BY JEFF FALK
Daryl Hess is a simple man. Think of him as a meat-and-potatoes guy on the local sports scene.
No frills. Simple values. What you see is what you get. Steady as a rock.
But Hess is also a big baseball fan. And a huge Cincinnati Reds’ backer. Recently, Hess’ passion for the Red got the best of him and caused him to do something out of character, something borderline extravagant.
“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Holy smokes, I’ve got to get a hold of that’,” said Hess, who’s the head baseball coach at Northern Lebanon High School. “It blew me away. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to get some sort of copy of this picture.”
What made Hess throw caution to the wind was an autographed photograph of the ‘Big Red Machine’, a nickname given to Cincinnati’s 1975 and 1976 clubs that won back-to-back World Series titles. Hess paid a substantial amount of money, more than several hundred dollars, for what he determined was a one of a kind item.
“It’s something that came up,” said Hess. “I don’t do this often. I’m not typically a person who would go out and do this, but I might have even splurged a little more. I probably would’ve gone a little more for it, just because it’s something I always wanted.”
The photograph depicts the Reds’ starting lineup from ’75 and ’76. Centered around Hess’ idol and Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench, position-wise, is third baseman Pete Rose, shortstop Davey Concepcion, second baseman Joe Morgan and first baseman Tony Perez. Behind them are outfielders George Foster in left, Cesar Geronimo in center and Ken Griffey, Sr. in right.
So here was the entire Big Red Machine assembled for a photo. But the kicker for Hess was the fact that it was autographed. And not only by the starters but also by manager Sparky Anderson and ace pitcher Don Gullett.
“I’ve been a Reds’ fan all my life,” said Hess. “And I’ve been a big fan of the Big Red Machine. I always wanted Johnny Bench’s autograph. It was something right now that I could afford.
“I don’t remember watching those World Series,” Hess added. “But I do remember any time we went out to play that I was always the Reds. I could imitate everyone’s stance. I’ve seen clips of those teams. When they lost to the Pirates in the playoffs in 1979, that’s the first time I remember watching them on TV.”
Initially, Hess found out about the photograph from a television interview with Bench during the broadcast of a Reds’ out-of-market game. He was pleasantly suprised when his search for it on e-bay produced the signed image.
“I’ll find some place on the wall for it,” said Hess. “It’s really cool. Those guys were my idols growing up. They must’ve all been together and signed this picture.”
Hess doesn’t consider himself a collector of Cincinnati Reds’ memorabilia. But he certainly didn’t rule this out as being the beginning of it.
“I’m not necessarily a collector,” said Hess. “I have four or five hats, a bunch of shirts and I’ve got some other things like mugs, glasses, bobble heads, posters and a Pete Rose-signed bats. I sort of have it all stashed away, but I’ve got to find a place for this picture.
“I just lucked out and happened to get all the signatures,” Hess added. “As far as collectibles, it’s pretty cool.”
There are some who believe that those Cincinnati Reds’ teams were among the best in Major League Baseball history. Count Hess among them.
“I’m going to be biased,” said Hess, “but I think it’s the best team ever, if you go one through eight. It would be pretty tough for anyone to argue if they say what they had on the field.”
And now Hess will be linked to that team forever.