CINCINNATI – Before the Reds' final game at Crosley Field, Pete Rose was already looking forward to playing in the new stadium on the riverfront.
The hometown hero, who grew up watching his favorite Reds in the venerable ballpark in Queensgate, who started his legendary major league career there in 1963, spoke respectfully of the past, but he already liked what he saw of the future.
The Reds weren't just moving from one home to another, they were moving into a new era - one of the greatest in baseball history.
"It's just one of those things. It's been a great place with a lot of memories here … I just hope we can accomplish the same things in the new stadium," Rose said before that last game against the Giants on June 24, 1970.
Crosley Field was quaint and homey, but Rose and Reds fans were eager to move to the modern, state-of-the-art Riverfront Stadium. Under new manager Sparky Anderson, the first-place Reds had gotten off to their best start in the 20th century (48-21). The Big Red Machine was born. Big things were on the horizon - too big for Crosley Field.
A sellout crowd of 28,027 came to say goodbye to Crosley, though the celebration was rather subdued at first. The fans, too, seemed to be caught up in the excitement surrounding the opening of Riverfront Stadium on June 30 and the All-Star Game coming there in three weeks.
There were a few "Goodbye, Crosley" signs. A Dayton sportswriter, Si Burick, paid homage to Reds greats past and present in a pre-game speech. Fittingly, the Reds beat the Giants 5-4 on back-to-back, eighth-inning homers by Johnny Bench and Lee May, and that brought the crowd to its feet. Afterward, popular local entertainer Marian Spelman led them in "Auld Lang Syne," and Mayor Eugene Ruehlmann stepped to the microphone and said what other Reds fans were thinking.
Crosley Field had great moments – the first night game, three World Series (four if you count 1919, when it was Redland Field). And it had great and beloved players – Ernie Lombardi, Ted Kluszewski, Frank Robinson, Joe Nuxhall (the original GABP statues), to name a few. But it was time to move on.
"All of us tonight share a feeling of nostalgia and great joy. Nostalgia because tonight marks the end of an era – an era in which Crosley Field played a significant part in the growth and development of a great city," Ruehlmann said.
"I can only say that, as we leave Crosley Field, the memories will never fade. But now it's time to say, 'Farewell, Crosley Field. Hello, Riverfront Stadium. Forward, Cincinnati. And on, Cincinnati Reds, to a World Series championship.'"
That brought the biggest cheer of the night from a crowd hungry for Cincinnati's first world championship since 1940. Then came a symbolic gesture to tie the past with the future. The grounds crew dug up home plate and a helicopter flew it to Riverfront Stadium, where it would be part of the most successful era in Reds' history.
Ruehlmann had been premature. Although the Reds finished 102-60 and brought the World Series to Riverfront in 1970, they lost in five games to the Orioles. It would take them until 1975-76, after losing another World Series to the A's in 1972, to make good on their promise. But it was worth the wait.
By then, Crosley Field was gone, demolished in 1972. It quickly fell into disrepair after the Reds left, and neither the ballclub nor the city stepped up to be caretaker. Kids (and adults) broke in from time and time, and baseball games sometimes broke out on the unkempt field.
Then came the ultimate indignity - the city turned paradise into an impoundment lot. Crosley Field became a junkyard.
Over the years, several historical markers faded away, and its history was lost, until three weeks ago. City Gospel Mission, which built on the site at Dalton and Findlay avenues, painted a commemorative mural and opened a self-guided tour with help from the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Riverfront Stadium, renamed Cinergy Field was imploded in 2002. It only took 37 seconds for three decades of Reds and Bengals history to go up in dust and smoke.
WATCH Cinergy Field implosion.