An Homage to Obscure Reds

Volume 1

Last week, as Reds Twitter reminded us, we celebrated the anniversary of a day that few Reds fans of a certain vintage will ever forget.

Remember when the Reds acquired Ken Griffey, Jr.? It seemed like such a watershed moment. Coming off a 1999 season in which the Reds won 96 games and narrowly missed the playoffs, things were looking up anyway. And then they went out and acquired the best player in baseball, bringing him home to Cincinnati. What could go wrong?

Griffey was very good for most of his time in Cincinnati (when he was able to be on the field), and the Reds were really bad. I’m not going to go into what exactly went wrong, but Griffey’s debut is the launching point for a discussion of one of my favorite activities. In this week’s podcast episode, I presented a quiz related to the starting lineup for the Reds in Griffey’s debut game. Here it is (a game that was rained out in the sixth inning with the Brewers and Reds tied 3-3):

Again, if you’re of a certain age, you probably have memories of most of these players. Maybe not Dante Bichette, who was only a Red for 125 games, but he had made four All-Star teams earlier in his career, so he’s not quite as obscure as I want. Same with Michael Tucker. But what about D.T. Cromer? Or Brooks Kieschnick? Or Kimera Bartee? These were all players who actually played for the Reds in that 2000 season, but if you remember them at all, you probably hadn’t thought about them in a long time.

And that’s the game. Every once in a while, I find that it’s fun to browse the pages at Baseball-Reference.com and look at past Reds rosters, searching for obscure names that I had forgotten and others that I never even remember. (We don’t get to celebrate post-season success around here, so Cincinnati fans have to create our own fun sometimes, right?)

Let’s go back one year, to 1999. If you were a Reds fan that year, you probably love that team as much as any in your lifetime. Greg Vaughn, Barry Larkin, Sean Casey, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young…that was a fun team that broke our hearts in the end. (But we’re Cincinnati sports fans, so broken hearts are nothing new.) But do you remember Jason Bere? He started ten games for that team — with a 6.85 ERA. Okay, you might remember Bere, since he had some success earlier in his career. But did you remember him as a Red?

What about Kerry Robinson? He would later go on to play a few years in St. Louis, but he played in 9 games for the 1999 Reds. Do you remember him? If so, I bet you don’t remember that Robinson had exactly ONE plate appearance in those nine games, yet he scored four runs. That’s hard to do, unless you are a forgettable pinch runner.

Let’s move forward to some Reds teams of a more recent vintage. What about 2010, when the Reds won the NL Central title for the first time in about a billion years. (I just checked my math, and it was only 15 years. Something must be wrong with my calculator, or my memory.) Those were the Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen, Bronson Arroyo Reds who will never be forgotten…especially if you were fortunate enough to experience Jay Bruce’s division-clinching blast on the day that will forever be known as Clinchmas.

No, that team will NEVER be forgotten…well, except for Willie Bloomquist, perhaps. Bloomquist, a 32-year old outfielder had been purchased — seriously, the Reds just tossed in a few bucks — from the Royals in mid-September. Bloomquist got 17 at-bats in which he did not distinguish himself, but he got to celebrate a division championship with a bunch of guys he didn’t know. I’m sure he enjoyed it, though. After the season, Bloomquist signed with the Diamondbacks and somehow continued to play in the league until he was 37. You have to be impressed with a guy who plays 14 years in the big leagues while only accumulating 1.7 wins above replacement. That’s hard to do!

Let’s also pay tribute to Enerio Del Rosario, who posted a 2.08 ERA for that 2010 Reds bullpen. Not bad, right? Sure, it was only nine games, but still…

I’m here to tell you that I have no memory of this guy. I’m still not actually sure that he exists in real life. Baseball-Reference tells me that the Reds sold him to the Astros in mid-September — perhaps to pay for Willie Bloomquist? We may never know! — and he appeared in 75 games for Houston over the next couple of years. But I will continue to insist that he is just a figment of someone’s twisted imagination.

And that’s the fun in being (mildly) obsessed with former Reds (and Bengals, etc.) who exist on the fringes of our memories. There is a nearly inexhaustible supply of them, and they can bring back great memories. For every Joey Votto and Barry Larkin and Johnny Bench, there are a hundred guys named Jordan Pacheco and Josias Manzanillo and Germán Barranca who played with these Hall of Famers. Should we not remember their contributions to the long and storied history of the Cincinnati Reds, just as much as the players who were actually, you know, good?

I say we should! After all, in ten years, think about how much fun it will be to look back at the 2020 contributions of future obscure players like Matt Davidson, Christian Colon, Brian Goodwin, Travis Jankowski, Brooks Raley, and Jesse Biddle.

Okay, maybe not fun exactly. But they were here, they were Reds, and they actually got to run onto the field. Let’s not forget them.

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A Note

You may have noticed that The Riverfront was on a brief hiatus. Many of you already know the explanation for that, but for the rest of you: I tossed my name in the ring for a special election for a state Senate seat, naively believing that I could do something to help this fractured union. Lol. Whatever, I’m happy to be back!

What I’m Reading

Kyle Berger: Making sense of a Senzel-for-Rosario deal

Doug Gray: Hunter Greene, Jonathan India among 18 invited to Reds “early camp”

Wick Terrell: Cincinnati Reds who have deputized at 1B since Joey Votto’s first game

Paul Dehner: Kyle Pitts to Bengals in latest NFL mock draft? The cons outweigh the pros ($)

Justin Williams: Bearcats reducing locker room rebuild plan, eye new practice facility: Sources ($)

What Chad’s Watching

After putting my movie-watching on hold for a few weeks, I’m back. The highlight was clearly “After Hours,” a 1985 Martin Scorsese flick starring Griffin Dunne that was just magical. Taking place over the course of one night, we see Dunne’s character get into a variety of mishaps and misunderstandings and mistakes, sometimes to (darkly) comic effect. As I make my way through Scorsese’s filmography, I’m sad that it took so long to watch this one, though glad to have seen it. Highly recommended.

“The Gleaners and I” from Agnes Varda is a documentary-esque look at gleaners: “those who scour already-reaped fields for the odd potato or turnip.” Sounds weird, I know, but Varda is a master of the craft (and one I’ve only recently discovered). Recommended.

“Libeled Lady” features Myrna Loy and William Powell. If you’re a fan of the “Thin Man” series, you know how you can’t take your eyes off the screen when these two are up there. (Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow also star.) Recommended if you, like me, love Loy and Powell.

Finally, “Operation Petticoat” is fine, I guess. An aging Cary Grant and a young Tony Curtis seem like an ideal duo, and the film has it’s moments. Recommended only if you’ll watch anything with Grant in it.

The World’s Most Dangerous Reds Podcast

Redleg Nation Radio #361: Never a dull moment with this team!

Doug Gray (from RedlegNation.com and RedsMinorLeagues.com) and I discussed the ongoing drama around the Reds inability to acquire even a single big league shortstop for the 2021 season. But there are still reasons to be excited, right? We discuss that plus a rousing batch of Viewer Mail questions. Enjoy!

We talk about the Cincinnati Reds — for better or for worse — every single week on RNR. Join us for free by subscribing everywhere you find dangerous podcasts. Or any other podcast, really. And you can support the podcast here.

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Thanks for subscribing! The Riverfront is designed to be a place we can explore the experience of being a sports fan in a city that often seems to break our hearts. I want to investigate the things that bring us together as a community, instead of the constant drumbeat you hear elsewhere about the things that divide us.

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If you have any comments, or just want to argue with me about anything I’ve written, feel free to shoot me an email at dotsonc@gmail.com. The best comments will be featured in a future newsletter.