Cincinnati's 9 biggest sports moments of 2015

Posted at 7:00 AM, Dec 20, 2015

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnatians are just a little wacky about their local sports teams -- from the pros to college, loyalty runs deep (no matter how lousy their record).

From hosting a major annual sports weekend to making franchise history, 2015 was a good year for Cincinnati sports. Or an eventful year, at the very least.

If you don't remember anything else, here are the 9 biggest moments in Cincinnati sports from 2015:

9. Reds rebuilding -- from the front office to the mound. The first few major trades to rock the Reds' starting lineup almost seemed like questionable calls. Before long, it became very clear that the Reds are bent on rebuilding the franchise. The loss of Johnny Cueto to Kansas City was a hard hit for fans, followed by Brayan Peña and it's crystal clear that a trade for Aroldis Chapman is in the works (domestic violence accusations threw a wrench in a nearly-finished Dodgers deal). Todd Frazier was the latest on the chopping block -- the reigning Home Run Derby king is trading his Red stockings for White Sox as of Dec. 16. Walt Jocketty was even removed as GM and replaced with 44-year-old Dick Williams. (No, Bryan Price is not going anywhere, even though fans have all but hired Barry Larkin). After a 64-98 season, rebuilding shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone -- but it's still hard for some fans to say goodbye to some of their favorite star players.

8. Professional soccer team FC Cincinnati takes shape. They've got the jerseys and sponsors, a home field, a coach and most of the roster. Not to mention some notable local support. The team will compete as part of the United Soccer League, but eventually becoming a Major League Soccer team isn't completely out of the question. The whole scheme was hatched by former Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Berding, who left a 19-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals to bring futball -- the other football -- to the Queen City.

7. Devon Still and Leah Still. This year was huge for Devon (and Leah) Still -- they won an ESPY, started the Still Strong Foundationand they won the "dream wedding" that Devon promised his fiancée, Asha. And perhaps the most exciting news is that, in Leah's words, they "beat up cancer." The 5-year-old has been in remission since March. But the sports community had to say goodbye to their "favorite Dad" in September when Still was cut from the Bengals' roster. Although he had a few tryout opportunities with other teams, nothing stuck. But thanks to the NFL and Bengals, Leah will stay covered on the league's health insurance plan for another five years.

6. Ezzard Charles mural. We all know his name and a little of what he did for the Queen City. Now, Cincinnati's first world boxing champion -- and beloved community activist and jazz musician -- will live on forever in the form of a hand-painted mural on the side of a three-story building in Over-the-Rhine. Charles died at 53 from ALS. Upon his death, Cincinnati changed the name of Lincoln Park Drive in the West End to Ezzard Charles Drive and Hamilton County inducted him into its Sports Hall of Fame in 1967. This fall, the mural by ArtWorks -- also featuring James Brown and Oscar Robertson -- was unveiled and dedicated. And now, generations to come will remember "Ezz" for more than his street rolling through the West End.

5. Todd Frazier wins the Home Run Derby (at home). One of the few successes of the Reds' 2015 season was Todd Frazier's performance in the Home Run Derby during All-Star Week. The Reds named the third baseman a "spokesman" for All-Star Week, and the team campaigned to get out the vote for Frazier to start in the All-Star Game. Frazier's win at his home field was only the second in MLB history in front of a home crowd and only the third Reds player to win the Derby ever. But Frazier gave Reds fans something to hang on to -- a sort of victory from All-Star Week and the 2015 season. As mentioned earlier, Frazier is heading to Chicago to play for the White Sox, a major bummer for many Reds fans, but Cincinnati will be forever thankful for the awesome memories he gave us.

4. This was the year that Andy Dalton became cool. Yes, it can really be pinpointed to this year. Exhibit A, his ESPN magazine cover. Sure, his new haircut is pretty tight, but there's also a new swagger about him -- Raggedy Andy no more. Just this summer, he was booed at the MLB All-Star celebrity softball game. A classless move, but Dalton took it in stride and knocked one out of the park to shut up the haters. But now, he doesn't take disrespect -- whether it's aimed at him or his teammates. He's no longer the scapegoat for every Bengals loss: He's the hero of the team, as most franchise quarterbacks are. He's loved by many and (finally) being taken seriously as an elite quarterback by national sports analysts and his hometown fans. There's still a lot left to be seen from Dalton and the 2015 Bengals -- and a looming thumb injury leaves some questions about the QB1's return -- but Cincinnati finally give Dalton the credit he deserves (and it's about darn time).

3. All-Star Week success. With initial concerns over crime, human trafficking, stadium and road construction, the weather and a last-minute concert cancelation, Cincinnati exceeded all expectations as a host city for the 2015 All-Star Game. The Queen City openly flaunted its rich baseball history with a modern twist -- remember the mustache statues? -- and threatening summer storms stayed at bay (unlike the last time Cincinnati hosted All-Star Week). Tourists, locals, sports personalities, national media, athletes and the MLB sang high praise for Cincinnati's hospitality and showmanship when the week ended. Hopefully, that success will overshadow the Reds' embarrassing 2015 season.

2. The Bengals make franchise history. Well, they're still making history -- and fans hope that the momentum carries over into the playoffs. But to avoid jinxing the rest of Cincinnati's successful season, here's what will definitely go down in history: The Bengals went 8-0, then 9-0, both for the first time in franchise history. Who Dey spirit is alive and well in Cincinnati (and beyond). The 2015 season has restored a level of pride -- and the ability to brag -- that fans haven't felt in decades.

1. Pete Rose's lifetime ban upheld. We were waiting for this news for months, and it finally broke on Dec. 14. Besides the commissioner's final decision to uphold the ban, Pete captured dozens of headlines throughout the year. From more confirmation of betting -- this time, for betting on the Reds while playing for them -- to his stint as a sportscaster to his hideous dye job at the All-Star Game where he was named a member of the Reds' Franchise Four, Pete couldn't stay out of the spotlight for long. The decision to keep Pete banned from baseball and likely out of the Hall of Fame (unless otherwise outlined by commissioner Rob Manfred) riled up opinions on all end of the spectrum. Some say that Pete's been in purgatory long enough; others say he's blatantly broken too many rules to be forgiven. You can see all of our Pete Rose coverage -- which is far from over -- right here.