"Autograph please!" "Autograph please!" it is a plea that has echoed through ballparks since the earliest days of our national pastime. The quest for an autograph from a baseball hero has consumed young and old alike for generations. Over these many years, autograph collecting has evolved from a simple hobby to a billion dollar industry. To have an autograph of a favorite player is to have a part of that player. It preserves a cherished memory or becomes a financial investment. Many times it does both.
Second baseman Joe Morgan was the spark that ignited the engine of the Big Red Machine to the pinnacle of the baseball world in the 1970s. Arriving in Cincinnati in 1972 in a blockbuster trade with Houston, Morgan was crucial to the five division championships, three National League pennants and two world Championships the Reds won during the World Championship seasons of 1975 and 1976. Morgan was the league's MVP in each of this world title seasons, an unprecedented feat in the long and illustrious history of the Reds. An All-Star in each of his eight seasons in a Reds uniform and a Gold Glove winner each season from 1973-1977, Morgan was the definition of a complete player, combining speed, power and superlative defense like no second baseman the game had ever seen. A first ballot inductee to the Reds Hall of Fame in 1987 and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990, Morgan received the highest individual honor a club can bestow when his uniform number 8 was retired by the Reds in 1998.
Walking through the Palace of the Fans facade, visitors enter a theater themed as an old ballpark. There is seating for 90 visitors in the wooden grandstand. At the front of the theater is a replica of a Crosley scoreboard (from the 1930s and 1940s era), flanked by two Crosley Field-themed light towers. The scoreboard is transformed into a screen on which guests see one of a selection of films on Reds history including on a new film on the 1990 Reds.
Leaving the theater, guests walk toward the south end of the museum and large windows that overlook what was left-center field of old Riverfront/Cinergy Field. In plain view is the location where Pete Rose's record-breaking hit landed (no. 4,192), on September 11, 1985. The area is covered by a large rose garden, and the exact spot where hit #4,192 landed is marked a white rose bush amidst a sea of red roses.
The interior exhibit space features a reader rail that highlights Rose's career, including a dramatic, 50-foot-high "wall of balls" that includes 4,256 baseballs (the number of hits in Rose's career). Stairs and an elevator lead to more exhibits on the upper floor.
Visitors enter an office-lobby setting marked as the Reds front office. Display cases line the walls. Historic business documents are on display. Six large graphic panels highlight major decisions and trades made by the front office, from the decision to pay players salaries in 1869 to the historic trade for Joe Morgan in 1971. Press a button on the panels and you can "eavesdrop" on a conversation about each of these topics.
This large gallery combines an opportunity to learn more about great Reds players with the chance to engage in the experience of being "on the field." The gallery is divided into four sections: Fielding, Hitting and Running, Pitching and Catching, and Managing. Each space includes memorabilia, graphics and large photos of outstanding Reds in each of these categories. Interactive components allow the visitor to try their hand at fielding and pitching. You leap the wall to make a catch and you throw off a regulation mound to a strike zone 60 feet 6 inches away.
Video kiosks throughout the gallery highlight a Reds player describing the keys to being a successful pitcher (Tom Browning), catcher (Johnny Bench), hitter (Sean Casey) and fielder (Barry Larkin). A dugout scene (featuring a dugout bench from Riverfront Stadium) features a life-size figure of Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson and a chance to hear Sparky's thoughts on the Big Red Machine.
To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Redland/Crosley Field, the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum presents a special display that highlights a variety of artifacts from Redland/Crosley, the beloved home of the Reds from the ballpark's opening 100 years ago through the middle of the 1970 season when the Reds moved into Riverfront Stadium.
This section of the museum is aimed at visitors 6 and under and features a downsized locker room where Mom and Dad can help their future Hall of Famers wriggle into their Reds jerseys. The section also includes a play area that features a themed slide and a "baseball crawl."
The high point of this gallery is a recreated broadcast booth where visitors can take their place behind the mike to call plays. Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall provide introductory commentary and set the stage for your call. Afterward, you'll be able to hear how they called the same play. Exhibits in this gallery include photos and artifacts representing the writers and broadcasters who have followed the Reds throughout the club's history. You can also pull up a chair on the "front porch" and listen in as Waite Hoyt and Joe Nuxhall recount stories from their baseball and broadcasting careers. Fans can also follow the evolution of broadcasting in an exhibit that explains how announcers used telegraphy to call out-of-town games.
Ok, so your spouse thinks it's a room full of junk, but you know better. Here is where you keep your "treasures," the memorabilia you have collected and put on display in your tribute to the Reds. The bobbleheads, the pennants, the advertising signs, the baseball cards; they all surround you in your ultimate rec room. Of course there's a big screen TV, and it's playing Reds bloopers and highlights. Settle into one of the Riverfront seats and enjoy the show. Is this heaven, or what?
This large circular gallery highlights the championship teams and is dominated by a tribute to the Big Red Machine. The celebration of the greatest of all Reds teams is highlighted by a memorable representation of the Machine's fabled starting lineup. Presented by Prestige AV & Creative Services, "The Great Eight" statue display includes life-sized statues of Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, George Foster, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo in a celebration scene inspired by the Reds' memorable victory on the final play of the decisive game of the 1972 NLCS. As visitors enjoy the scene, the dramatic radio call of this play (by Reds play-by-play announcer Al Michaels) provides the sound. Big Red Machine memorabilia, photos and video monitors tell the rest of this story of one of baseball's greatest teams.
The rest of the gallery is devoted to great teams of the past from 1882 to 1999, featuring artifacts, photos and memorabilia from each era. The Reds three World Championship trophies (1975, '76 and '90) are highlighted in the center of the room.
A hallway from the glory days room leads to the final gallery, the Reds Hall of Fame. The materials used in the flooring and the walls combine with the lighting to make a statement that this next gallery is very special. Upon entering the Hall of Fame gallery, visitors see the Hall of Fame plaques displayed on freestanding towers. Each tower is four-sided, containing up to eight plaques. The visitors can walk among the towers, moving at their own space, exploring the names, searching for their favorite players. Paying homage to the history of the club and the players, an audio highlight reel plays in the background, filling the space with sounds of great moments in Reds history. A wall-sized panoramic photo of Opening Day 1912 (the first-ever game at Redland/Crosley Field) partially envelopes the Hall of Fame plaques, creating a sense that the greats of the past are still out there, on the field, much to the delight of a sold-out ballpark.
The Hall of Fame gallery concludes the exhibits, and visitors exit down a winding stairway (or by elevator) to the gift shop, the Reds Team Store by Majestic.