COMMENTARY| Perhaps no other professional sports team means more to the city where it is located than the Cincinnati Reds mean to Cincinnati. The history of the city and its surrounding area is intertwined with the history of its baseball team dating back to the 1869 origins of the Reds as the first fully-paid professional baseball team in America and continuing today with the team as much a part of the psyche of not only city residents but the whole of Reds Country throughout the region anchored by Cincinnati.
The opening day of the baseball season is officially "Opening Day" in Cincinnati, where the Reds have enjoyed the privilege of holding their opening day game in Cincinnati with just one exception (in 1990 when the Reds last won the World Series). This tradition dates to the 1870's and for decades also included the honor of playing or starting their opening day game before the rest of the teams in baseball.
The Findlay Market Parade has traditionally marked the beginning of Opening Day ceremonies in Cincinnati for nearly 100 years and today still provides fans both along the parade route and watching televised coverage with the hope-springs-eternal feeling of another baseball season for their Reds team.
The Reds have not always been in contention like they have for the past few years. For the nine years preceding their 2010 NL Central division title, the Reds had losing seasons. A decade of losing can take its toll on fans, but Cincinnati has seen its share of winning Reds teams, none more dominant than the Big Red Machine of the 1970's. The Reds only won two World Series championships during the era of the Big Red Machine, but the team provided that expectation of winning every year and that winning tradition remained a Reds trademark with the revival of success by the Reds teams of the 1990's.
Overall, the Reds have won five World Series and fielded teams that lost four others. Only one Reds team (1982) lost more than 100 games, and the Reds have reached the postseason 10 times since the playoff format was implemented in 1969.
With the Cincinnati Bengals as the only other major professional sports team in the city, the long and successful history of the Reds will keep Cincinnati a Reds town, even though the Bengals have reached the postseason three of the past four years and played in two Super Bowls in their relatively young history compared to the Reds.
Part of the tradition of the Reds has been players on the team who are from Cincinnati, none bigger than Pete Rose who was synonymous with both Cincinnati and the Reds throughout a playing career that ended with Rose as the all-time hits leader in the game.
Besides Rose, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin also hailed from Cincinnati and played his entire 19-year career with the Reds. The return of another homegrown player, Ken Griffey, Jr. -- whose father was a key cog of the Big Red Machine -- was a welcomed homecoming for Reds fans, even if the results with Junior in a Reds uniform didn't result in winning teams.
Many other players from Cinicnnati played for the Reds whether they played their whole career with the Reds, like Ron Oester or returned to home to play for the Reds, like Dave Parker, Buddy Bell and Chris Welsh.
One of the most beloved players from Reds Country -- Joe Nuxhall -- is a big reason why Cincinnati remains a Reds town. Nuxhall was the Reds radio color commentator for 40 years and is legendary in Reds Country.
In one respect, Cincinnati is more of a Bengals town because of the cost the city incurred to keep the Bengals in the city by footing the bill for a new stadium and that keeps the city fiscally beholden to the Bengals. The Reds also received funding from the city, but with 81 games held at Great American Ball Park each year, the Reds venue is a more self-supportive venture.
Great American Ball Park itself is a dynamic interface of history and activity in addition to the serving as the home of the Reds. The interaction the park provided make it a destination for Reds Country and a vital centerpiece for the city.
The current ownership of the Reds under Bob Castellini is committed to reviving the winning tradition of the team and its vitality to the city and Reds Country with unprecedented player payroll. Not since the Big Red Machine have Reds' fans seen a team as competitive of a contender as the current Reds team.
Previous Reds ownership were also dedicated to the teams and the city, whether that be the 20th century godfather of Cincinnati, Powel Crosley,Jr., the controversial Marge Schott, an emblematic business leader like Carl Lindner, Jr. or the epitome of good fortune like Louis Nippert, who owned the Reds for most of the Big Red Machine era.
All told, Cincinnati will remain a Reds town as long as the Reds continue to play in Cincinnati, and if history is any precedent, that will be for a long, long time to come.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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