Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An 88-year Tradition

Nobody does Opening Day quite like Cincinnati.

Amidst issues of gentrification, high crime rates, suburban flight, urban decay, and a constant loss of commerce/tourism over the river to Kentucky, Cincinnati has and always will find pride in at least one thing: its home team, the Reds, professional baseball's original 1869 franchise. Baseball defines Cincinnati, and this is never more evident than with a local tradition that has stemmed nearly a century, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

I have lived in this city on and off since September 2004, and unfortunately due to school, it looks like I will once again not be able to make the Opening Day parade, and this will certainly be my one regret upon leaving this fair city after I graduate in 11 weeks. Being a baseball fanatic originally from the Milwaukee area, I was astonished upon moving to the city for grad school how into baseball people were. Although I visited old Cinergy Field in my adolescent years, my first memory of Reds Baseball was on October 2nd, 2004 -- Barry Larkin's last game. I could not believe the turnout and standing ovations on this cold rainy night. People live and breathe the sport here, particularly since the Bengals have sucked until recently. It is not just something to do here; baseball is certainly on the minds of most people from April through September (and sometimes October). From Crosley Field to Great American Ballpark, the city has followed its Reds, and I was honored to be in this city for at least this reason, to be around what I consider to be the best baseball fans in the country. True, they don't sell out like the Yankees and Red Sox, but it's pretty hard to be as dedicated to anything as Cincinnati has been for the past 140 years, especially since the Reds are considered a small-market team.

The first parade began in 1919 to celebrate the Reds' recent, albeit controversial, championship over the White Sox, and the city has continued it ever since. It's a rite of passage, and you know it's spring in Cincinnati when the parade arrives. Former Reds great Eric Davis is this year's honorary grand marshal. Following the parade, many fans will head to the park to watch the Reds beat the Cubbies at 2:10 p.m. Since the Reds have the distinction of being the sport's oldest franchise, they always have the honor of starting the season at home, thus facilitating the parade at the same time every year. It was originally more of a "pub crawl," describes the parade's spokesperson, in which the players also participated! Everyone walked down the street to old Crosley Field. The players lived in Cincinnati and were part of the community. Although it is more of a formality now, it is still important to the city.

It's a Cincinnati thing. Boston has Patriots' Day, and our local, "invented" holiday is Opening Day and the Findlay Market Parade.

(photo taken at 2000 parade)

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