Author Archives: JT

I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back by @BenBlatt & Eric Brewster (2015) @groveatlantic

idontcare

I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back:
30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever

by Ben Blatt & Eric Brewster
Grove Press, 2015
272 pages

If you have ever dreamed of visiting all thirty major league stadiums in a single summer, read this book first. Especially if you want to make the trip in an even more cramped period of time, such as thirty days. Harvard graduate Ben Blatt devised a schedule using a computer-generated algorithm that would take him to every stadium in a 30-day period in the most efficient way possible. His friend, Eric Brewster, agreed to tackle the journey with him, even though he didn’t like baseball. A missed first pitch, a rainout, and three speeding tickets later, the pair accomplished what they set out to do.

This is the ultimate road trip book for baseball fans, even though it doesn’t delve into the baseball much. It is more a story of friendship, of helping each other execute a task that seems crazy and impossible. Along the way they got to hang out with Theo Epstein, do laundry with David Lough‘s father, and eat lunch with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back is an entertaining read from start to finish, and might cause the reader to wonder how much he really loves baseball.

Learn more about Grove Press.

Purchase I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever by Ben Blatt & Eric Brewster.

Star Wars > Dawn of Justice, but still…

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

The new trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has been leaked. Assuming it hasn’t been taken down yet, here it is. Enjoy, fanboys.

Marvel’s Daredevil (2015)

Daredevil

Marvel’s Daredevil
Starring: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Vincent D’Onofrio
Netflix, 2015
13 episodes, 48-59 minutes each

[Review by TWJ contributor Joshua.]

Marvel’s Daredevil takes place after the catastrophic destruction of New York in 2012’s The Avengers. It ties in perfectly, making many obvious references to the cinematic universe, as well as subtle nods to the comic book readers who may be watching. One of the major themes throughout the show is the methods used to rebuild, both literally and figuratively, as New York reconstructs homes and businesses, and the citizens try to move on, despite the troublesome times.

The series focuses on a blind attorney, Matthew Murdock, working from a criminal defense office he owns with his good friend, Foggy Nelson. Their neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, is ridden with drugs distributed by the Russians, manufactured by the Chinese mafia, and enforced by the Japanese mob, all of whom are led by a seemingly untouchable man at the top, the Kingpin.

Matt may know the law, but that doesn’t mean he abides by it. In order to clean up the city and keep civilians out of harms way, Murdock dons a mask to combat the evil spreading through the streets. His heightened senses and advanced knowledge of multiple forms of martial arts makes him more dangerous than most criminals realize, which often spells their undoing.

From the very beginning we see Matt struggling with the morality of his actions and his methods of keeping the peace, while also showing us how a boy learns to use his disability to bring out his inner strengths. Marvel’s Daredevil is definitely a show worth watching from the unsettling crimson musical intro all the way to the climactic finality of the end. The show does a fantastic job of taking us along the journey Murdock follows to transform from a man of the law into a symbol of dark justice.

Sign up for Netflix and start watching Marvel’s Daredevil now!

Random Awesomeness (part 188)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase Vito & the Salutations – Unchained Melodies: Their Complete Recordings.

“Chewie, we’re home.” The new Star Wars trailer features Han Solo, Chewbacca, a mangled Darth Vader mask, and more!

MAKE IT FULLSCREEN…

…AND WATCH IT (at least) TWICE.

Man, I cannot wait until Christmas! J.J. Abrams is one of my favorite people in the world right now.

May the Force be with you.

Cincinnati Reds Legends by Mike Shannon, illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard (2015)

redslegends

Cincinnati Reds Legends
by Mike Shannon
illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard
Black Squirrel Books (an imprint of The Kent State University Press), 2015
100 pages

There are countless books that rank the best players for each team, and each list has a different set of standards and a different outcome. Mike Shannon’s recent release, Cincinnati Reds Legends, is no different in that regard, except it doesn’t rank the top forty Reds against each other. Rather, it lists them chronologically, starting with the Wright brothers (who count as one) of the 1869 Red Stockings to Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi to several Big Red Machine teammates to current Reds Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. The book is divided into four sections, each representing a time period and each containing ten players. The one-page biographies are well-written with nuggets of information that readers will enjoy, but the real value in this book is the artwork.

Each player is featured in a full-page illustration by one of three renowned sports artists: Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard. The author himself admitted that art would “carry this book,” and it does. Without the artwork, Cincinnati Reds Legends is simply another book about Reds players, a listing of some of the most famous names to wear the Cincinnati uniform. And as interesting as Reds fans would find such a book, the art sets it apart and makes it more accessible to non-Reds fans as well.

