Between the location, the coaching carousel drama, and the renewal of a rivalry that spanned three conferences, the Fenway Bowl between Cincinnati and Louisville is one of the most intriguing games on the 43-game bowl slate. While Fenway Park is a new destination for this rivalry, the Keg of Nails has crossed over to the diamond many times.
The 1953 meeting was played at Louisville’s Parkway Field, home of the Louisville Colonels from 1923 to the 1950s. This meeting was the first meeting in six meetings and the first since 1929 to be played in Louisville with the last six being held at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati won the 1953 meeting easily, 41-0.
The most notable ballpark home of the Keg of Nails was Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium, which was the longtime home of minor league baseball teams such as the Louisville Colonels, Louisville Redbirds/Riverbats, and the Louisville football team from 1956-1998. In all, Cardinals Stadium hosted 14 meetings between Cincinnati and Louisville from 1967-1996 with Cincinnati holding an 8-5-1 edge over the Bearcats.
In addition to minor league ballparks, the Keg of Nails rivalry hit a Major League diamond before its Fenway Park rendezvous. The 1982, 1984, and 1990 games were moved from Nippert Stadium to Riverfront Stadium, the home of the Reds and Bengals. Cincinnati had a 2-1 edge in games at Riverfront. The games were poorly attended, averaging 17,822 fans, with the 1982 and 1984 games drawing less than 16,000 fans. For reference, the 2011 meeting between Louisville and Cincinnati at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium drew 40,971 fans. It was simply a different time for both programs.
The 55th edition of the Keg of Nails rivalry will look a lot different with the backdrop of Fenway, but it will be just another ballpark home in the relatively short, but intriguing history of the rivalry. Some may even say that the Bearcats and Cardinals belong in the ballpark.