In 1959 my brother and I were eleven years old and were well into that period of having discovered baseball. Upon getting the Dayton Journal Herald each day the first thing I turned to was the sports page to see how the various teams and especially the Reds and other National League teams had done. We loved baseball.
Hank Aaron was leading the National League in batting, and Frank Robinson was having a good year as I followed the statistics in the paper. Gus Bell was also a favorite as he patrolled center field for the Reds.
So it was with great interest that our Dad announced he was taking us to a ballgame at Crosley Field in Cincinnati the following Sunday morning which also happened to Father’s Day. We got up, did the milking, attended church at Grace Lutheran and climbed into the black and white 1957 Ford four door sedan and headed towards the ballpark.
Part of the adventure was getting there. I-75 wasn’t built until later and we took 127 through Hamilton as that was the most common way from Greenville.
Crosley Field was located on the corner of Western and Findlay streets in what was at one time the old business area on the west side of the downtown area but which had become a slum. This was in great contrast to the rural area where we lived.
This was a time when many southerners had migrated to the northern cities and this was such an area as its inhabitants could be seen walking along the streets and sitting in front of the storefronts and on porches of houses.
We parked and as was the custom a young boy came up and asked if we needed anyone to watch our car. Dad gave him a dollar as the feeling was you wanted to be on the good side of the local populace while you were inside watching the game.
Once inside we took out seats in the right field bleacher section called the sun deck, as it had no cover. But we didn’t care as we sat on the long wooden benches and also this allowed us to walk around if we wanted.
These seats were especially close to the field and we could go up to the screen and watch the right fielder very well.
We got there early and saw the outfielders warming up before the game, particularly by throwing the ball from right field to third base. I was amazed as they threw the ball so hard it curved in a big arc before it landed at third base. This the players did over and over again, and I remember one player, Lee Wall who was particularly proficient.
Our Dad was usually very parsimonious and it was only on rare occasions that we ate any food out but on that day he bought us anything we wanted, hot dogs and pop mostly and maybe some ice cream in addition to a souvenir book.
I don’t remember who won but after the game we trudged to our car and found it intact, and tired but satisfied drove home, did the milking and so ended that June Sunday in 1959.
Although Dad took us to other games at Crosley field, including one in 1963 in which we saw Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers that first one was the most memorable.
Years later my brother was visiting and we were talking about that day. Dad had been gone for over twenty years, Crosley Field had been replaced by Riverfront Stadium and Riverfront by Great American Ballpark, and my brother has grown children and grandchildren and experienced many Father’s Days.
But he said, “You know that was best one I ever had, that one with Dad at Crosley Field.”
Ron Griffitts is a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate, a publication of AIM Media Midwest.