As for the players included, it is far from an exhaustive list of Cincinnati greats. Those excluded include Roy McMillan (though his portrait is featured before the title page), Leo Cardenas, Jack Billingham, Chris Sabo, and Johnny Cueto. Shannon writes, “If you want to tell us whom we shouldn’t have left out, you also have to say which included player you’d take off the team.” A difficult task, as Shannon concisely demonstrates why each included player should be considered a legend in the Queen City.

Reds fans will go crazy for this book, while baseball fans and sports art fans will treasure the illustrations found within. Hands down, this is my new favorite Reds book.

Learn more about Black Squirrel Books (an imprint of The Kent State University Press).

Purchase Cincinnati Reds Legends by Mike Shannon, illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard.

#TBT at twjfuncards.tumblr.com

1938

This morning I posted 15 “fun cards” in the style of 1938 Goudey baseball cards that I drew 25 years ago at twjfuncards.tumblr.com. I have posted these here before, but the image links expired long ago, so I decided to re-upload them to tumblr for posterity.

I remember working on these at my desk in my bedroom, and a few nights ago I told my son to go find some index cards and colored pencils for me. But I am hesitant to try again. When I get up the courage to attempt a new drawing, I will post it here for everyone to laugh at. In the meantime, enjoy the 25-year old “fun cards.”

Skid Row Re-Record “18 and Life” and I Don’t Hate It

Listen to it (and download it free and legal) here.

Skid Row Tony Harnell

Skid Row announced last week that former TNT vocalist Tony Harnell had been hired to replace Johnny Solinger behind the mic. Solinger has decided to focus on his solo career, which is geared more toward southern rock and country music than hair metal. With Skid Row since 1999, he recorded two full-length albums (Thickskin and Revolutions Per Minute) and two EPs (United World Rebellion: Chapter One and Rise Of The Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two).

Harnell’s resume with TNT dates back to the mid-1980s, and he has also worked with Starbreaker and Westworld, as well as releasing four solo albums. Now with Skid Row, the first offering is a re-recording of one of the band’s most classic singles, “18 & Life.” I may be in the minority, but I love what the group is doing here. Putting to rest any rumors of a Sebastian Bach reunion by quickly announcing a new singer and releasing a new track—even if it is an old song—shows that the group is moving forward.

Bach has a nice solo career of his own, even if it took forever to start. He left Skid Row in 1996, but it was not until 2007 that a new studio album was released by the singer. That record, Angel Down was all sorts of fantastic. The two albums since then have fallen short, but he continues to tour and draws large crowds (albeit at smaller venues than he used to play).

The new recording of “18 & Life” not only shows that the group is moving on, but that Harnell is up to the task. No, he is not Sebastian Bach. Guess what? Bach ’15 is not Bach ’89 either. This re-recording is faithful to the original and Harnell handles the vocals perfectly. Solinger labored for fifteen years with Skid Row and handled his duites well despite a lack of respect from supposed fans. Hopefully Harnell can be seen as a legitimate replacement and will garner the respect that he deserves.

2015 (ex)Reds, 1990 Score style: Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Ludwick (Texas Rangers)

Shin-Soo Choo Texas Rangers 1990 Score

Shin-Soo Choo had a down year for the Rangers last year, batting only .242 and stealing three bases after a .285 campaign with 20 steals in 2013 for the Reds. He is still struggling in 2015, batting .182 through seven games. But that’s better than 2014 Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who was released on March 29 by the Rangers and has not found a new team yet. I never really understood Walt Jocketty’s obsession with Ludwick. Other than 2008, he was never really all that good.

Ryan Ludwick Texas Rangers 1990 Score

I think I prefer Billy Hamilton in centerfield and Marlon Byrd in left.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Anthony DeSclafani

Anthony DeSclafani Cincinnati Reds

The rookie right-hander put on a pitching clinic yesterday in Chicago, only giving up two hits to the Cubs over a tremendous seven-inning outing. Of course, the bullpen made it a nail-biter by allowing two runs to score in the eighth inning, but Aroldis Chapman shut down the Chicago offense in the ninth to give Anthony DeSclafani his first Reds win.

Acquired in the Mat Latos trade, DeSclafani has outpitched the sullen former Red in their first two outings. DeSclafani is 1-0 in two starts with a 1.38 ERA and 11 strikeouts; Latos is 0-2 with a 17.36 ERA and only 5 K’s. While it is certainly too early to declare DeSclafani the Rookie of the Year, he is off to a strong start.

R.I.P. Percy Sledge

(November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015)

Legendary soul singer Percy Sledge passed away today from liver cancer.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Manny Parra

Parra

To say the bullpen has been disappointing so far this year would be an understatement. No, the bullpen is not the only problem; leaving runners on base is a pretty big reason the Reds have lost three straight after winning the first four games of the season. But the relief corps has to do a better job in such close games, especially since they are only facing a few batters each game.

