One can't help wondering if the public will ever embrace today's modern stadiums the way it has those rich in character and dripping with nostalgia, such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Love Affairs with ballparks may take years to nurture, but in Cincinnati the other night the Reds celebrated the 10th anniversary of Riverfront Stadium, the downtown district's symmetrical gemstone.
The fond memories flow freely at Riverfront. In its first decade, the stadium was home to six division winners, four National League champions, and two World Series victors. There was also the unforgettable 1970 All-Star Game, which saw the Reds' Pete Rose score the winning run in the 12th inning after crashing into American League catcher Ray Fosse at the plate. Just two weeks earlier, Manager Sparky Anderson had been thrown out of the Riverfront opener.
Some fans were saddened when old Crosley Field was leveled, but the move to Riverfront brought new prosperity and some unexpected benefits. The larger park (53,000 seats to Crosley's 29,000) has helped the club top the 2 million mark in attendance each eyar. And the artificial turf and special drying equipment were major factors in preventing a rain-out during the team's first 659 games in Riverfront.
When Crosley was torn down to make room for a parking lot, parts of it were relocated across the Ohio River by a fan in Union, Ky. The old park, even though leveled, will not soon be forgotten, for it too served the city well, surviving the 1937 flood near the middle of its tour of duty. The rival of any ballpark in terms of character, Crosley was famous for its left-field terrace, an incline at the base of the outfield wall. Babe Ruth, in fact, was so embarrassed by stumbling on this incline that he walked off the field in 1935 never to play again (Ruth was with the Boston braves at the time). Crosley also had the distinction of producing the first major league night game, an event of such significance that President Franklin Roosevelt threw the master switch for the new lights May 24, 1935.
The dearest memory for some players, though, was the sign beyond the outfield wall that announced: "Hit this and win a Siebler suit." By denting the sign, Reds' outfielder Wally Post won 11 suits, according to Bill Shannon nd George Kalinsky in their book, "The Ballparks."