All-Star Game Coming to Cincy in 2015 Takes Me Back to 1969

Oct 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; General view of Great American Ball Park during game three of the 2012 NLDS between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The recent announcement that the Reds would be hosting the 2015 All-Star game has sent me into ‘sentimental journey’ mode. If you ever get a chance to see an All-Star game in person, do yourself a solid and make whatever effort it takes.

Picture it, 1969 Washington D.C. (starting to sound like Sophia on the Golden Girls).
I lived outside of D.C. in Herndon, Virginia and worked at a concrete mixing company. On Tuesday, July 22 it rained cats and dogs all day. The All-Star game scheduled for that night at RFK Stadium was postponed until the next day. A salesman at the concrete company had free tickets to the game but wasn’t going to be able to make it on Wednesday afternoon. For some strange reason he chose me as the first one to ask about the tickets. After asking me if I wanted them, I replied, “Does a tall dog pee in a rain barrel”?

My older brother Frank and I made the trek into the big city. He wasn’t a baseball fan, per se, but he did like free stuff and loved to drink beer. It was a pretty nice day for a ball game. I was a Reds fan deep down back then, but I had to suffer through terrible seasons as a quasi-Senator fan.

Willie McCovey smacked a pair of homers and our own Johnny Bench hit one as well for the visiting National League squad. The fun part is coming up.

Think of it, being in the same stadium as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bench, McCovey, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks and all the others. I counted it up and there were 15 players inside that stadium who would eventually become enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Actually 16, counting Red Schoendienst who was managing the NL team.

Bill Freehan

With the NL ahead 8-1 in the bottom of the third inning, Tigers’ catcher Bill Freehan led off the inning. I told Frank that I would bet him a hot dog and a beer that Freehan would go yard on this particular at bat. What are the odds? Of course he took me up on it and the count went 3-0. I tried to negotiate and say that if he walked the bet was off. Frank said no dice. Steve Carlton threw one a little too fat and Freehan hit it into the Mezzanine not far from where we were sitting.

The NL won the game 9-3 and Stretch McCovey was the MVP of the game on the heels of his two monster home runs.

That was a baseball memory of a lifetime. The Senators sucked so obviously I never saw a World Series game live. Now, anytime someone talks All-Star game I go back to that warm day in ’69 only three days after Neil Armstrong allegedly walked on the moon.

Do I ponder about the implications of Armstrong bouncing on the moon? No, I think about a hot dog, too many beers, and Bill Freehan making an 18-year old kid feel like a million bucks.

So, if you get the opportunity, go. Even if you have to sell out on something you hold dear.

Topics: All-Star Game, Bill Freehan, Johnny Bench

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