October 1975 was the start of my senior year at Urbana College, now Urbana University. Many of us were big fans of the Cincinnati Reds and we often attended in person at Riverfront Stadium. This included game two of the National League Championship Series when the Reds ran over and away from the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best of five set.
Game three was Tuesday night October 7 in Pittsburgh where a Reds win would end the series. As we departed Cincinnati on Sunday we briefly discussed the wild idea of making the trip to Pittsburgh but never got serious until the next night when I was listening to a Reds report on WLW radio from Cincinnati. The Pirates would place 30,000 seats on sale on game day. Maybe we should go to Pittsburgh after all.
I located three guys who I thought might do this and we decided to go for it. Jim, Jim, Denny, and I had an early lunch in the UC Commons on Tuesday and hopped in Denny’s white 1970 Volkswagen Beetle for the trip east, a journey that we still fondly remember some 44 years later. This foursome still stays in touch.
We arrived at mid-afternoon, parked outside Three Rivers Stadium, and headed to the ticket window where we discovered that the ticket situation wasn’t what we were used to. In sold-out Cincinnati on Sunday we sat nine rows from the top in $5 reserved seats. In Pittsburgh all outfield seats in fair territory were just $3 general admission. We were there early and could get in line to claim a great location when the gates opened at 6pm. With this availability there was no need to inquire about reserved seats.
At 6pm we moved quickly to the second row beyond the left field wall (a box seat in Cincy) and watched batting and fielding practice. The Reds put on an amazing display of power that drew a standing ovation as the batting cage was hauled away. It was almost game time and we had a great vantage point.
The first pitch came just after 8pm by which time over 46,000 fans had joined us, still well short of capacity. Over the next few hours we saw a classic baseball game including a dominant pitching performance by Pirates lefty John Candelaria who struck out 14 Reds in less than eight innings. However, he did yield homers to Concepcion and Rose that gave the visitors a 3-2 lead entering the bottom of the ninth when the Pirates tied the score to send the contest to overtime.
This memorable game had iconic names on both sides and wasn’t over yet. The Reds featured the “Great Eight” of Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, Pete Rose, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, and Ken Griffey along with starting pitcher Gary Nolan. The Pirates had sluggers Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, and Al Oliver with a fine supporting cast.
In the top of the tenth Griffey led off and quickly had two strikes when he surprised all by bunting for a base hit and eventually tallying the decisive run. Final score 5-3 and we’d seen our team win the pennant before moving on to meet the Boston Red Sox in a memorable World Series won by the Reds in the full seven games.
It took about an hour to exit the parking lot as the trek back to Urbana began. Denny did all the driving as at least one of us tried to stay awake to keep him company. We decided to end the special night with a celebratory steak and eggs “Western Breakfast” at the all-night Family Table in Urbana before we finally got back on campus and into bed.
You may be wondering if our foursome attended classes that morning but it was not an issue since none were ever scheduled on Wednesday. We needed the day off.
Next Friday: My friend Wayne Gibson.
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