Great American Ball Park

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH

Number of games:  1
First game:  August 1, 2006 (Dodgers 10, Reds 4)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

Man, does I ever love me a baseball museum, especially one that is local in scope and attached to a stadium.  I love

getting prepped for a night of baseball by immersing myself in baseball history, as one is able to do in Texas and in Atlanta.  If you’re like me, when you visit Great American Ball Park, you’re going to want to get there early.  The Reds museum is worth a couple of hours of your time.

I’m not really a Reds fan, but you can’t argue against their history.  Pro baseball began in Cincinnati, after all, in 1869–and the museum accounts for pretty much all of the key moments since then.  While I was there, the highlighted exhibit focused on the World Championship team of 1919…yeah, the other team in that World Series.  How much would it suck to win a championship and always be

remembered for having the other team lose it?  I’d never really thought of that until seeing the story from the Reds’ perspective in the museum. Speaking of gamblers, the museum has a fine way of commemorating Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits:  they have 4,256 baseballs displayed against a wall…about 10-15 yards across and four stories high, behind a staircase and a glass wall.  Quite lovely.  Tributes to past ballparks, past teams, and the best moments in Reds history are there.  My favorite highlights are reproduced here:  a scorecard from Tom Browning’s perfect game, lots of statues, including this one of Sparky Anderson, the pennant from the 1981 team which was denied the postseason during the strike-interrupted year, and the Reds Hall of Fame, where they honor pretty-good-but-not-really-great players from the team’s past.  Every team should have a place to honor its Mario Sotos.

The ballpark itself, I’m afraid, doesn’t live up to the experience of the museum. I do like its location right on the river and the fact that, unlike at Riverfront Stadium (on which GABP, for all its faults, is still an improvement), one can actually see the river from the upper deck. And the history I so enjoyed in the museum appears in the ballpark proper as well,

with sculptures, murals, and even a scoreboard feature of “past Reds to wear this number.”  (Ed Armbrister got a ballpark mention this way.)  But in the final analysis, there was just too much kitsch and too many stinking amenities.  The ballpark simply tries too hard.

I mean, the notion that the ballpark looks like a steamboat from the outside is sort of cute, I guess, but is entirely unnecessary.  Seriously:  isn’t a ballpark beautiful because it is a ballpark?  Why bother trying to make it impressive looking with this sort of extra effort?  It’s like too much makeup on a beautiful woman–it leaves

me wanting less. Also, from my seat, I looked down into a spot sponsored by a furniture store where the mucky-mucks could sit on cushy furniture and not watch the game.  I wanted to mark up that leather sofa with cotton candy.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the baseball is secondary at GABP: it certainly beats abominations like Detroit (with its amusement park rides) and Houston (with its damn stock quotes).  Still, I felt there was too much effort to distract.  All the distraction I need is in the river, with the barges and speedboats passing by.  I didn’t need more.  Even what the ballpark did well–like have lineups displayed on the concourse, minor-league style–had flaws (like the misspelling of Wilson Betemit’s name).

Longtime friends and fantasy baseball rivals Joe and Alison joined me for the game.  The live in rural Central Ohio…about a 3-hour haul from

Cincinnati.  Alison is a lifelong Tribe fan; Joe is partial to the Nationals.  But both did me the honor of joining me for this one, and even headed across to PNC Park the next night.  Add to that the playoff ballgame in Cleveland in ’01, and you have among the league leaders in Seeing Major League Ballparks With Paul.  (First place is still my dad, but my wife is catching up fast!)  Needless to say, a fine time was had by all of us.  We headed up high into the upper deck…the better to have silly conversations without worrying about being overheard.  The topics of those silly conversations?  Well, they’re lost to history–I seem to remember trying to figure out what industries still use barges along the Ohio–but I do know I’m grateful to have friends that are willing and able to decimate a week driving all over Ohio to hang at ballgames with me, and also willing to lug me back to their place for lodging.  Appreciated as always, folks.  I’d love to return the favor for you and your family whenever you get to the West Coast.

So, in the end, the ballpark is somewhere in the middle–or a hair below it–when compared with its contemporaries.  Nonetheless, the quality hardly mattered to me.  The museum was fantastic, and the friends even better.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Dodgers win a key wildcard matchup.  Wilson Betemit channels his obvious anger at his misspelled name into a 2-run homer, and Rafael Furcal knocks in four runs.

Adam Dunn and David Ross homer for the Reds.

In the first game after the 2006 trade deadline, I see Julio Lugo make his debut for the Dodgers, and Rheal Cormier and Kyle Lohse for the Reds.

(Written August 2006.)

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