Brace yourselves, guys. I have a confession to make. I wasn’t always a fan of baseball. Growing up in Indianapolis, I honestly didn’t even have much exposure to it. Indy is a football town, no doubt about it. As a kid, I liked the experience of attending games, but even while surrounded by my football-crazy family, I never really followed sports. I did attend one Indianapolis Indians game at maybe 13 years old, but the only reason I even remember it is because the first baseman caught a foul ball so close to my face I could smell the leather of his glove. Still to this day, the first thing I do if I sit in typical foul ball territory is inform everyone around me that they need to watch out for balls coming into my general area. But other than that, the experience has all but disappeared from memory. Looking back, I wonder what the heck was wrong with me. Maybe I was just at that age where nothing is cool. Maybe I was just kind of dumb. Or maybe it’s because they’re Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate and I instinctively knew they were bad news. Who knows?
It wasn’t until 2005 that I was formally introduced to the Cincinnati Reds. I was just barely 21, in town to spend the summer with my dad and work at Kings Island. When a friend invited me to go to a game, the conversation went something like this… Her: “Want to go to a Reds game this weekend?” Me: “Eh. Baseball? Really? Why?” Her: “They have booze!” Me: “Okay, whatever, I’ll go.” Yeah. Seriously. That’s how it went down. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.I went into that first game with low expectations, but — at the risk of sounding melodramatic — my life was never the same. The weather was great, the crowd was small but upbeat, and the beer was cold and plentiful. But it was the sounds that really put me over the edge. That distinctive crack of a batter making solid contact, the muffled pop of a fastball against a catcher’s mitt, the way a crowd crescendos from a hushed rustle up to a deafening roar when our boys go yard. I fell in love instantly. And eight years later my love for this sport (and especially the Reds) has only gotten stronger.
Now that I’m attending 35+ games a year, I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t love baseball. But, as is often the case for people who fall in love relatively late in life, I find myself missing that sense of history that comes from being part of something since childhood. For many of you, the Reds have been in your life as long as you can remember. You have memories and stories and the kind of connection to this team that simply cannot be faked. No matter how many games I attend or blogs I read or hours of MLB Network I watch, I will never have that. For lack of a better way of putting it, I’m jealous. But, maybe you guys can help! If someone is looking to bone up on Reds history, what’s the one book they should read? The one classic game they should watch? The one old school player who’s career they should study? The one moment in Reds history every fan should know about? Every day, every game, every season, I learn something new and beautiful about this game. But, I’m looking to you, friends, to help me fill in the gaps. What have you got?