Saturday, May 24, 2003

Baseball fans still rooting for the home team

Old friends have seen it all

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Jim Fox, 95, grew up in Corryville with his best buddies Dick Hengehold, 91, (left) and his brother Bob Hengehold, 93.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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In a sense, the Cincinnati Reds brought together James Fox and his buddies, Dick and Bob Hengehold.

That was eight decades and several ballparks ago, not that anyone was counting Friday night when the old pals got together for another trip to the ballpark, this time their first trip to Great American Ball Park.

Fox, 95, and the Hengehold brothers (Bob, 93, and Dick, 91) have gone to games together at Redland Field, Crosley Field, Riverfront/Cinergy Field, and now the new ballpark.

On summer days when the boys couldn't get a ticket into the game, they'd go to Corryville in their wagon, sneak into a saloon to get the game score from the ticker-tape machine, then run home to tell their friends.

In the early days, Fox had a lot riding on those game results. He sold the baseball extras that came out at 11 a.m. with the previous day's baseball news. He got 4/5 of a penny for each 2-cent extra sold.

"When the Reds won, I'd have to holler 'Reds Win! Reds Win!'" Fox said. "They sold well when then. When the Reds lost, I didn't do very well."

As the roaring 20s came skidding to a halt with the Great Depression, Fox found himself out of work, laid off as a lithographer. The Hengeholds' father got him started in the candy selling business - a career move that provided for his family for more than 50 years. Initially, Fox sold to grocery stores, saloons, five-and-dimes and anyone with a sweet tooth east of Vine Street. Later, he provided the goods for vending machines all over town.

The friendship and each man's growing family spanned world wars, a Great Depression, the space race, flower power, the "me generation," a technological revolution and more. But through it all, baseball was never far from their hearts and minds.

The memories are torn from history books: Games at Redland Field where a ticket cost pennies and got you the pick of seats inside; a picture of baseball's first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, at Redland Field; the first night game at Crosley Field; Tom Browning's perfect game.

The guys even played their share of baseball together - amateur ball in the old city Municipal League.

"We've known Foxy for 80 years," said Bob Hengehold, who lives in Mount Airy. "We're blessed. Most people don't have a friend for that long."

Dick Hengehold lives in White Oak and Foxy lives with one of his daughters in Springfield.

The new ballpark was an instant hit with all three men.

"This place has gotten some criticism, but I don't see it," Dick Hengehold said. "It's beautiful. This is my favorite so far."

The guys weren't alone on Friday. Four generations of the Fox family were also on hand: his three daughters, three of his four sons, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"He's been waiting for this weekend for six years," daughter Eileen Krauss said. "He had gallbladder surgery in April and we almost lost him. The doctors didn't think he would make it. He was in all this pain, and he just kept saying to the doctors: 'Get me to the ordination.'"


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