No crying in baseball.
Not even now, when the disappointment in Reds Country is deep and profound; when the high hopes have blown away with the autumn leaves; when the over-sized World Series tickets thousands of Reds fan have stashed away at home are nothing but bittersweet souvenirs of a season that ended too soon.
Yes, I’m disappointed as the rest of you are.
But I’m what they call a “veteran Reds fan;’’ I go back to the days of Crosley Field, where I saw my first major league baseball game in 1959, Reds and the Giants, with my grandma and grandpa. I was such a baseball rookie, I didn’t know what to do with my peanut shells so I stuffed them down my pants.
I’ve lived and breathed Cincinnati Reds baseball every summer since.
I do. I remember lounging around in the blue seats at Riverfront Stadium , sometimes with only 6,000, 7,000 fellow die-hard fans, watching the likes of Alex Trevino, Wayne Krenchicki and Larry Bittner stumble around to a record of 61-101.
And I remember the profound joy of sitting in the first row of the red seats at Riverfront on Oct. 17, 1990, game two of the World Series, watching the Reds’ Joe Oliver chop a grounder past the Athletics’ third baseman, Carney Lansford, that rolled down the left field line, while the anonymous bench player Billy Bates streaked around third in the bottom of the 10th to give the Reds the win number two in a World Series four-game sweep.
I’ve seen it all.
Still, this hurts.
Division play began in 1995. Before Thursday’s game at Great American Ball Park, 38 of the 42 teams who did what the Reds did – win the first two games – went on to win the division series. Zero for 21 in the National League Division Series.
Is this the same Reds’ team that had not lost three games in a row at home all season long? The same Reds team that had a 50-31 record at Great American Ball Park? The same Reds team that won 97 games and lost only 65 on their way to the Central Division championship?
It doesn’t seem possible.
But it is.
In baseball, anything is possible.
It is a game that can turn on a runner trying to stretch a double into a triple and getting thrown out at third base; a game that can turn on a usually sure-handed infielder muffing a routine ground ball; a game that can turn on a Mat Latos serving up a 94 MPH cut fastball that Buster Posey sends into the seats for a grand slam home run.
Yes, I’m disappointed. And, yes, I have a nice, neat package of league championship series and World Series tickets sitting at home that I will never use.
But I’m not crying.
I saw some great baseball at Great American Ball Park this 2012 season, some moments and events I will never forget.
There was that stretch from mid-July to well into August, when the Reds’ best hitter, Joey Votto, was down with a knee injury and the Reds’ hitters stepped up – Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick, and the rest – and ran up the best record in baseball, including a 10-game winning streak in July.
I saw the emergence of an exuberant and talented young player named Todd Frazier, a kid who can do it all and do it well and who will be a major piece of this club for years to come.
And then there was the emergence of a young reliever, J.J. Hoover, who surprised everyone in baseball; and the blossoming of Aroldis Chapman into a bona fide closer.
And, of course, Homer Bailey's no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
And some glimpses of the future – September call-up looks at some of the most talented prospects in baseball – Didi Gregorius, Henry Rodriguez; and looming just over the horizon, Billy Hamilton and his minor league season of a mind-boggling 155 stolen bases.
Today, for Reds fans, it is the first day of winter.
But spring is right around the corner.
Baseball is about hope and optimism and a belief that the best is yet to come.
Don’t worry. The Reds will be back. This is not the end – just the beginning.