Reds Memories: The Greatest Moments in Cincinnati Reds History (DVD Review)5 Jun, 2010 By: Mike Clark
Here’s a feel-good cheerleading set about a baseball team that has often given me that feel-good sensation — which means this isn’t the place where we’ll hear about Pete Rose’s banning from the sport or about some of the outlandish public comments onetime Reds owner Marge Schott used to make about Hitler, our fighting men in “the Far East” and umpires who dropped dead on opening day. Often, according to Southern Ohio lore, she was feeling pretty good herself.
Instead, it’s about intermittent high peaks (very high) interspersed with some very low valleys, which kind of suggests that old outfield in Crosley Field that sloped upwards when a running outfielder was approaching the fence (so much for state of the art). There’s much more here than the 1970s Big Red Machine, but the Big Red Machine will do quite nicely, thank you.
The original Red Stockings became American’s first professional team in 1869, but then, Cincinnati is identified with a lot of baseball firsts. It was a pioneer in night games, a pioneer in air travel for its team plus the first (and hopefully only) city whose team won a World Series in a fixed contest — though the documentary persuasively advances a statistical argument that the Reds shouldn’t have been significant underdogs when they met the Chicago White Sox (aka Black Sox) in the 1919 fall classic. The Reds also had the first pitcher (Johnny Vander Meer in 1938) to toss successive no-hitters — and here, as Rose shrewdly points out, he will forever be the only pitcher because the record can’t be broken unless the pitcher throws three such gems. Good luck.
There are a few shots here of 1940 National League MVP Frank McCormick, who announced games for the Reds of my youth with Ed Kennedy — a rather embarrassing “homer”-type announcer who on live beer commercial for, if memory serves, Hudepohl, bloopered, “This, more than we can ever tell you, demonstrates how perfectly this brew is beered.” There’s also reference to 15-year-old pitcher Joe Nuxhall (another first), who lasted just 2/3 of an inning in 1944 but come back to the Majors later to end up 135-117 lifetime. We also get some great ripped-sleeved shot of first baseman Ted Kluzewski’s biceps, which showed Popeye’s a thing or two. And Memories doesn’t neglect to bemoan the fact that the Reds swapped Frank Robinson (star of the 1961 team that had made it to the Series against the Maris-Mantle Yankees) for Orioles pitcher Milt Pappas and two trivia questions — launching years of brilliance for the O’s. Sweep the bottom of the Ohio River and you will probably find lots of long-lost Reds fans who tied anvils to themselves and jumped.
In more recent times, Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. have captured hearts, but the “Machine” Reds of the ’70s (and Series winners 1975-76) had manager Sparky Anderson, Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, George Foster, Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion — the last an outstanding shortstop his future teammate Tom Seaver (when announcing network games during the post-season) used to call, “Conception,” as if his first name were “Immaculate.” Many are interviewed here, and, as always, Rose is entertaining to watch. I remember the first time I heard him speak, midway in his rookie season, 1963. The reporter noted that if Rose kept on going the way he was, he’d deserve the NL’s Rookie of the Year Award. And Charlie Hustle, who wasn’t Charlie Humble, said, “If I keep going the way I am, I deserve it.”
The DVD extras satisfy: the finale to Tom Browning’s perfect game, Seaver’s no-hitter, milestone Griffey home runs, Bench’s pretty funny Hall of Fame speech and more. It’s also good to see popular Cincinnati TV figure Nick Clooney (father of a guy named George) paying his own tribute to the team.