09/19/2002 4:52 pm ET
Reds announce weekend plans
Three-day celebration planned for closing of Cinergy
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
Fans lucky enough to attend Sunday's final game at Cinergy Field (nee Riverfront Stadium) will receive, in essence, an oral history of the facility during the postgame ceremonies that will cap a weekend-long celebration.
More than 50 players, coaches, managers and executives who were part of the Reds' 33-year history at Cinergy/Riverfront will take bows -- from luminaries such as Sparky Anderson, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez to bit performers such as Doug Flynn, Jeff Reed and Jimmy Stewart.
Many of them will be interviewed over the public-address system as they walk upon the diamond for the last time, thus bringing them closer to the spectators. In the annals of ballpark farewells, this is believed to be unique.
"I don't think any other has had that much actual interaction," Reds chief operating officer John Allen said.
Another singular aspect of this swan song is the proximity between the old stadium and the new one, Great American Ball Park, which already looms over Cinergy's left-field area. A comparable scene unfolded in Milwaukee, where Miller Park was built virtually in County Stadium's shadow. But in Cincinnati's case, the ballparks are so close that 14,000 seats between left and center field had to be removed from Cinergy before the 2001 season to accommodate GABP's construction.
Thus, the ceremonial transfer of home plate from Cinergy to Great American will be rather simple -- and symbolic. Allen said that the vehicle used to transport home plate to the new yard will be none other than the locally famous Zamboni machine, which sucked up oceans of rainfall from Riverfront's outfield during weather delays.
These themes -- the distinct flavor of Cincinnati and the rich history of the Reds -- will characterize the entire three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Friday's ceremonial first pitches will be thrown simultaneously by the six Reds employees who worked the entire Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field era: Larry Barton Jr., special assistant to the general manager; Lois Schneider, executive assistant to the general manager; Sheldon "Chief" Bender, senior advisor of player development; Gene Bennett, advance scout and senior special assistant to the general manager; Bernie Stowe, senior clubhouse and equipment manager; and Joe Nuxhall, the beloved radio announcer and ex-pitcher. Cheya Watkins, a former Miss Ohio, will sing the National Anthem.
That night's game will be followed by what Allen called "the best fireworks show ever held at Riverfront/Cinergy." The 20-minute display has been choreographed by Joel Moss, who handles similar duties for Riverfest, Cincinnati's annual Labor Day weekend celebration that draws a half-million people for its fireworks extravaganza.
This fireworks show will be set not only to music, but also to famous broadcast calls by Nuxhall, Marty Brennaman and others of some of the leading Reds moments in Cinergy/Riverfront history.
Saturday, each fan will receive a miniature replica of Cinergy Field, which opened as Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970. Kathy Wade, a renowned local jazz artist, will sing the National Anthem.
Then comes Sunday's finale. The 1:15 p.m. ET affair will begin with a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Anderson, the manager who launched the Big Red Machine's rise to prominence. Nick Lachey, formerly of 98 Degrees, will sing the National Anthem.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.