Reds celebrate 150th anniversary with parade

In its 100th year, annual event highlighted by Bench, Commissioner Manfred

March 28th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- How's this for a box score?

In the first professional baseball game ever played -- 150 years ago, on May 4, 1869 -- the Cincinnati Red Stockings beat the Cincinnati Great Westerns in grand style, 45-9.

That sparked a 130-game winning streak for the Red Stockings, if you take into account 81 official games and 49 exhibitions. Apparently, back in the day, everything counted.

The modern-day Reds have more modest aspirations, and presumably, triple-digit winning streaks are not on the to-do list. But what is on the schedule is a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of professional baseball's inaugural season. That party started in downtown Cincinnati on Thursday, Major League Baseball's Opening Day, with the annual Findlay Market Opening Day parade.

The parade, which also celebrated its 100th anniversary, spotlighted several special guests, including Major League Baseball's commissioner, Rob Manfred, who served as the grand marshal.

"I have to tell you, I have been fortunate to experience Opening Days in a lot of our cities," Manfred said. "I've never had one quite like this one. The parade here is really special. I do think it's a tribute to the fandom of the people here in Cincinnati, to the great job that the Castellini family does here, owning the Reds. It was really a pleasure to be a part of it today."

Manfred sat next to Hall of Famer Johnny Bench during the stroll down Race and Fifth streets and said later that the legendary catcher is "like a god here."

"I think you could put the most despicable character in the world in a car with Johnny Bench and he'd get cheered in Cincinnati," Manfred joked. "It was a lot of fun."

Reds pitchers Sonny Gray and Anthony DeSclafani also rode in the parade. Gray, who grew up in suburban Nashville and whose late father was a Reds fan, was thrilled to participate in this annual Cincinnati tradition.

"Me and Disco were out there, we got in the truck and I thought, 'Well this is cool,'" Gray said. "There were people everywhere. People are very, very, very genuinely excited about the Reds. You can tell how this city really rallies behind the Reds. ... I was really glad to be a part of it."

Opening Day in Cincinnati has long been part of the fabric of the city, and the Reds make sure the pomp and circumstance is at a premium for the sellout crowd that flocks to Great American Ball Park each year. The parade and the pregame ceremony were both packed with star power, with several generations of Reds legends being included in all festivities.

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, a star member of the Big Red Machine, served as the game's honorary captain, while Bronson Arroyo, who pitched for the team from 2006-13, delivered the official game ball to the mound. Reds Hall of Famer Eric Davis, a member of the 1990 World Series champion Reds, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Bench, who, like Morgan, was a key component of the famed Big Red Machine.

Meanwhile, the meaning of Opening Day in the Queen City was also not lost on current Reds players. Catcher Tucker Barnhart described it as "so much like a holiday."

"The energy that you can feel, whether it be on social media or seeing people out in the city, people out at Spring Training, everybody is excited," Barnhart said. "I've been hearing for weeks and weeks that people are excited for Opening Day, and the players are, too."

Other highlights of the pregame ceremony included greater Cincinnati-area firefighters unfurling a giant American flag on the field. The flyover featured two F-16 Fighting Falcons of the 112th Fighter Squadron "Stingers" from the 180th fighter wing Ohio Air National guard Base in Toledo.

The Reds also acknowledged notable figures who passed away in the past year. That list included Chuck Harmon, the first African-American to play for the Reds (1954-56), and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who played 12 seasons in Cincinnati from 1956-65.