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On This Date in Sports June 24, 1970: Rise of the Cookie Cutter

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

It is the final game at Crosley Field. The intersection at Findlay and Western had been home of the Cincinnati Reds since 1884. Rebuilt twice, it took on its current form in 1912 and was home to the first major league night game in 1935. The Reds would beat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 as Johnny Bench, and Lee May hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth off Juan Marichal after the game home plate was dug up and taken to the Reds’ new Riverfront Stadium.

The Cincinnati Reds at played at the same location at the intersection of Findlay and Western since 1884. The stadium was originally built as League Park with wooden stands. It was rebuilt and named the Palace of the Fan in 1902. The Palace of the Fans was among the most stunning parks at the turn of the century with its Greco-Roman pillars. The stadium was rebuilt into a modern concrete structure in 1912. It was initially called Redland Field, a name it would carry until it was renovated in 1934 when it was renamed Crosley Field.

The Reds’ new stadium was initially scheduled for the start of the 1970 season. However, construction delay led to Cincinnati playing the first half of the season at Crosley Field. The Reds final game at Crosley Field was on Wednesday Night with 28,027 fans on hand to see the first place Reds take on the San Francisco Giants. The Reds led by first-year manager held a record of 48-21 entering the game, while the Giants were sitting at 32-36 under manager Charlie Fox. Jim McGlothin got the start for Cincinnati, while Juan Marichal made the start for the Giants. The Giants built a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning. In the eighth inning, the Reds took control as Johnny Bench, and Lee May hit back-to-back homers off Marichal. Each was the final two hits at Crosley Field as the Reds won 5-4. Wayne Granger got the win as Bobby Bonds on a grounder to the pitcher made the last out. 

After the game, home plate at Crosley Field was dug up and taken to Riverfront Stadium. After three-game weekend series at the Astrodome, the Reds hosted the Atlanta Braves in the first game at Riverfront Stadium on June 30th. The Braves spoiled the Riverfront opener with an 8-2 win, as Hank Aaron hit the first home run after Felix Millan got the first hit. Two weeks later, Riverfront Stadium played host to the All-Star Game, won by the National League 5-4 when Pete Rose of the Reds ran over Ray Fosse of the Cleveland Indians in the 12th inning.   

Riverfront Stadium on the banks of the Ohio River across from Kentucky represented the standard in stadiums. It was multipurpose, sterile, and utilitarian and lacking any character or charm. At the same time, the Reds were transitioning from classic Crosley Field to Riverfront Stadium; the Pirates were moving from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates won a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs on June 28th to close Forbes. After the All-Star Break, they opened Three Rivers Stadium with a 3-2 loss to the Reds on July 16th. The two teams would play in the NLCS in 1970. The Reds would win and fall to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. The Reds and Pirates would face each other four times in the NLCS during the 1970s.

There was nearly no discernible difference between Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium. Both were round and on the Ohio River, though in Pittsburgh, it was also near the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, each combined to form the Ohio River. Both stadiums featured symmetrical dimensions and artificial turf, adding to the sterile charmless feel. The multipurpose stadiums became popular with the growth of professional football. The round stadium began with DC Stadium later RFK Stadium in Washington, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. Though both were different in designs and décor, it was the start of the era of the cookie-cutter stadium. In 1971, Veterans Stadium made its debut in Philadelphia. 

The utilitarian cookie-cutter stadiums were designed to save costs as a dual purpose while hosting both baseball and football teams. Since the stadiums were round, it provided a poor fan experience for both sports. Large seating capacity for football it took away from the intimacy of baseball. Rounding away from the field, it made the game a rumor for football fans in the upper deck.

The cookie cutters became concrete anchors with two decades. As the NFL continued to grow and baseball began looking to give a more intimate and pastoral experience, the cookie cutters became an albatross by 1990. Over the next ten years, the cookie cutters began to crumble as the needs for baseball and football forced cities to build two stadiums. One large for football with the stands pressed close to the field and one retro-style ballpark for baseball that looked more like the stadiums built in 1910. The new-age baseball stadium would all have unique dimensions and quirks as if to give one middle finger to the roundness of the cookie cutters.