Manny Parra has pitched a grand total of one inning over the course of four appearances, and has a loss and a 9.00 ERA to show for it. Not a promising start, especially since he posted a 4.66 ERA last season. I hope he (and the rest of the ‘pen) can turn it around. The NL Central is too strong to lose these close games.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Joey Votto

Joey Votto

Last year was rough for Joey Votto and his fans. Really rough. Limited to only 62 games, the injured former MVP hit an anemic .255. The Reds (and Reds fans) hope he can regain at least his All-Star form, if not the MVP-type numbers of 2010. It sure would be nice to see him starting at first base on July 14 at Great American Ballpark.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier

Third baseman Todd Frazier, affectionately known as “The Toddfather” in Cincinnati, is off to a hot start with three home runs and eight RBI through the first six games. Can he repeat his All-Star performance of 2014?

Blind trades are often the best trades

I received an e-mail from Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life a couple of months ago proposing a trade. He had a stack of Reds cards that he didn’t need anymore, and he wanted oddballs in return. I was happy to oblige and purge a good number of 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best, minor league cards, and department store issues from my collection. I also sent along some duplicate stadium giveaways Reds sets that I had, and we exchanged 300ish cards with each other. Below is some of the loot I received…

botrade

Bo hit several needs, filling in a bunch of 1990s cards that I had never seen before. I haven’t had time to update the want lists yet, but I know I’ll be crossing off several entries thanks to this blind trade.

You’ll notice at the bottom a few non-Reds. In addition to my hometown Cincinnatians, I also collect cards of Doug Dascenzo and Shawon Dunston, as well as non-Reds cards of Eric Davis, Buddy Bell, Chris Sabo, Dave Parker and Kurt Stillwell. And if I ever get organized (ha!), I’ll probably add more names to that list. But Bo was kind enough to throw in some cards of these players that I had not yet obtained.

I love doing blind trades, though I don’t do it as often as I used to. It wasn’t very long ago that I gifted thousands of cards to a friend in the area, so I don’t have much in the way of non-Reds cards to trade anymore. Luckily, Bo was looking for some items that I just happened to still have and was more than happy to send away.

Thanks for the trade Bo!

Photoset: Larry Cordle, Montgomery Gentry, the Backstreet Boys and more (KY Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Lexington KY)

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductees

The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame held a star-studded induction ceremony Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky. The legends honored in 2015 were (in photo above, from left to right) Larry Cordle, Clarence Spalding, Brian Litrell, Kevin Richardson, Eddie Montgomery, Troy Gentry, and Pete Stamper. Also inducted were the late Doc Hopkins and doo-wop group the Moonglows.

Bentley Cromer, the Vice Chairman of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, stated the selection process for inductees generally takes two years, and that process will begin again shortly after this year’s ceremony is concluded.


HALFWAY TO HAZARD

Halfway to Hazard Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

The night began with Halfway to Hazard performing an acoustic rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” that brought the crowd to its feet. The duo of David Tolliver and Chad Warrix then received a humanitarian award for their work raising money across Kentucky from music programs in schools and replacing worn out instruments. Halfway to Hazard recently started working on a new record, and are filming a reality show about the music business.

Halfway to Hazard Kentucky Music Hall of Fame


DOC HOPKINS

The late Doc Hopkins was then announced as the first inductee of the night. Accepting the honor on his behalf was his nephew, Kenneth Hopkins, who reminisced about the time he spent visiting his uncle in Chicago where he became a “pioneer in live radio” on WLS. Hopkins was widely known during the middle of the twentieth century as “America’s favorite singer of American folk songs.” Kenneth then picked up his acoustic guitar and sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Kenneth Hopkins Doc Hopkins Kentucky Music Hall of Fame


THE MOONGLOWS

Doo-wop group the Moonglows was the next act honored. Representing the group was Theosious Fuqua, the cousin of the late Harvey Fuqua. Ron Lewis and friends performed two of the Moonglows’ hits, “Sincerely” and “Ten Commandments of Love.” The group had already been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.


CLARENCE SPALDING

Clarence Spalding has been working with artists for many years as a manager and has witnessed many changes in the industry. He said the biggest challenge of working with younger, inexperienced acts is getting the music on ever-shrinking radio playlists, which are generally restricted to sixteen to twenty recent songs. In addition, getting the music right by tweaking the songs without losing the sound that led to the signing of young acts is a common hurdle.


PETE STAMPER

Pete Stamper is a legend in the Renfro Valley area, performing comedy routines frequently at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center and hosting radio programs on WRVK. He did not disappoint during his acceptance speech, cutting up with the audience and causing ripples of laughter throughout the Bluegrass Ballroom.


