If you’ve glanced at a magazine rack or listened to FM radio at all this week, you probably heard that the Beatles arrived in the United States 50 years ago, playing Ed Sullivan’s iconic show on February 9, 1964. It's commonly assumed that the band's lineup remained stable from then on. Not so - one face familiar around here later decided that calling a ball game wasn't such a hard day's night.
You're probably dying to know wonder whether the Beatles followed the Reds. Sort of, but more specifically ... did the Beatles follow the Cincinnati Reds? No. As for their football interests, manager Brian Epstein forbade them from publicly supporting a team, including their hometown Liverpool F.C. Reds.* Paul historically followed Liverpool’s other team, Everton, but may have later hopped on the Liverpool bandwagon. John likely rooted for the Reds - the one footballer on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s was a Red and placed at John’s request. Ringo rooted for his stepdad’s team, Arsenal, though his sons were keen Liverpool fans. George did not bother with such boyhood pursuits.
* Incidentally, 1964 was also a big year for those Liverpool Reds. They won their first league title in 17 years, kicking off their own Big Red Machine under legendary manager Bill Shankly. They also switched that year to their all-red uniforms.
The Beatles played at the Cincinnati Gardens later in 1964, and two years later they performed at Crosley Field. The concert was originally scheduled for August 20. Torrential rains forced a postponement to noon the next day - the Beatles' one and only rain check in their history. They then immediately flew to St. Louis to play that night.
Meanwhile, the Reds trudged a long and winding road that summer, a 76-win season sandwiched between much better years. Rookie manager Don Heffner was shown the door in July after the post-Robinson Reds sunk well below .500 on his watch. On the day of the Beatles show, the lowly Astros finished off a four-game sweep of the Reds at the Astrodome.
We know quite a bit about current players' musical tastes, between walk-up music and social media, but this is obviously a recent development. I have no idea if any of the Reds followed the Beatles in the early years. I doubt it - maybe things started changing after Rubber Soul or Revolver - but from what I understand this wasn't yet the music for young men. And since I'm running out of ways to connect the Reds and the Fab Four, here is the Beatles' setlist from the 1966 Crosley Field show - assigned to different players from that team:
- Rock And Roll Music - Pete Rose. I can see a young Hit King jerking his crew-cut to the beat of a Chuck Berry cover. Not sure why, but I can.
- She's A Woman - Mel Queen. Obviously.
- If I Needed Someone - After dealing Robbie, the Reds could have really used a good year from young Tommy Harper. He slugged .363.
- Day Tripper - Bill McCool was 21 and threw 105.1 innings in relief with a 2.48 ERA. Unfortunately, "One Night at" McCool's success was short-lived. He would be done at 25.
- Baby's In Black - a forlorn tune deserves a -1 WAR player. Catcher Johnny Edwards had some good years, but this wasn't one of them.
- I Feel Fine - Jim Maloney was 26, and for the fourth straight year would easily top 200 innings with an ERA under 3. He even hit over .200. His run would come to an end too soon, but I'm sure if you asked him he was all hunky-dory at that time.
- Yesterday - Milt Pappas famously slumped while Frank Robinson won the MVP in his first year in Baltimore. It seems likely that Pappas would have sought a place to hide away.
- I Wanna Be Your Man - Dave Bristol took over the reigns from the departed Heffner. He didn't lead the Reds to the promised land, but the team did improve under his stead.
- Nowhere Man - Sammy Ellis pulled off a neat trick in 1965 by leading the league in earned runs while winning 22 games. He would again lead the league in earned runs in 1966, but forgot to get the wins. Maybe he did have a point of view, but I wanted to mention Ellis somewhere and had no idea who else to stash here.
- Paperback Writer - Jim Brosnan was traded in 1963, but he's the only one remotely qualified.
- Long Tall Sally - Joe Nuxhall was 6' 3" and pitched for Columbia in the Sally League before (re)joining the Reds in the 1950s. That will do.