Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Cincinnati should lead off ballpark-stamps lineup

        Thirty-four cents. That's all it will cost. Mere pocket change will buy a portrait of Crosley Field at night and give Cincinnati a great excuse to throw a party.

        Sometime this summer, in June or July with a date to be named later, the U.S. Postal Service plans to issue 10 stamps in its Baseball's Legendary Playing Fields series.

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Crosley Field stamp
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        Crosley Field, the Reds' home for 86 years and 4,543 games, is among the 10.

        Rounding out the 10-stamp series are: Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, Chicago's Comiskey Park, Detroit's Tiger Stadium, New York's Polo Grounds, Philadelphia's Shibe Park, Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, Boston's Fenway Park, New York's Yankee Stadium and Chicago's Wrigley Field.

        The last three are still in business. (And they are serious contenders for hosting the stamps' first day of issue celebrations.) All of the other parks, except for Tiger Stadium, whose fate is uncertain, have been leveled.

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All 10 stamps
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        Thanks go to Phil Jordan, a one-time second baseman from Jackson, Miss., for picking Crosley Field. He designed the stamps, basing them on vintage postcards from the collection of former Washington Senators announcer Ron Menchine.

        Working out of his studio in Falls Church, Va., Phil narrowed the contenders from 14 to 10. He did not make his selections on personal experience.

        “I have not set foot in any of the ones I picked,” he told me.

        He went with Crosley Field because “I wanted an excuse to use a night scene from a postcard, and Crosley was the site of the first night game.”

        That historic event took place May 24, 1935. The Reds' 2-1 under-the-lights victory over Philadelphia — as well as the ballpark's outfield terrace — is noted on the self-adhesive stamp's backing paper:

        “Major League Baseball night games debuted at this Cincinnati park in 1935, with FDR switching on the lights from the White House. One of the game's smallest, most intimate stadiums, players had to run uphill to the outfield fence.”

        Nice of the Postal Service to pay tribute to Crosley Field. Now, the home team and hometown must step up to the plate.

        The Reds and local authorities should start planning a party. Hold it on the first day the Crosley Field stamp is issued.

        But they must plan fast. Time's tight.

        Don Smeraldi, spokesman for the ballpark stamps, told me a meeting is set for today at the Postal Service's Washington, D.C., headquarters to decide whether Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park will be the sites for the stamp series' first-day parties.

        I say: Add Cincinnati to the list. Call the Postal Service at (202) 268-2000 to cast your vote. E-mail Don Smeraldi at He told me that since Crosley Field is gone, Cincinnati might qualify for a second day of issue celebration.

        To me, second place isn't good enough. Cincinnati deserves a first-day party because:

        Professional baseball started here in 1869. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the National League, with the Reds as a charter member.

        Cincinnati's party could be held outside Cinergy Field before a Reds game. The team could gath er retired Reds who played at Crosley. Joe Nuxhall pitched and called radio play-by-play at the old ballpark. He could be the guest of honor. His radio sidekick, Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman, could emcee.

        Fans could buy first-day covers, envelopes with the Crosley Field stamp and a fancy cancellation. For a nominal fee — donated to a baseball-related charity — the retired Reds could autograph the first-day covers.

        A band could play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Reds vendors could sell hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack.

        With construction under way for the Reds' new Great American Ball Park, this party would be a fitting tribute to a legendary ballpark.

        That's Crosley Field.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at (513) 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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