Our Rich History: Batty about Cincinnati: Reds’ fans and their hometown team — what a team!

By John Schlipp
Special to NKyTribune

“The whole town’s batty, about Cincinnati,

What a team, what a team, what a team,
Each man and lady—from one to eighty,
How they scream, how they scream, how they scream.”
“The Whole Town’s Batty About Cincinnati”
– Larry Vincent, 1961

These humorous lyrics are part of a Reds’ home team anthem composed by Larry Vincent and Moe Jaffe. They were the owners of Pearl Records, an independent record label of Covington, Kentucky. Larry Vincent sang the whimsical lines on a 45 RPM record released by Pearl in 1961. It was a memorable year. TIME magazine (July 21, 1961) described it as an opportunity “to celebrate the Reds’ surprising climb to first place in the National League.” Vincent and Jaffe’s memorable musical score and lyrics were printed by General Music Publishing Company and registered with the US Copyright Office on July 17, 1961.

1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings lithograph. Tuchfarber, Walkley & Moellmann, Cincinnati, Ohio. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Fans are truly “batty” about Cincinnati and their hometown Reds baseball. We celebrate each spring with an opening day parade. Then, the opening day festivities are reinforced with Reds’ fervor throughout the baseball season. Whether it be music, the iconic Mr. Red, or regional broadcasting and media greats like “Marty and Joe,” the Reds have always been at the forefront of professional baseball history.

The Cincinnati Base Ball Club is generally recognized as the first openly professional baseball team. The club was originally named the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869. By 1876, when the National League began, Cincinnati was a charter member, along with Boston, Chicago, Hartford, Louisville, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.

Growing up a century later in the south suburbs of Dayton, Ohio (about 35 to 40 miles north of Cincinnati), my family and I frequently travelled the I-75 expressway to Crosley Field, and later, to Riverfront Stadium. It was the era of the Big Red Machine.

I fondly remember the ambiance of Crosley Field, attending the last game there on the evening of Wednesday, June 24, 1970. Of the 28,027 fans attending that last Crosley game, a reporter noted: “Reds fans alternately wept and cheered as their boys shut the quaint, 58-year-old stadium by beating the San Francisco Giants, 5-4” (Cincinnati Enquirer, June 24, 1990, p. 29, Tom Groeschen). The weather conditions that evening were mild and dry. Yet the sight of the few remaining 17-year cicadas buzzing around became another indelible memory of the final game at Crosley Field, where the turf was real.

Carl Schlipp in uniform for his Miamisburg (Ohio) High School baseball team in the late 1940s.

My father Carl Schlipp was an avid Reds’ fan, who caught a few foul balls of his own in the stands at old Crosley Field. As a youth of the 1960s attending many Reds’ games at Crosley, I asked my father many questions: Why is Crosley Field named after Crosley? Why not Reds’ Field? Who was Crosley? My dad shared stories of Powell Crosley, who was a pioneer broadcaster, radio manufacturer, and owner of the Reds’ team.

As a matter of fact, the Cincinnati Reds have a rich history of famous radio broadcasters offering play-by-play accounts of their games. These radio broadcasts were important for Reds’ fans who were unable to attend home games. Further, in the Big Red Machine era before cable, television stations broadcasted home games regionally, but only if the team had sold a certain number of tickets. If they had not sold enough tickets, the official FCC (Federal Communications Commission) required that local broadcast stations “black out” (that is, preempt) the home game. For “blacked-out” televised games, the radio remained the fans’ only alternative, short of attending in person.

Three Reds broadcasters—Marty Brennaman, Joe Nuxhall, and Wait Hoyt—were honored with commemorative plaques in 2007, displayed outside the radio broadcasters’ booth of the Great American Ball Park. For more on the earlier history of such broadcasters like Wait Hoyt see our previous NKyTribune article about the Roots of Cincinnati Reds’ radio at Crosley Field here.

Carl and Delores Schlipp, along with my sister Clarisa, proudly displaying a Reds pennant at Fountain Square during the early 1970s. (Photo by John Schlipp.

