Ten years ago tonight was one of the most memorable nights in the history of Cincinnati sports. The Reds were coming off of a 1999 season that saw them win 96 games and come within one game of the playoffs. Surely, a team so close to the post-season could be pushed over the edge with a key trade or free agent signing. When that trade involves the best player in the game, a city already rich in baseball history can be sent into a frenzy.
The summer of 1999 was magical due to the success of the Reds and me finding the person who would accompany me to hundreds of games in the years to come. My wife and I met in April of that year and my new love spent the next few months being introduced to my old love. We fell in love with each other and she fell in love with the Reds.
When it became official that Ken Griffey Jr. would be traded to the Reds, we quickly joined in the excitement of every other fan across Reds country. Junior would get to wear the same uniform his father did as a member of the Big Red Machine. The kid who used to run around the Reds clubhouse in the 1970s was finally coming home.
With credit cards in hand, we quickly made our way to the closest Kroger store that contained a Ticketmaster station. We bought more than our share of tickets as our anticipation of a sold-out stadium grew.
We already had plans to go to Spring Training and the addition of Junior just made it more exciting. The media attention was amazing. When Junior emerged from the dugout to warm-up before games, it was as if Mick Jagger came through the stage on the Voodoo Lounge tour.
It has been well documented that the acquisition of Junior did not work out in the long term. It was not his fault. Junior was hit with injury after injury, potentially robbing him of the all-time home run title and the Reds from playoff appearances.
Some people had trouble connecting with Junior during his tenure in Cincinnati. His demeanor often rubbed “blue-collar” Reds fans the wrong way. A town who has always loved the hustler with average talent was now watching a graceful, superstar with unmatched natural ability.
I was, and still am, a fan of Junior. He will always be the greatest player of my generation. He created many memories on the field during his time as a Red, including one off the field on February 10, 2000.
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