Once upon a time…
There was a little girl with a "Pete's Back" shirt who understood the energy and the fervor that was swirling around a certain city on the banks of the Ohio though she couldn’t quite grasp why it was there. The shirt was teddy bear sized. It's yellowed now and tucked away into a box with other memories, but it hasn't been forgotten.
The house where a child donned such a uniform was a practical stadium with a practical name – Riverfront. Simple. Descriptive. Logical. Makes people believe that all of this corporate nonsense is new, this changing of the names in the middle of a baseball cathedral’s existence, this marketing bacchanal that seems to transpire before our new millennium eyes. (Nevermind that it was Powell Crosley, Jr. in 1934 who changed the name of Redland Field to something more egotistical. But his cathedral was demolished, too.) On the outside, Riverfront had its own beauty in a practical sort of way. On the inside was the same perfect diamond that is found across the country, indeed across the world. (As a spectator, it was tough to tell that green was fake, and to a kid, it didn’t matter.) The record was broken, more games were played, school grades increased, a World Series, a strike, a division title, college, adulthood, life. Riverfront was always going to be there and then it wasn’t.
As a result we're left to piece together the memories that could very well not be our own but false recollections based on replays of the same few great moments – three World Series, a perfect game, 4192. There's nothing standing to remind us, nothing left but a white rose marking the spot where a record fell. Now we walk down Vine Street or Pete Rose Way or across the purple bridge to the ballpark and pass the gaping brown hole where a stadium once stood. You can still see the place under the bridge where the vendors sold big blow up bats and foam fingers that said “Reds #1” even though when I passed through the Reds were usually #2.
The bulldozers have come in and flattened the land and you can see signs of something coming to life, something years in the making, something that became ridiculously political. Soon there will be unadventurous chain restaurants and overpriced condos and apartments and offices and nobody will ever think about how someone sat in that exact spot as the chair at the dinner table while watching Johnny Bench hit a homerun or Tom Seaver strike a guy out.
I sometimes wonder what children think as they pass by the desolate space. Do they know what happened on that ground? Do they appreciate going to the new park that will one day be ripped down, forcing them to struggle to recall what are real memories and what is remembered by film clips? No, no they don’t, because they don’t get it, just like that girl with the Pete’s Back shirt didn’t get it. Going to Riverfront was just about the best thing that girl could do, but she didn’t fully appreciate it because as children we rarely understand that there is something to appreciate. We take for granted those things will always be there. Come to think about it, most adults do, too.
So go on over to the website and vote for the Banks Project to be renamed The Riverfront District. Because that’s what it is, a stadium burial ground on the banks of the Ohio.