Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Fun night for players, too
By Dustin Dow email@example.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Reds lost again at Cinergy Field, for the fourth straight time, but this one was just for fun. In an event that seemed geared more toward honoring Pete Rose and the rest of the Big Red Machine than saying goodbye to Cinergy Field, former Reds and major league legends made sure everyone had a good time at the stadium's farewell softball game Monday night.
They pulled stunts in the outfield, took pictures with each other on the basepaths and hit home run balls onto parked cars behind a white picket fence.
The Major Leaguers beat the Reds legends 19-6, but no one was really paying attention to the score.
Most of the players were there to enjoy the atmosphere that came with a reunion of baseball greats and to honor Rose, who is banned from Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame for betting on games.
In fact, Sunday night, the players got together for a dinner in tribute of baseball's all-time hits leader. He was allowed to play Monday because the game wasn't an MLB-sanctioned event.
Players were in a light-hearted mood for 41,092 fans at a sold-out Cinergy Field.
It's kind of like a rock-concert feeling with all of us here, said former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres first baseman Steve Garvey. It was great to see all the guys in the clubhouse.
Former Big Red Machine catcher Johnny Bench said it felt like the 1970s playing alongside teammates and against former opponents.
It was like stepping back in time, Bench said. I looked at the starting lineup in the dugout, and it felt like what it did 30 years ago. You just don't get to do that everyday.
The loudest cheers of the game came in the sixth inning when Rose, who popularized the head-first slide during the 1970s, did it again, diving head-first into third base after tagging up at second on a fly ball.
Did I slide? said Rose, 61. Actually, I fell down when I got 10 feet from third base.
The game was full of moments like that, players hamming it up for the crowd and each other.
The umpires eventually loosened up, too, but not before Bench was called out for running outside of the baseline in the third as he tried to interfere with the defense.
I told him, "We're not playing by those rules, ' Bench said. Then I said, "The people aren't here to see you.'
In the fourth, Ken Griffey Sr. positioned himself behind the 260-foot make-shift outfield fence in right - just in case one of the All-Stars hit it there.
After the game, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Bench and Rose, the heart of the Big Red Machine teams that won two World Series and four National League championships, tipped their caps to the crowd one final time.
You're the reason the Big Red Machine was the baseball team that we were, Rose told the crowd. Let's not forget the stadium next door (Great American Ball Park). Cincinnati has to get back to the World Series.
Then the crowd gave a final cheer when Morgan reminded them of what Cinergy Field used to go by, and how he will remember it.
It will always be Riverfront Stadium to me, he said.
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