Riverfront Stadium (later known as Cinergy Field) was the home of radio announcers Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall. Brennaman retired at the end of the 2019 season. A recent documentary tribute honors his 40 years of broadcasting Reds’ games. In 1974, Marty arrived from his Virginia Tech radio announcer job to join Joe Nuxhall in broadcasting many historic calls on WLW radio. This marked the start of the famous “Marty and Joe” team. Marty and Joe witnessed the height of the Big Red Machine and its subsequent World Series wins in 1975, 1976, and 1990. Through the years, the Reds have won five World Series titles and nine National League Pennants. Brennaman is noted for his signature call for a Reds victory, “And this one belongs to the Reds!” Marty was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005.

Brennaman and Nuxhall teamed together for 31 seasons on the Reds’ radio sports network from the WLW 50,000-watt radio flagship station. The contrasting sports moderator styles of Marty and Joe blended very well together. Marty was known for his ultra-smooth play-by-play calls. Meanwhile, regional Hamilton, Ohio native and former team player, Joe Nuxhall, was famous for his passionate Reds’ stories. During rain delay periods, Joe and Marty spoke with fans on their “banana phone,” answering baseball trivia and sharing baseball lore.

Marty Brennaman. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

It is remarkable that Joe Nuxhall was one of the youngest players to appear in a major league game. In fact, the year was 1944, and Nuxhall was only 15 years old and still attending high school. A number of professional players were serving in the military during World War II, prompting the Reds’ scouts to recruit young Nuxhall as a pitcher for the team. Joe finished high school and resumed his Reds’ team career in 1952. Nuxhall often closed his broadcasts with his trademark signoff phrase, “This is the old left-hander, rounding third and heading for home.” He spent over 60 years with the Cincinnati Reds organization (1944 through 2007) as a minor-league player, major-league player, and radio announcer.

My father used to listen to Joe and Marty on WLW radio, even while attending the home games. Dad listened with his transistor mini radio held firmly to his ear so that he could hear their play-by-play calls. This was before the day of Walkman-type headphone radios. All around the region, Reds’ fans listened to Marty and Joe on transistor radios. They even brought them to games at Riverfront Stadium. And at home, they often muted their television sets to listen to the commentary of Marty and Joe on the radio.

Radios were so important to Reds’ fans that they brought them everywhere. For example, as we were leaving a Reds’ home game at Riverfront Stadium one evening, my dad placed his radio temporarily on our front car bumper. Forgetting about it, he drove all the way home to Dayton, Ohio. The next day, he discovered the radio intact and still operating on his front bumper.

Joe Nuxhall commemorative statue, Great American Ball Park. Photo by John Schlipp, March 2021.

The origins of the moniker “Big Red Machine” are not so clear. Many sources claim that Cincinnati Enquirer writer Bob Hertzel coined the nickname, while Dayton Daily News sports beat writer Hal McCoy is often cited as the first to use this endeared title. Even Pete Rose is credited as first using the phrase in a newspaper quote the day after the Reds beat the Phillies 19-17, on August 3, 1969: “We scored so many runs and it was still a close game, but the Big Red Machine did it again and we’re in first place.”

The following week the Associated Press reported that the Big Red Machine expression was devised by team manager Dave Bristol. Federal registration with the US Patent & Trademark Office (Serial Number 72364637) claims the First Use in Commerce as August 3, 1969. The federal trademark for the phrase, “go big red machine,” was filed by the Cincinnati Reds on July 8, 1970 and registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office in 1972. Moreover, subsequent “Big Red Machine” trademarks have been federally registered.

Certain sports writers such as Bill Peterson and Mike Shannon recognized the Big Red Machine era 1970-1979 as the best in professional baseball history. The “Great Eight” players from the Big Red Machine of the 1975 and 1976 World Series were Johnny Bench, Dave Concepción, George Foster, César Gerónimo, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, Tony Pérez, and Pete Rose. Other players from the greater Machine era included Clay Carroll, Dan Driessen, and Gary Nolan.

Beside the trademarked “Big Red Machine” phrase, the trademarked logos of the Cincinnati Reds are among the most memorable in major baseball league history. The USPTO describes trademarks as words, phrases, symbols, and/or designs that identify and distinguish the source of goods or services of one party from another. Sports trademarks are often registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office. Such trademarks help customers recognize product or service branding identifiers, such as those registered by the Cincinnati Reds.

Classic wishbone-shaped “C” Reds logo used during the Big Red Machine era. (This is an example of descriptive fair use of a trademark for non-profit newspaper reporting, commentary, and educational use).

Apparently, the classic wishbone “C” Reds logo was introduced in 1905. There have been dozens of different “C” logos since the early days of the Red Stockings team. In 1913, the Reds team name was inserted within the classic wishbone “C.” Throughout the years, the “C” logo has proudly graced five World Series titles (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990), most notably during the Big Red Machine era of the 1970s as shown.

The team’s Mr. Red mascot (also referred to as Cincy Red in the mid-1960s) originated during the anti-Communist “Red Scare” of the early 1950s. Inspired by its roots as the Red Stockings, the team officially renamed themselves as the Cincinnati Redlegs. This was to disassociate its name with the “Reds,” a title then used to denote Communists.

Popular music has honored the Reds since the 1800s when sheet music dedicated to the team graced pianos in parlors throughout the region. Songs included “Red Stockings Schottish,” written for the very first Cincinnati Red Stockings team by Charles Kinkel and published by J. L. Peters of New York in 1869. A century later, the campy “Whole Town’s Batty About Cincinnati” by Larry Vincent was often posted during the Big Red Machine era on the Riverfront Stadium scoreboard video screen for fans to sing along with. Johnny Bench led players, wives, and passengers in singing “Batty About Cincinnati” on a flight en route to Oakland, California for the 1972 World Series (Sports Illustrated, October 30, 1972). And Joe Nuxhall sang it a capella between his play-by-play radio broadcasts.

B-Lark and the Homeboys performed a rap video, entitled “Reds Hots,” in honor of the 1990 World Series Champions. It benefitted the Caring Program for Children. You can view the video and hear the performance, including actual 1990 Reds
team members, here.

In 2003 the local band Blessid [sic]Union of Souls released an album entitled Play Ball, about the Reds. The title track promoted the opening first season at Great American Ballpark.

Mr. Red statue, sitting along a park bench on Riverside Drive in Covington, with the Great American Ball Park in the background. The statue commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Reds in 2019. It has since been moved. Photo by John Schlipp, April 2019.

There have been many other songs dedicated to the Reds. “Oh, You Reds!” was written and published by Hayden Hendy, Cincinnati, in 1910. “The Cincinnati Reds Song,” written by William M. Schmitt and published by Olympic Music Publishers of Cincinnati, dated from 1919. That was the famous year of the Reds’ World Series victory over the game-fixing and scandalized Chicago White Sox. Known as the Black Sox Scandal, eight members of the White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series.

“The March of the Champs” was written by Will H. Palmer and published by the Modern Music Publishing Company. This was the official March of the 1940 Cincinnati Reds World Series champs. The Reds song “Cin-c-i-n-n-a-t-i” was published in an anthology booklet of sixteen baseball songs entitled Batter Up written by Moe Jaffe and published in New York by Mills Music, Inc., in 1938.

Finally, Erich Kunzel and Steven Reineke composed and released “Hooray for the Cincinnati Reds,” on a 1998 Telarc compact disc. The Central State University Chorus and William Caldwell performed a rousing mantra to the home team, backed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

As of January 1, 2021, copyrights of these classic scores published before 1926 (or 96 years or older) have entered the public domain free for anyone to perform in public. However, newer sound recording derivatives of these scores may yet be copyrighted. Composition scores and sound recordings are two distinct copyrighted works. To determine the status of such copyright conditions, see a guide on Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States at the Copyright Information Center of the Cornell University Library here.

John Schlipp is an Intellectual Property Librarian and Professor of Library Science at W. Frank Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). NKU is an official PTRC (Patent & Trademark Resource Center). He can be contacted at [email protected]

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