Cincinnati Baseball: Part 1
We grew up next to a local school and spent the better parts of nearly every summer playing baseball with all the neighborhood kids and friends on the school’s ball fields. Our neighborhood was filled with large catholic families and so with the neighborhood and friends we had enough for nearly two full teams. Sometimes we lacked a right fielder or an infielder or a catcher.
The games were fiercely fought with hard slides and fiercely disputed calls at home plate – no adult supervision and no independent refs. Hitting and catching were skills we all had, but there were only a few good pitchers. Mostly it was fastballs, but a few could throw a curve. We played ‘til dinner time nearly every day and came home with ripped, sweaty, grass stained and filthy clothes. Our mothers still loved us most of the time I think -- at least they knew where we were.
Spring training was with wiffle balls and broom sticks or sometimes tennis balls in our back yard. Occasionally a house window was broken, and we had to clean up and help repair it.
Once in awhile, some of the neighborhood girls joined in and typically played second base. That changed the dynamics of hard slides into second and improved the language.
The Reds had really good baseball teams back then (especially 1956). Ted Klusewski (big Klu) played first base except when he was hurt. Then George Crowe took over. They were both big powerful hitters and I remember one year Klu hit 48. Johnny Temple played second, a good hitter with range and the ability to turn the double play. Roy McMillan was at shortstop, good range, great arm but not such a good hitter. There was a revolving door at third base with Ray Jablonski and Don Hoak. In left field was Frank Robinson, whose rookie home record of 38 stood until it was broken this year by Bellinger. Gus Bell was in center until he slowed down and was replaced by Vada Pinson. Wally Post was in right field and hit 40 homers; he had a great arm as well. At catcher was either Ed Bailey or Smokey Burgess (a great pinch hitter too). Our fatal weakness was pitching; Joe Nuxhall was the staff ace and he hardly matched up with the great Brooklyn Dodger pitchers of that era like Don Newcombe. Hersh Freeman was the ace reliever. One of the worst trades ever in baseball was Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, what were they thinking. Our Dad’s would take us to Crosley Field where we sat in the right field bleachers and waited for home runs to come our way. The outfield sloped up so opposing players would sometimes fall on the terrace to our glee.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin