Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff (2015)

Van Halen Rising

Van Halen Rising
by Greg Renoff
ECW Press, 2015
380 pages

One of the greatest American hard rock bands, Van Halen’s showmanship and musicianship is unparalleled. In Van Halen Rising, author Greg Renoff travels back to the time before Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” inspired countless young men and women to pick up guitars and start shredding, to the early days of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth in California. A band that was written off as having no commercial potential, they were, as the subtitle proclaims, the “southern California backyard party band that saved heavy metal.”

A meticulously researched book, Renoff quotes childhood friends of the band members who were able to recall those early days and describe the parties, and, more importantly, the music. Renoff examines the influence of bands like Ten Years After and Cactus on Eddie and Alex, the impact of various cultures on Roth, and how they were able to merge those different styles into a popular style all their own.

Such an extensive look at a band’s pre-fame days is rare. Renoff does a phenomenal job, and Van Halen fans all over the world will savor every word of Van Halen Rising.

Learn more about ECW Press.

Purchase Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for YouTube and for people who upload gems like this for the world to see.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Brandon Finnegan

Brandon Finnegan

Considered by many to be the centerpiece for the Reds in the deal that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City, Brandon Finnegan is the first player to play in both the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same year (2014). Finnegan appeared in 14 games for the Royals in 2015 before the trade, and six games for the Reds after. He ended the 2015 season with a 5-2 record and 3.56 ERA between the two teams, striking out 45 batters in 48 innings.

Finnegan is the last of the 2015 Reds in the 1990 Score style. By my calculations, we have posted 99 cards total: 65 Reds (plus one “alternate” version), 12 highlights, and 21 ex-Reds (including one “alternate”).

The Hunt for a Reds October: Cincinnati in 1990 by Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb (2015)

Reds October

The Hunt for a Reds October: Cincinnati in 1990
by Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb
McFarland, 2015
212 pages

The 1919 World Series has received its fair share of coverage, though more because of the scandal than the actual baseball played. Much has been written about the timeless “Big Red Machine” teams of the 1970s. But the wire-to-wire championship team of 1990 has been largely overlooked by authors and baseball historians. Now twenty-five years removed from that historic season, authors Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb have delved into the magic season of 1990, profiling the players involved and examining the season month-by-month, hitting several highlights along the way.

The first seventy-three pages are devoted to the history of baseball in the Queen City up to 1989, giving a foundation and setting the stage for the 1990 season, which saw a lockout that forced the Reds to open the season on the road for only the third time in the team’s history. Many of the players and staff are given a brief biographical profile, from the superstars like Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, and Eric Davis, all the way down to the bench players like Billy Bates, Herm Winningham, Terry McGriff, and Luis Quinones.

On more than one occasion, a fact or anecdote is repeated, giving the reader a feeling of déjà vu. There are also some minor errors, such as the statement that “Keith Brown never played a game in the majors” (Don Brown was the intended player), and that Paul O’Neill “had been a Reds fan since childhood and did want to leave Cincinnati” (rather than “did not want to leave”). The statements can be properly understood in the context of the book, though, and are not enough to distract from the overall value of the work.

The appendices at the end cover some of the things you might expect, from the game-by-game results to the individual player statistics. Perhaps the most interesting is Appendix E, which examines how the players from the 1990 roster left the Reds, beginning with Ron Robinson’s trade in June (for Glenn Braggs, who later left via free agency), through Barry Larkin’s free agency (and subsequent retirement) in 2004.

The Hunt for a Reds October is an excellent, in depth book that gives an inside look at the last World Champion in Cincinnati, and will be enjoyed by Reds fans who remember this underappreciated ballclub.

Learn more about McFarland.

Purchase The Hunt for a Reds October by Charles F. Faber and Zacahariah Webb through Amazon or through the McFarland order line (800-253-2187).

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Kyle Waldrop


Another possible solution for the Reds’ left field problem is Kyle Waldrop, a 12th round pick in 2010. While he struggled in Louisville last year, Waldrop batter .338 in 2014 between Bakersfield, Pensacola, and Surprise. He struck out in his big league debut on August 2, which happened to be his only appearance with the Reds in 2015.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Ryan LaMarre


Could rookie Ryan LaMarre be the answer to the Reds’ left field woes? The 2010 second-round draft pick is not a power hitter; he has hit 36 home runs in six minor league seasons. Nor does he hit for average, as his .261 clip demonstrates. However, he is just a step below Billy Hamilton on the basepaths, with 139 steals in the minors, including a season of 55 swipes in 2011.

2015 ex-Reds, 1990 Score style: Marlon Byrd

The Reds had a major hole in left field that Marlon Byrd was expected to fill in 2015. In his time in Cincinnati, Byrd was serviceable: 19 home runs, 42 RBI, and a .237 batting average. Not All-Star numbers, but likely better than a rookie could have produced. Tensions between Byrd and a member of the coaching staff, however, could have been a factor in the trade announced in August. Byrd would join former teammate Mike Leake in San Francisco for the remainder of the 2015 season.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Adam Duvall

Adam Duvall

Adam Duvall joined the Cincinnati Reds on July 30 as a part of the deal that sent Mike Leake to the San Francisco Giants. He hit .219 with five homers in 27 games for the Reds.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Ramon Cabrera

Ramon Cabrera

Originally signed by the Pirates in 2008 as an amateur free agent, Ramon Cabrera was traded to the Tigers for Andy Oliver in 2012. Two years later, the Pirates selected him off waivers from the Tigers, but then released him following the season. He had not yet appeared in a major league game. The Reds signed Cabrera as a free agent in December, 2014, and he made his debut in the ninth inning on September 5 against the Brewers. He collected 11 hits in 30 at-bats, good for a .367 average. His first career home came on September 11 against John Lackey.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Tyler Holt

Tyler Holt

A late addition to the team in 2015, Tyler Holt was selected off waivers from the Cleveland Indians on September 27. After 36 games in 2014 and 9 games for the Indians in 2015, Holt appeared in only five games for the Reds, and will still be considered a rookie in 2016.

2015 ex-Reds, 1990 Score style: Dioner Navarro


One of several former Reds to appear in the 2015 postseason, Dioner Navarro only mustered one hit in 13 at-bats between the ALDS and ALCS. He was an All-Star for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, but has since been relegated to backup duties for Russell Martin in Toronto. He has already played for six teams in his 12-year career, including two stints with the Dodgers (2005-2006 and 2011). As a free agent, it will be interesting to see if he lands somewhere that can give him more playing time in 2016.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: The Coaches


Jeff Pico pitched for the Chicago Cubs from 1988-1990, going 13-12 with a 4.24 ERA. He appeared in the original 1990 Score set as a Cub. Pico was named the Reds pitching coach in 2014 after several years of coaching in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. It was announced last month that his contract would not be renewed for the 2016 season.

Jay Bell

Jay Bell was a 2-time All-Star in his 18-year career. He collected 1963 hits and batted .265 for the Indians, Pirates, Royals, Diamondbacks, and Mets from 1986 to 2003. He appeared in the 1990 Score set as a member of the Pirates and also had a “Young Superstars” card. Bell was named to the Reds’ coaching staff in November, 2013; like Pico, he will not be returning for the 2016 season.


Mack Jenkins never made it to the majors, but pitched in the Reds’ minor league system from 1986 through 1988. As a member of the Billings Mustangs in 1987, Jenkins was the winning pitcher that ended the Salt Lake Trappers’ record winning streak at 29 games. He is currently serving the Reds as bullpen coach.


Mike Stefanski was a 1994 Texas League All-Star, but never made the jump to the major leagues. He became the Reds’ bullpen catcher in 2004 and was named catching coordinator in 2013.


Billy Hatcher was a member of the 1990 World Champion Cincinnati Reds and set World Series records for highest batting average (.750), most consecutive hits (7), and most doubles in a four-game series (4). He appeared in the 1990 Score set as a member of the Pirates, and in the Score Rookie & Traded set for the Reds. Hatcher has been stationed in the first base coaching box for several years, but in 2016 will transition to the third base coaching box.


Freddie Benavides made his major league debut with the Reds on May 14, 1991, as the starting shortstop against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was 0-1 that day, but scored a run after being hit by a pitch in the fifth inning. Benavides will step into the first base coaching box in the 2016 season.

Cards piling up…

You know how you get new cards, and you put them in a stack to sort later? And occasionally you get some cards in the mail from fellow bloggers, and they go in stacks too? But then you forget who sent what…and you feel guilty for letting those cards sit in stacks for weeks without scanning and posting…and then finally you start scanning but you don’t even know what some of the cards are…


This Tom Browning stamp was not on my wantlist. I was somewhat aware of the existence of these St. Vincent stamps thanks to the Tim Wallach blogger, but I’ve never attempted to make any kind of list of which Reds were included in the set. I believe this item came from 2×3 Heroes.


Another package included this Joey Votto Bowman Chrome (does anyone else call it “Chroman” in your head? No? Just me?). If I’m not mistaken, this came from Jim of the late, great GCRL blog.

I love getting cards in the mail. I also love getting cards in person. A young friend at church who knows I collect cards recently gave me a shoebox full of “junk wax” that was made loooooong before he was born. But there were also some things made after he was born…


…like this gold Sandy Alomar Jr. card from 2007 that I had never seen before. There are apparently different versions and different years of this Danbury mint issue, including one showing Alomar as a member of the Colorado Rockies. I had no idea Alomar ever played for the Rockies until writing this post.

Thank you Jeff, Jim, and David for the cards!

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Keyvius Sampson


Keyvius Sampson was a fourth-round draft pick in 2009 for the San Diego Padres. The Reds selected the pitcher off waivers in January, and he made his major league debut in July in Cincinnati, striking out two Pirates batters in the eighth inning of a 15-5 win. He was then moved to the starting rotation and proceeded to start 12 games, finishing the season with a 2-6 record and 6.54 ERA, striking out 42 batters in just over 52 innings.

2015 ex-Reds, 1990 Score style: Mike Leake (San Francisco Giants)


Emotionally, this was one of the most difficult cards to make because I have been a Mike Leake fan and supporter since his rookie campaign in 2010. I definitely did not want to see Leake traded, but understood the business side of it. He’s a free agent, and he’ll likely make some dough this off season as a solid #2 starter. In his rookie year, Leake won five decisions before receiving a loss, and he was able to keep his ERA under 4.00 until the last game of the season when he was roughed up by the Giants.

While I would love to see Leake return to the Reds as a free agent, I don’t believe the team will be active in the free agent market at all. It seems that they are content to field a losing team in 2016.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Carlos Contreras


One of the seemingly few Reds pitchers who saw his stats improve in 2015 over the 2014 season, Carlos Contreras shaved more than a run and a half off his ERA, dropping from 6.52 to 4.82.

Huge baseball memorabilia auction happening online tomorrow

The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Auction Event, is on November 14 at 11am EST online with and in person at the museum and factory in Louisville, Kentucky. The auction features memorabilia like signed or used pieces by some of the biggest names in baseball. There are pieces from legendary players like Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and more. Here are a few of the noteworthy auction items available:

Lot 289: Fine Lou Gehrig professional model baseball bat c. 1930-31 (PSA/DNA graded “GU 8”)
Estimated Price:
$75,000 – $100,000
The bat originates from a primary source descendant of a former Washington area bat boy whom is believed to have spent time with several teams inclusive of the Washington Senators. According to family history, the young bat boy had the occasion to meet several notable individuals during yankees copythis period and one particularly special encounter was with Lou Gehrig. The 1930-31 time period was particularly productive for Gehrig who turned in numbers that would have been career years for nearly any other player conceivable. A fresh to market Gehrig game bat is always noteworthy and an example with strong provenance and usage characteristics is an exceedingly rare find.

Lot 376: Jackie Robinson professional model baseball bat with uniform #42 on knob c. 1952
Estimated Price:
$50,000 – $100,000
This particular bat was obtained in the 1950s by a Brooklyn area youth, Edward Guidi, whose father was well acquainted with a Brooklyn Dodgers clubhouse employee. On one of the occasions which the boy and his father attended a Dodgers game the team employee brought the offered bat to the man and gave it to his son indicating that, He’d like him to have the bat since he did not have any kids and to enjoy it. The bat has since resided in the collection of the original recipient until its current offering. This particular Jackie Robinson bat ranks among the very finest of its type to have been offered with direct primary source provenance and extremely rare #42 player indicator on knob end.

Lot 293: Fine 1931 New York Yankees team signed baseball
Estimated Price:
$10,000 – $15,000
Red and blue stitched Reach W.Harridge Official American League baseball has been signed by (25) incl. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, George Pipgras, Cy Perkins, Herb Pennock, Sam Byrd, and others. Joe Sewell and Dusty Cooke are clubhouse signed. All are done in period fountain pen rating 7-8 out of 10. Ball displays some mild toning and light evident usage wear with faded but well defined stampings. A choice example dating to this highly desirable period.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Collin Balestar


The Reds purchased Collin Balester‘s contract from the Pirates in June, but he had not appeared in the majors since 2012 for the Tigers. Prior to that, he spent four years with the Nationals.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: John Lamb


The Reds received a trio of rookie hurlers when they dealt star pitcher Johnny Cueto to Kansas City in July. John Lamb was the first to make it to the Reds, and wore the departed ace’s uniform number.

Random Awesomeness (part 202)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase Tom Waits – Bone Machine.


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