Reds legends return for softball game at GABP

Bench’s team bests Larkin’s team

Pokey Reese looked like he could play. Mario Soto appeared to be in good shape 33 years after his final game. Sean Casey was trim. Adam Dunn was Adam Dunn — still with the appearance of a guy who could hit a baseball into the Ohio River.

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Former Reds players from six decades returned to Great American Ball Park on Friday night to participate in a softball game, which followed broadcaster Marty Brennaman’s induction into the Reds Hall of Fame.

The game was delayed for hours by rain, but everyone got an at-bat when it started, and there were numerous pitching changes as the managers — Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin — worked to get all the pitchers on the mound.

It was all fun and games and hugs and handshakes until the game started.

“No more niceties,” Larkin said in the dugout.

That was a joke, of course. This was not a serious competition. The only thing players probably wanted to avoid was getting injured or striking out, and Jose Rijo, the MVP of the 1990 World Series, failed to escape that latter fate.

Chris Heisey and Corky Miller homered in the game, and Sean Casey scored on an inside-the-park home run, though a fielding error helped. Bench’s team tied Larkin’s team 5-5, and the game was settled with a home run derby, which Bench’s team won.

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Although the Big Red Machine of the 1970s was well represented with Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, George Foster and others playing or watching, the 1990 Reds were better represented than any other single team and used this game as a mini reunion of sorts. They didn’t get the chance to get together on what would have been the 30th anniversary of their World Series championship in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Members of the 1990 Reds who were in attendance were: Larkin; Rijo; Tom Browning; Randy Myers; Chris Sabo; Herm Winningham; Eric Davis; Hal Morris; Ron Oester; Danny Jackson; and Todd Benzinger.

“Contrary to what people may think, we don’t see a whole lot of each other,” said Benzinger, who caught the final out at first base to clinch the World Series title. “Not a lot live in town like I do. Every time we get together, it’s like picking up a conversation that started in 1989 or 1990. No matter what we look like, no matter how heavy we are, we always see ourselves like we were in our 20s and early 30s. It’s just great to see them. We went through stuff you can’t really talk about unless you’re with those guys.”

“We had a great bond going with all of us,” Jackson said. “We were a young team. We just did a lot of great things together, and we played like a team. There was always someone who did something special to help us win a game.”

That’s happening with the 2021 Reds as well. Through Friday, they had a two-game lead in the race for the second wild card with 32 games to play. Benzinger said he’s rooting for them.

“It’s good to see them doing so well,” he said. “With that second wild card, they have a great chance. We didn’t have that back when I played. You had to finish in first place. The good thing about that is when you went to the playoffs, you only had one team to beat. Now you make the playoffs and that’s great, but you may be out in one game.”

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