CINCINNATI (AP) -- Ken Griffey Jr. made history with his
first-inning double -- the first hit at Great American Ball Park.
With a chance to get the Reds back into the game, he struck out.
That's how things are going at Cincinnati's new park, where
everyone but the home team is having fun.
"It was disappointing,'' said shortstop Barry Larkin, who
caught a ceremonial first pitch from former President George Bush.
"One game or not, it's still Opening Day. We got beat up out
there. It's not fun.''
All of the fun for the capacity crowd came in the first inning,
when Griffey doubled for the ballpark's first official hit.
The crowd was on its feet again the next time he came to bat,
with the bases loaded and the Pirates ahead 6-1 in the third. Kris
Benson went to a full count, then got Griffey to swing wildly at a
high, 92 mph fastball.
"I just swung at a bad pitch, plain and simple,'' said Griffey,
who was 1-for-4. "He got the ball up and I chased it. Those things
happen on Opening Day.''
A bunch of newcomers made things happen for the Pirates, who
signed Sanders and Lofton during spring training to upgrade their
outfield. Sanders' two-run homer started a six-run rally in the second.
Sanders, a key member of the Reds' 1995 playoff team, was
stunned and thrilled to hit the first homer in their new place.
"When it's your first at-bat of the season, you don't expect to
hit a home run,'' Sanders said. "It's all about timing, being in
the right place at the right time. I enjoyed my time here, and
getting the opportunity to open their new stadium and hit the first
homer is very exciting.''
The crowd of 42,343 waved flags during a patriotic pregame
program, then bundled together on a 53-degree afternoon and watched
the NL's worst offense last season have its way with the Cincinnati
The Pirates batted around in the second against Jimmy Haynes.
After Sanders' homer, Haynes walked Benson before giving up a
three-run homer to Lofton. Kendall's solo shot came five pitches later.
"One really bad inning,'' lamented Haynes, who had never
started an opener. "It was tough to go out there and give up three
home runs in one inning.''
By then, the park was filled with catcalls and the home team was
headed for its third straight loss in the new place. The Reds have
been outscored 19-3 while losing two exhibitions to Cleveland and
the regular-season opener.
Benson gave up three hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings to
win his first Opening-Day start. Pokey Reese's error at second
helped the Reds load the bases in the third, and Benson walked
Austin Kearns to force in Cincinnati's lone run -- unearned, at
Benson also had three strikeouts, the biggest one against
"He's always a tough out for me,'' Benson said. "I was
thinking the whole time that this is going to decide the game. If
he gets a double or base hit and scores a couple runs, they're
right back in it.''
With one mighty swing and miss, the Reds' best chance was gone,
leaving them with another lopsided inaugural loss. They also lost
their first game at Riverfront Stadium in 1970, 8-2 to the Atlanta
Braves. Hank Aaron hit the first homer in that one.
Baseball's first professional team remembered its past during
pregame ceremonies, minus its most prominent player. Hits king Pete
Rose couldn't participate because of his lifetime ban for gambling.
Commissioner Bud Selig stayed off the field, knowing he'd get
harsh treatment for refusing to let Rose participate in Cinergy
Field's closing or Great American's opening.
Reds owner Carl Lindner began the afternoon with a tribute to
U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf. Fans waved 6-by-9-inch flags that
were placed on each seat.
Daniel Rodriguez -- the "Singing Policeman'' from New York City
-- performed the national anthem, and dozens of red, white and blue
streamers were shot from the rooftop as the crowd chanted "USA!
The Pirates hadn't won a season opener since a 4-0 victory
over Montreal in 1998. ... Before the game, the Reds dedicated a
statue of former slugger Ted Kluszewski on the plaza outside the
main gate. More statues will be added later in the season, honoring
players from the Crosley Field era. ... The Pirates will unveil a
bronze statue in honor of Ralph Kiner during the April 7 home
opener against Milwaukee. ... Current President Bush threw the
ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural game at Pittsburgh's
PNC Park two years ago. The Reds won that game 8-2. ... The last
time the Pirates hit three homers in an inning was July 4, 2000,
when Kendall, Wil Cordero and Pat Meares connected in the ninth
inning at Wrigley Field. ... Griffey remained tied for the
second-most Opening Day homers with seven. Frank Robinson holds the
record with eight.