LARRY CORDLE

Larry Cordle Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Singer-songwriter Larry Cordle has written songs for some of the biggest names in country music (such as Garth Brooks, George Strait, and Trisha Yearwood) while also fronting his own group, Lonesome Standard Time. When asked what his favorite composition was, Cordle hesitated before answering, “Fields of Home,” recorded by Ricky Skaggs on his 1989 Kentucky Thunder album, and more recently by Cordle himself with Kenny Chesney on All-Star Duets. Cordle gave a disclaimer with his answer, however, stating that he might change his mind and give a different answer if asked the same question tomorrow. After thanking the crowd and saying how proud he was to be from Kentucky, Cordle performed two of his most enduring songs, “Murder on Music Row” and “Highway 40 Blues.”

Larry Cordle Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Larry Cordle Kentucky Music Hall of Fame


MONTGOMERY GENTRY

Montgomery Gentry Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Montgomery Gentry is one group that did not lose their unique sound while finding success on country radio beginning in 1999. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have crafted a tremendous career with a string of popular country hits that retain a bit of an outlaw edge. After receiving their Kentucky Music Hall of Fame trophies, the duo launched into raucous performances of “Where I Come From” and “My Town,” and treated the audience to their brand new single, “Folks Like Us,” the title track from their newest album, scheduled for a June release. The crowd responded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Montgomery Gentry Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Montgomery Gentry Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Montgomery Gentry Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Montgomery Gentry Kentucky Music Hall of Fame


BRIAN LITRELL and KEVIN RICHARDSON of the BACKSTREET BOYS

Brian Litrell and Kevin Richardson Backstreet Boys Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Brian Litrell and Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys are Kentucky natives, but their fan base is truly international. The “boy band”—which has sold over 130 million records—is preparing to hit the road in China next week, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Litrell quipped, “I just turned forty, and they still call us a boy band. And I’m okay with that.” College students Josh Turner and Carson McKee joined Richardson and Litrell in a “Kentucky-style performance” of the hits “I Want It That Way” and “Larger Than Life,” complete with acoustic guitars and a banjo.

Brian Litrell Backstreet Boys Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Kevin Richardson Backstreet Boys Kentucky Music Hall of Fame


Each inductee was well-deserving of the honor, showing humility in the distinction of being chosen as Kentucky Music Hall of Famers, while showing pride in their Kentucky roots.

Learn more about the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

Two college students will be part of the Backstreet Boys, for a night, at Kentucky Music Hall of Fame 2015 Induction Ceremony

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 10, 2015) – College students Josh Turner and Carson McKee were just goofing off when they posted a video on YouTube of them performing a cover song… they never would have guessed it would even be seen. But by a fortunate stroke of serendipity, their bluegrass version of pop mega-hit, “Larger Than Life,” by The Backstreet Boys caught the attention of one of the boy band’s own, Lexington native Kevin Richardson, and the rest is Kentucky music history.

In an effort to pay tribute to the Bluegrass State, Richardson and his fellow Lexington-born cousin and band mate Brian Littrell, contacted Turner and McKee and invited them to bring their stand-out ‘bluegrass’ talent to tonight’s Kentucky Music Hall of Fame 2015 Induction Ceremony, where Richardson and Littrell are among eight honorees being inducted at the Lexington Center’s Bluegrass Ballroom.

The two will join Richardson and Littrell on stage to perform their pickin’ and grinnin’ version of “Larger Than Life,” along with Backstreet’s “I Want It That Way.”

“The 1999 Backstreet Boys album ‘Millennium’ was the first CD that was mine, that wasn’t in my parents’ library,” McKee, 21, a senior at UNC Chapel Hill told the Charlotte Observer. “They were a huge part of my pop music/cultural upbringing. So it’s surreal that our worlds are colliding in the way, now, in 2015.”

The performance will be one of others from artists like Montgomery Gentry, Halfway to Hazard, The Moonglows, Larry Cordle, and comedian Pete Stamper, who will also be inducted during the 2015 ceremony, to pay tribute to all throughout history who have contributed to the state’s rich musical heritage.

On a break from the group’s ‘In A World Like This Tour’, Richardson and Littrell return home to the Bluegrass tonight to accept their prestigious honor from the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

For more information on the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame 2015 Induction Ceremony, visit kentuckymusicmuseum.com/induction.html. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling 877-356-3263 or 606-256-1000.

R.I.P. Lauren Hill

(1995-2015)

An inspirational young woman, Lauren Hill has passed away. Learn more about Lauren here.

Random Awesomeness (part 187)

Random Awesomeness


Pre-order Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (to be released April 21)

R.I.P. Stan Freberg

(August 7, 1926 – April 7, 2015)

Stan Freberg, a man of many talents, passed away Tuesday. Wikipedia says he was an “American author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director.” He worked on several Looney Tunes and Disney productions, including Lady and the Tramp (as the Beaver), Wuzzles (as the Narrator).

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