Two hours before first pitch Sunday in Game 3 of the NLDS at Great American Ballpark the atmosphere was one of cautious optimism.
Sure the Reds were down two game to none to the Phillies, but this was a home game and the crowd was hungry for a winner.
I spent a couple hours watching the Reds' 2-0, season-ending loss on Sunday walking the concourse. I also spent time near the box seats and in the Champion's Club and there was one constant thread among the crowd.
They were waiting.
Even after a 15-year playoff drought, even after winning the NL Central Division the fans in Cincinnati were still waiting. They were waiting for a moment.
They were waiting for Jay Bruce to hit a home run, for Scott Rolen to make a flashy defensive play, for Joey Votto to earn that MVP consideration.
They were waiting for a moment that never came.
It got close, though.
Brandon Phillips led off the bottom of the ninth with a single through the hole at short stop. The crowd rose to their feet with the announcement that Votto, mighty Votto was advancing to the plate. With apologies to author Ernest Lawrence Thayer, this is my assessment of what happened next.
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Cincy Reds that day;
The score stood two to none with but one inning more to play;
But then when Phillips led it off and found his way to base;
A mighty roar arose from all those at the game.
A straggling few were paralyzed in fear. The rest,
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only Votto could but get a crack at that —
We'd put up even money now with Votto at the bat.
Then from 44,599 throats there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled on the river and a steamboat rang its bell;
It knocked upon the buildings and men turned around their hats;
For Votto, mighty Votto was advancing to the bat.
A sneer was there on Votto's lip, his teeth were clenched with hate;
He pounded with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now Cole Hamels holds the ball and now he lets it go;
And the air throughout the ballpark was shattered by the force of Votto's blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
A band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light
And in Philly men are laughing while the kids are shouting "Yay;"
But there is no joy in Cincy,
Votto hit into a double play.
(Oh, and then Rolen struck out swinging to end the game.)
For Reds fans hopefully this season's memories will include moments like Bruce's NL Central-clinching home run instead of things like Roy Halladay’s no-hitter.
The team has a young core which, if management keeps together, can be very good.
We'll come back to that topic sometime in late March.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com