Sports Extra with Dave Ross: Remember when Tommy Helms managed the Reds?


Sports Extra - With Dave Ross



I have many great memories of watching the Cincinnati Reds on both TV and in person. Two such keepsakes took place on Thursday afternoons late in the 1989 season. I was in row 23 of section 153 at Riverfront Stadium with Lee Westerheide of Minster on both August 3 and September 21.

In early August, Pete Rose was hanging on as manager amid ominous gambling allegations that would sink him three weeks later. On August 3 the Reds beat Houston 18-2 with 14 of the Cincy runs coming in the first inning to set a club record. Both Luis Quinones and Mariano Duncan came to the plate three times in that frame. I later got both to autograph my game ticket which is still displayed at my home. (Too bad they don’t use traditional paper tickets anymore.)

By September 21 Tommy Helms had been managing the team for almost a month. The 11-7 loss to San Diego on that date is remembered for former Reds minor leaguer Randy Poffo entering the domain of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall on Reds radio. He was in full costume and character as pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage who was set to perform at Riverfront Coliseum next door on that evening. Along with Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and others, Savage was widely internationally known.

Marty loved it and milked it for all it was worth in a season so full of negative distractions. Joe mainly laughed. Fans and players picked up on what was happening as Macho Man told listeners about his dastardly plans for that night and swapped poses with Reds slugger Eric Davis who had moved to the front of the dugout. Macho ripped up Marty’s Hulk Hogan photo which hung on the wall of the radio booth, and the pieces fluttered into the seats below.

Owner Marge Schott didn’t like any of this and sent her nephew to tell Marty to cease the interaction. The future Hall of Famer was emphatic in telling Steve Schott where to go. To this day, Marty loves to tell this story. By the way, some 14,000 fans saw Macho Man defeat Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka during the WWF tussle several hours later.

Tommy Helms managed the Reds one other time and it also involved the troubles of Pete Rose. In 1988 the “hit king” was suspended for a month for shoving an umpire and Tommy took over.

I saw Helms first big league hit, a pinch hit single that bounced over the head of Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer at Crosley Field in 1965. Despite being a Rookie of the Year and an all-star over 14 big league seasons, he’s mainly remembered as being part of the trade that brought fellow second baseman Joe Morgan to Cincinnati for the 1972 season.

Concert time

Last Friday I enjoyed the traditional courtsquare band concert. I arrived very early and got to talk about these weekly columns with a number of SDN readers. I was pleased to see retired Sidney coach, athletic director, and tournament manager John Wolfinger who is rebounding nicely from heart issues. John closed his career as AD at Fairlawn. While I like the music, the interactions are also a reason for my attendance.

Prior to the performance, I examined the roster of the Sidney Civic Band and found three classmates/bandmates of my brother from Sidney High School 1965, the days of the award winning “All Boy Band.” I also noted a drummer who was a year ahead of me at SHS.

Then I found a name that really got my attention. The lone tenor saxophone was Shogo Nakayama. A closer examination revealed that it wasn’t the same name as Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama who was in Milwaukee on business.

Late night legend

109 years ago today, Dayton and Cincinnati all night movie host Bob Shreve was born. I was both a consistent viewer and fan club member. The Ross family home was a regular gathering place for myself and my Yellow Jacket friends to watch the bartender/entertainer and all of his gimmicks that got even better as the time approached for Bob to sign-off and Captain Kangaroo to take over on Saturday mornings about half a century ago.

Sports Extra

With Dave Ross

Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross graduated from Sidney High School in 1972 and began local media affiliations three years later. He attended his first Reds game in 1956.

Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross graduated from Sidney High School in 1972 and began local media affiliations three years later. He attended his first Reds game in 1956.