Cincinnati, Ohio. An ordinary city in an ordinary state.
Except to a native of this Midwest metropolis, there is nothing ordinary about the Queen City.
This place is home. Always has been, always will be.
Skyline Chili will forever taste like home. Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip ice cream is the undisputed finest dessert this side of the Mississippi. Fall Friday nights belong to the Elder Panthers, the Colerain Cardinals and the St. Xavier Bombers. Major League Opening Day, like last Thursday, will always be a city-wide holiday.
And, for better or worse, we will always back our Cincinnati Reds.
The Redlegs have a long history of taking in hometown ballplayers. From Joe Nuxhall of Hamilton to Pete Rose of Western Hills or Barry Larkin of Moeller High School, this baseball town develops big league studs and watches them turn into legends on the banks of the Ohio.
The biggest of such stars? “The Kid” himself, Ken Griffey Jr.
When the Hall of Famer successfully requested a trade to the Reds from the Seattle Mariners in Feb. 2000, Cincinnati welcomed a bona fide superstar who drew comparisons to Willie Mays for his power and defense combination.
At the time, Junior played the game at a level few others could keep up with. The Moeller graduate came home to Cincinnati after a dominant decade of the 1990s, collecting ten straight All-Star appearances, nine Gold Gloves and an MVP award.
After being traded back home, injuries plagued Griffey. Despite six seasons of 40 or more homers in Seattle, Griffey collected only one such season in Cincy. As time wore on, the days of flashy catches in center field faded into the past as Father Time took his toll.
My personal memories of Griffey date back only to the mid-2000’s, far past the climax of his electric career.
Yet, The Kid remains my favorite Cincinnati Red to ever play.
In an era that saw superstars such as Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire tarnish baseball’s record books, Junior crushed his way to 630 career homers the clean way.
Like many other kids at the time, I would spend hours in front of the mirror in an upright position emulating Griffey’s swing, the most majestic the game has ever seen.
I will never forget listening to Reds play by play commentator Marty Brennaman call Griffey’s 500th career home run on Father’s Day.
But more than any of these reasons, Ken Griffey Jr. is a Cincinnatian.
Sure, his best playing days were as a Mariner, but I truly believe Junior spent plenty of nights sleepless in Seattle, dreaming of returning home to wear the same uniform and number as his father.
Beneath the smile, the swing and the charisma was a Cincinnati boy with the same dream of every kid in Hamilton, Warren and Butler county: play for the Reds.
He came home. To anyone whose phone number doesn’t start with 513, that doesn’t make sense.
We don’t expect you to get it. That’s alright. It’s a Cincinnati thing.