Baseball History Goes To Dust

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It took just 37 seconds to bring down the old Riverfront Stadium, a prominent feature of Cincinnati's skyline for 32 years and the ballpark that was home of Pete Rose's Big Red Machine and of Hank Aaron's 714th home run.

With the push of a button, 1,275 pounds of dynamite and nitroglycerine went off in a counterclockwise pattern of blasts around what had been renamed Cinergy Field, collapsing the arena inward onto its former playing surface.

Spectators cheered and car horns blared as a cloud of smoke and dust spread to downtown. Thousands of people lined both sides of the river to watch, some bars and restaurants had breakfast parties for viewers. Hotel rooms with a view of the demolition were booked, and others watched from boats on the Ohio River.

The demolition did not damage the park's successor, the $280 million Great American Ball Park, or the nearby John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which spans the Ohio River to Covington, Ky.

"It couldn't have gone better," said Jeff Sizemore of O'Rourke Wrecking Co., the demolition contractor.

The site will become the western concourse of the Cincinnati Reds' new home, the Great American Ball Park, and will include the Reds' Hall of Fame, set to open in 2004.

Riverfront Stadium opened in 1970 with Hank Aaron hitting a home run in the first game. That fall, the stadium hosted the World Series in which the Reds lost to the Baltimore Orioles.

On opening day in 1974, Aaron tied Babe Ruth's career home run record of 714. He eventually finished with 755.

The Reds went on to win three World Series, including consecutive titles in 1975-76 with Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench leading the Big Red Machine.

In the winter, the stadium was home to the Bengals, who reached two Super Bowls while playing there.

In one of the NFL's coldest games, Jan. 10, 1982, the Bengals overcame a wind chill of 59 degrees below zero to beat the San Diego Chargers 27-7.

The Bengals left the stadium in 1999, moving to Paul Brown Stadium.

By John Nolan