All-Star Clubhouse a centerpiece of FanFest
Gives fans an opportunity to interact with prominent baseball figures in a casual setting
CINCINNATI -- One of the highlights of every Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest by T-Mobile is the All-Star Clubhouse, where huge name after huge name can be spotted engaging fans in a lengthy question-and-answer session.
All day, every day, 30-minute sessions are conducted with Hall of Famers, alumni who played for the local team and other prominent figures in baseball.
In that regard, the Reds' rich history has been front and center in the All-Star clubhouse throughout FanFest. Every memorable era has been represented, from the 1975-76 Big Red Machine to the '90 underdog Reds that ended up sweeping the World Series.
The setting is casual and welcoming, and the panelists tend to be pretty candid with their answers -- more than they would in a formal interview. That's all part of the fun, as several baseball personalities have shown throughout FanFest festivities this week.
Take Hal Morris, for example. The first baseman for the 1990 World Series champion Reds and currently the Angels' pro scouting director, Morris regaled fans with stories from his very early years as a player in the big leagues. One story in particular centered around his rookie year in 1988, when he was playing for the Yankees and his future Reds skipper, Lou Piniella.
Jack Clark had been thrown out of the game, and soon the fiery Piniella was, as well. Two or three innings later, Morris heard someone calling his name from around the corner. It was Piniella, who, according to Morris, was "sitting in his underwear, smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer." Piniella's message? "Get ready to hit, kid."
"And that's how I found out I was getting my first at-bat," Morris said.
One of the better-attended Q&A sessions was with the Nasty Boys, also known as three of the most dominant relievers in history: Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton, who in 1990 formed an unbreakable back end of the bullpen that turned most games into six or seven-inning affairs.
In Charlton's opinion, their system in 1990 -- where any reliever could close or setup or pitch the seventh -- paved the way for how bullpens are constructed in modern times.
"The bullpen that [former Reds GM] Bob Quinn assembled based on the three closers ... we all went to an All-Star Game as a closer at one time or another," Charlton said. "What you're seeing nowadays, and I don't understand why more teams don't do it, [teams] get three guys that can absolutely slam the door, change the way opposing managers use their players, change the way opposing managers manage the game."
Former Reds pitcher Tom Browning, who threw a perfect game in 1988, was as well known for his somewhat off-the-wall personality as he was for his pitching dominance. That combination provided for some great storytelling during his session in the All-Star Clubhouse.
Browning's perfect game and rooftop visit at Wrigley Field are probably two of his most famous legacies. But here's a little-remembered fact: He was 20-9 with six complete games in his rookie season.
How have times changed? Back then, the Reds were using a four-man rotation and Browning had a stretch of 18 consecutive starts in which he pitched on three days' rest, as opposed to the four that is commonplace today.
Browning's record over those 18 starts? Fifteen wins, three losses.
"I got into a groove. [I] was 9-9 in early August [and] won [my] next 11," Browning said. "I never anticipated winning 20 games, and I never did it again."
Browning's superstitious nature is also the stuff of legend.
"I never touched the white lines," Browning said. "I grew up a Reds fan, and Sparky Anderson said you treat it as sacred ground."
He also drank iced tea every day because he was told it had more caffeine than coffee. And, most famously, Browning wore red underwear on days he pitched.
The clubhouse staff had a special name for it -- "Red drawer day."
While Saturday was dedicated to celebrating the 1990 Reds, Sunday's theme was "Salute to Our Soldiers" Day, where T-Mobile FanFest paid tribute to the men and women of our armed forces. A presentation of the colors for the anthem by Junior ROTC members opened the day at the World's Largest Baseball, and fans were invited to create thank you cards to send to troops and participate in Baseball Boot Camp on the T-Mobile Diamond.
The first 2,000 eligible fans received a mini bobblehead of a member of the Big Red Machine at the entrance, and military members received $5 off the ticket price.