By Sandro Cozzi
The Cincinnati Reds no longer play at Riverfront Stadium. Since September 1996, when the club struck a corporate sponsorship deal with a regional power company, the team's home has been known as Cinergy Field. But today's anniversary celebrates the first game at Riverfront, which took place in the early days of the Big Red Machine -- twenty-six years before Cinergy Corp. even existed.
Planning for the stadium began twenty-one years before ground was actually broken for a construction site. The process took so long that two of the Reds' owners -- Powell Crosley and Bill DeWitt -- both threatened to move the Reds if construction didn't begin. As it turned out, an exasperated DeWitt sold his part of the team in December 1966 to a group of businessmen led by the publisher of the Cincinnati Enquirer. When the American Football League granted Paul Brown a Cincinnati franchise, there was enough capital to begin construction on a new multiuse stadium to replace Crosley Field in February 1968.
While construction continued over the course of the next two years, the Reds did little to prove they deserved a new ballpark. In '68 and '69 they finished fourth and third in their division, respectively, but 1970 brought new hope -- and finally, a new stadium. The Reds began the season in Crosley Field, but played their last game there on June 24, 1970 in front of 28,000 fans. When they returned home from a road trip to face the Atlanta Braves on June 30, Riverfront was ready.
Players and fans accustomed to the familiar grass and intimate nature of Crosley must have had a hard time adjusting to the bright green Astroturf and spacious dimensions of the circular behemoth sitting on the banks of the Ohio River. The lone vestige of the old ballpark was home plate, which had been transplanted to Riverfront from Crosley.
The opening of the new park was a joyous event for Reds' fans, but the rest of the game wasn't. Hank Aaron launched the first home run at the new ballyard, leading the Braves to an 8-2 victory. Atlanta's Pat Jarvis picked up the win and the Reds walked off the field a little dejected. But Cincinnati had nothing to complain about -- their new stadium not only hosted the All-Star Game in its inaugural season, but the World Series as well.