CINCINNATI (AP) — The city hosting baseball’s All-Star Game this year was the home of a team that played like all-stars back in 1869.
The Cincinnati Red Stockings went 57-0 that year as baseball’s first officially professional team. Player-manager Harry Wright’s team added new players before the season, led by his brother, George, who was credited with a .633 batting average and 49 homers. Disbanded because of financial issues after two seasons, the team is being honored this summer with a variety of hometown homages including a 30-foot-tall image depicting a Red Stocking player that’s projected at night on the city’s Carew Tower.
Here’s a lineup of things to do this month to learn more about Cincinnati’s rich baseball history:
SEE THE WALL OF BALLS, AND MUCH MORE
Adjacent to the Great American Ball Park, where the July 14 All-Star Game will be played, the Reds’ own Hall of Fame and Museum is filled with artifacts and interactive exhibits covering Cincinnati players from the Wrights to the “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s to the current team.
Chief Curator Chris Eckes says it’s difficult to estimate the number of artifacts and display items, which include historic baseballs, uniforms, gloves, documents and photos. Start counting with a wall of 4,256 baseballs representing hometown star Pete Rose’s record career-hit total.
Special exhibits this summer are “Stars of the Queen City,” about Reds’ All-Stars through the years, and one on Tony Perez, the Cuban-born slugger also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame who later this summer will become the latest Reds star honored with a statue outside the park. Eckes says the museum will have extended hours and stay open during All-Star Game-related events.
WEAR YOUR BLACK SOCKS
The Reds’ museum and Legacy Tours have teamed up for a guided 90-minute walking tour called “1919-The Year That Changed Baseball” focusing on a colorful cast of characters from that era led by Reds president August “Garry” Herrmann.
Herrmann is credited with brokering the deal that helped form the modern major league and giving Cincinnati its first World Series title, a distinction that was marred after eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banished from baseball for fixing the Series by “throwing” it to the Reds in what became known as the Black Sox Scandal.
The museum has recently added Sunday tours to its regular Saturday lineup, along with additional ones surrounding All-Star week.
AFTERWARD, POP OPEN A BURGER
The Cincinnati Museum Center in Union Terminal has “Queen City Baseball: Diamonds & Stars” among its other exhibits, shows and children’s activities. In a short self-guided tour, visitors can see artifacts such as contracts and player cards from the early days of baseball in the city, programs and tickets from the four earlier All-Star Games here, and grainy black-and-white footage from the 1919 World Series.
A highlight is the audio playing in the background of Waite Hoyt’s last Reds radio broadcast in 1965. Hoyt, a Hall of Fame pitcher, called games for more than two decades for the Reds while plugging for sponsor Burger Beer. An on-air trademark was his tales during rain delays about former New York Yankees teammate Babe Ruth. A typed script on display at the museum recounts Ruth’s love for driving at high speeds, leaving a trail of chicken carcasses behind on country roads.
ONE GAME, MANY PEOPLE
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has a new exhibit called “Diversity in Baseball” celebrating barrier-breaking players: blacks, Jewish, Native American, Latino, Asian and females such as stars of the women’s professional baseball league started during World War II as told in the movie “A League of Their Own.”
There are also displays on Jim Abbott, who overcame being born without a right hand to become a successful big-league pitcher who threw a 1993 no-hitter, and umpire Dale Scott, who last winter came out as gay. There’s a replica pitching mound area with an image of Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame pitcher who declined to pitch in a 1965 World Series game that fell on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. And there’s also video of “Peanut Jim” Shelton, a black man who sold hot roasted nuts while wearing a black top hat and tails outside Reds stadiums for five decades.
For those who want a chance to meet — and get autographs from — some of the all-time greats who are still around, Major League Baseball has dozens coming to the five-day All-Star FanFest.
There is a Cincy Sports Fest autograph show just across the river in Covington, Kentucky, with for-fee sessions with former players including “Big Red Machine” stars, and tickets are on sale for “An Evening With Pete Rose” on July 11 at the downtown Taft Theatre.
It’s described as a stadium-like setting with Rose reliving his storied and controversial career. A publicist says the audience can submit questions in writing to be answered by baseball’s banned all-time hits leader.