Pete Rose, native Cincinnatian, discussing Cincinnati and baseball: "I grew up in Anderson Ferry, right on the river. You want to know why they called it that? Because there's a ferry there runs across the Ohio. That's why. But you could look right up my street and see downtown Cincinnati. I went to high school in Western Hills, and right now I live five minutes from where I went to high school. To this day I don't know much about the East Side. I used to go to every game at Crosley Field. And Opening Day—Opening Day, if you had a ticket to show to your teacher, you'd get out of school for the day. Yeah, this town has always been very big on baseball. When a recession hits in other towns the people will set aside their ball tickets, but in this town they will set aside other things and keep their ball tickets. Listen to me: out at my restaurant we sold $2,500 worth of baseball novelties just this month. Of course, when I was growing up I think we played more baseball than the kids do now. You want to know why? There's so much more extracurricular stuff now.
"When you were growing up did the girls dress the way they do now? No, right? Well, that takes the kids more away from baseball now. You probably played more baseball, too. Baseball players have to be better now than 10 years ago. You know why? Well, they're not any faster, any stronger, I can see that. But because of all the extracurriculars they have to be more dedicated. Sure, the Reds have dedication, discipline, and there's just four reasons why. Those four reasons are Bench, Perez, Morgan and Rose. Some kid on the team sees a guy makin' $170,000 run out a ground ball, you can bet he will, too. And the people in this city, they appreciate that. The people in this city are just like me. I've been sayin' all year we owe the people of this city a world championship."
If there is any justice in this capricious world and any surviving arms in the Cincinnati bullpen, the Reds, with the best record in baseball, will make, and then win, the World Series. But Cincinnati will understand if it turns out otherwise. Although the Reds have been in business since 1869, they have won only two world championships, and one of them was a dump. But even despite the team's recent Oktobermesses, the burghers on the Ohio keep coming back for more. If the Reds do make the Series, it would be altogether fitting if they let Doris Kappelhoff throw out the first ball.
Doris Kappelhoff grew up under that name in Cincinnati, and then went to Hollywood as Doris Day. What makes this so neat is that the best way to describe Cincinnati is to say that it is the municipal version of a Doris Day movie—with Rock Hudson costarring as Procter & Gamble, Tony Randall as the beer drinkers and Thelma Ritter as the Reds. Will the Democrats be able to seduce Cincinnati? Will the suburbs? The 20th century?
Longfellow called Cincinnati "the Queen City of the West," Churchill, "the most beautiful inland city in America." At various times various other visitors have called it "the London of the West," "the Paris of the West" and "the Berlin of the West." But Cincinnatians themselves, who have their feet on the ground, always boast about being "the machine tool capital of the world." Really. Queen Citians actually say that. In a lot of mid-American cities, the citizens dutifully obey the DON'T WALK signs. In Cincinnati they also obey the WALK signs. When it says so they step off, even if they don't want to cross the street. Everybody knows everybody, and everybody's business, too. "Nothing ever gets very dramatic here," says Henry Hobson Jr., a lawyer, a board member of the Reds and one of the town's leading citizens. "The city is small enough to give interested people a chance to participate. The United Appeal is a big thing here. Things in Cincinnati are pretty much done by osmosis. They just seem to correct themselves."
Vas you effer in Zinzinnat? The streets are clean. So are the politics. Traffic flows. People say "please?" instead of "huh?" when they don't understand you. The humidity is high, the chances low that you will get bopped on the head after dark downtown. Formica calls Cincinnati home. The first man to walk on the moon resides there, unbothered. People save for a rainy day; there are more savings and loans in the Cincinnati area than in all the rest of the state. Neither recession nor boom ever smacks into Cincinnati the way it does other places. Its biggest fear, which everyone expresses, is that it might become—fretful furtive glance—"another Atlanta." Industry ("good corporate citizens") works with government, which works with an honest-to-goodness two-party system. The men play softball and then drink Wiedemann, Stroh's or Hudepohl—have a Hooty! The women are not good-looking, by and large, as plain a lot as you will find anywhere in North America, but genetically this should not be too surprising, since the men aren't much on looks, either. Lunch downtown means a chili palace or brown bagging it at Fountain Square. The Christian Science Monitor recently listed Cincinnati as one of the 10 most livable cities in the U.S., and that won't get any argument here. Bill Keating, publisher of The Enquirer, says: "Many times I think Cincinnati is yet to be discovered. When people come here, they're amazed to find out that a place like Cincinnati exists."
Of course, nobody's perfect. As in other cities there are in Cincinnati detectable amounts of avarice, unemployment, malfeasance, prejudice, violence, pollution and pusillanimity—some of which sometimes exceed tolerable levels. And delusion. Delusion, at least so far as the Reds are concerned, has reached epidemic proportions. Never, mind the '75 season. Are our Reds—who have been nothing in recent years but a brigade of sunshine soldiers—are they the greatest team in recorded history? The afternoon Post ceded the World Series to the Reds on Aug. 19 when the injured lefthander Don Gullett returned to action. A banner headline declared: " GULLETT'S BACK! REDS CAN'T LOSE NOW." Not to be outdone, The Enquirer came out the next day with a page one story and a headline asking: "PLANNING ON ATTENDING SERIES?" Anybody ask the Pirates?
The success of the Reds at the gate has created another powerful civic hallucination, involving some convenient reordering (or forgetting) of history. It is rather amusing that Cincinnati, a lovely place, quite deserving of praise, is now being credited with something that really has precious little to do with Cincinnati. It may be one of the great fables of diamond mythology that Cincinnati is a good baseball town.
This legendary reputation is based largely on the sport's antiquity in town, and specifically on the gala Opening Day, which the ctizens celebrate with the same display of annual ardor that lapsed Christians save for Easter. "The best fans are from out of town," says Bill DeWitt, who used to own the Reds and still lives in Cincinnati, a devotee of his adopted city. "After Opening Day the people in town wouldn't go near the ball park. But they all thought they were great fans because they listened on the radio." (Even now Reds broadcasts have up to an 80% share of the local radio audience.)
DeWitt ordered a marketing survey, which revealed that only 16% of the spectators came from Cincinnati, with another 20% from the surrounding counties, meaning that 64% of the Cincinnati Reds fans come from outside the metropolitan area. Dick Wagner, the team's present administrative vice-president, says, "I'm not sure that we don't get more people in the park from Dayton than from Cincinnati."