening Day, though without a parade or festivities, unlike today. The Reds have the worst record in the National League that season, just nine wins and 56 losses.
- May 1, 1879: 1,200 fans attend Opening Day, the smallest crowd in Reds’ history.
- May 1, 1884: Cincinnati opens a new ballpark. A portion of the stands collapse on Opening Day, injuring dozens.
- April 17, 1889: First Opening Day crowd of over 10,000. The first Opening Day festivities in Cincinnati are held and the Cincinnati Orchestra entertains fans before the game.
- April 22, 1891: The first Opening Day parade takes place, featuring a military band and two horse-drawn wagons carrying the Reds and the Cleveland Spiders.
- April 11, 1912: Redland Field–later known as “Crosley Field”–hosts its first game.
- April 14, 1920: First Appearance by Findlay Market Parade in Opening Day festivities.
- April 15, 1924: First broadcast of Reds’ Opening Day on the radio.
- June 8, 1934: The Reds become the first team in Major League history to travel by airplane, flying from Cincinnati to Chicago.
- April 19, 1948: First televised opening game.
- July 14, 1953: Crosley Field hosts the All-Star Game in front of 30,846 fans.
- September 1, 1967: The Reds play the longest game in the team’s history, losing 1-0 to the San Francisco Giants in 21 innings.
- June 24, 1970: The Reds play their final game at Crosley Field. (4,453 regular-season games were played at Crosley.)
- June 30, 1970: 51,050 fans attend the first game at Riverfront Stadium. Two weeks later, Riverfront hosts the All-Star Game. The National League wins 5-4 in the twelfth inning when Cincinnati Reds’ star Pete Rose barrels over American League catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run.
- April 5, 1971: First Opening Day crowd over 50,000.
- April 4, 1974: On Opening Day in Cincinnati, Hank Aaron hits his 714th home run, tying Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.
- October 21, 1976: Cincinnati, dubbed “the Big Red Machine,” wins its second straight World Series championship, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.
- September 11, 1985: With a single off San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Show, Pete Rose becomes Major League Baseball’s all-time leader with 4,192 hits.
- July 12, 1988: Riverfront Stadium again hosts the All-Star Game. The American League defeats the National League 2-1.
- August 24, 1989: Major League Baseball hands hometown product Pete Rose a lifetime ban for gambling.
- Sept-Oct 1990: The 1990 Reds become the only National League team in history to be in first place throughout the entire regular season. The Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for the National League pennant, then sweep the heavily favored Oakland A’s to win the World Series.
- April 1, 1996: Opening Day is postponed when veteran umpire John McSherry collapses behind home plate just seven pitches into the game, later passing away due to a massive heart attack.
- September 6, 1996: Riverfront Stadium is renamed “Cinergy Field.”
- September 11, 2001: Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. postpone all Major League games, delaying the season for six days.
- December 31, 2002: Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field is demolished in just 37 seconds, as a crowd of more than 25,000 watches.
- March 31, 2003: The Reds debut Great American Ball Park (“GABP” costed $280 million.). Former president George H.W. Bush throws out the first pitch before a sellout crowd of 42,343.
- April 1, 2013: The largest Opening Day crowd ever in Cincinnati at 43,168.
- July 14, 2015: Cincinnati hosts the Major League All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park. Reds’ third-baseman Todd Frazier thrills the hometown fans by winning the Home Run Derby. However, the Reds finish the season in last place for the first time since 1983. Cincinnati starts all rookie pitchers for the final 64 games, breaking a Major League record that stood for over 100 years.
(*Sources: Cincinnati.Reds.MLB.com and BaseballAlamanac.com)
Want to read more about the history of the Cincinnati Reds? Check out one of these great books for adults and kids! For more recommendations for Cincinnati Reds and baseball books see our Cincinnati Reds Books Pinterest board.
Recommended books on the Reds for adults:
by Kevin Goheen (2016, on order)
by Mike Shannon (2015)
by Joe Heffron & Jack Heffron (2014)
by Joel Luckhaupt (2013)
by Greg Rhodes & Mark Stang (1999)
Recommended books on the Reds for juveniles:
by Sara Gilbert (2013)
by Joel Altman (2012)
by Michael E. Goodman (2012)
by Marty Gitlin (2011)
Written by Keith Maginn, Library Associate, Local History and Genealogy Department