Terence Moore

Stowe was comforting presence for Reds

Beloved member of clubhouse should not be forgotten

Stowe was comforting presence for Reds

More than a few people are smiling and nodding these days when they think about Bernie Stowe, the beloved clubhouse manager of the Reds who died this week, and I'm among his eternal admirers.

Stowe specialized in comforting. Trust me. He and I went back to May 1975, when I entered a Major League clubhouse for the first time, as a terrified freshman for the Miami University newspaper in Oxford, Ohio. I was 40 miles south of campus in Cincinnati at Riverfront Stadium, where I entered the world of my childhood heroes on the Big Red Machine.

How intimidating was this? Well, the clubhouse had future Hall of Fame players Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez and future Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson. The place also featured Pete Rose, racing toward becoming the game's all-time hits leader, and perennial All-Stars Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey Sr.

If that weren't enough, the Cincinnati media back then consisted of four sports journalists also headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and I'm sure several were covering this game.

Finally, there was me, feeling so overwhelmed by the moment that I was close to bolting for the nearest exit.

Good thing I didn't. The first person I encountered was Stowe, a compact fellow of maybe 40 with wire-framed glasses and wispy hair. He moved steadily my way from the distance without the hint of malice, but I was still nervous. Even casual Reds fans of that era knew at least the key chapters of Stowe's story with the franchise. That's because legendary Reds radio announcer Joe Nuxhall wouldn't stop telling it, especially during rain delays.

Photos: Remembering Bernie Stowe

Stowe was the Reds lifer who began as a batboy with the team in 1947. A few years later, he became equipment manager, and in 1968, he was placed in charge of the home clubhouse. Stowe held that job at Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium and Great American Ball Park until his retirement after the 2014 season at 78. Now, his son Rick runs the home clubhouse, and his other son Mark heads the visiting clubhouse. Bernie would have stayed around longer if not for the inability of doctors to keep his hands from shaking.

That said, Stowe worked 67 Opening Days for the Reds, which was nirvana for somebody who was born and raised in Cincinnati near Crosley. He evolved into as much of a local icon as Skyline Chili.

"Bernie was a big part of the Big Red Machine, [because] he was there when we all came in," Rose told Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty. "He was there long before I got there [in 1963], and I was the first to get there."

There also was this from former Reds star Eric Davis, who told Cincinnati television station Fox 19, "Bernie was the best person in sports that I have known. [He] helped me as a young player understand the importance of being on time and respect for the game."

Then former Reds outfielder Paul O'Neill told the station, "I don't think people realize how much someone like Bernie meant to the team. He welcomed the rookies and took care of the veterans. He helped a lot of Reds players become who they are."

So that Bernie Stowe -- the one who was highly respected by prominent players, the one who famously told Anderson on his first managerial day with the Reds, "Let's get one thing straight. I was here before you got here and I'll be here after you're gone, so don't give me any crap." Yes, that Bernie Stowe walked up to a scared reporter from a college newspaper in the Reds clubhouse in May 1975, smiled, stuck out his hand and said, "Welcome."

More conversation followed: "You go to Miami up in Oxford? Great school ... What year are you? ... Where are you from? ... Do you need help finding anything? ... Let me know if I can help."

Stowe wasn't kidding, and I followed up on his invitation several times through the decades. Days after college, I began working for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and a couple of years later, I left to spend five years with the San Francisco Examiner. Then came 25 years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before I joined the Internet world, and consider this: There was never an occasion during that stretch when I entered the Reds' clubhouse at home or on the road and didn't have Stowe track me down for at least a handshake.

If Stowe adopted you as one of his guys, you were his for life. That applied to everybody, but especially for the thousands of Reds players he assisted way beyond cleaning their spikes and making sure their uniforms were sparkling inside of their cubicles.

"A man that raised us, in a sense," Bench told Daugherty. "The constant in turmoil, a friend who waited on us hand and foot."

No question that was Stowe, who also kept things loose around the Reds' clubhouse with his practical jokes. He mostly was into encouragement. In fact, the last time I saw Stowe was at Great American Ball Park during his last season with the Reds, and he said at the end of our conversation, "You've done well since we first met during your Miami days."

There was a final handshake, along with a final reminder that was never said by either one of us: We should never underestimate the magic of the ticket takers, the ushers, the parking lot attendants, the vendors, the elevator operators and the slew of Bernie Stowes throughout Major League Baseball.

Terence Moore is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.