Author Archives: JT

27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse by Howard Sounes (2015)

27 Club

27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix,
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse

by Howard Sounes
Da Capo Press, 2015
360 pages

Drugs, drunkenness, and depression all too often lead to one conclusion: death, especially if you are a famous musician aged 27. From blues legend Robert Johnson to Grateful Dead keyboardist Pigpen McKernan, the list of “27 Club” members is long and varied, but drugs and mental illness played a part in a large number of deaths. There are, of course, some who are more famous than others, and they are the main focus of Howard Sounes’ book, 27: A History of the 27 Club. Sounes examines the life, ascent to fame, descent into madness, and ultimate death of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors’ Jim Morrison, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.

The in-depth look at these six individuals, their disposition to addictive behaviors, their frantic mood swings and deep depressions, creates a sort of sympathy for them in the reader’s mind. They had the faculty to alter their course, but for whatever reason could not bring themselves to change in time. I have read quite a bit about Hendrix and Morrison in the past, but this was my first real exposure to the rise and fall of the other four musicians and the similarities they shared with each other. I can still remember hearing of Cobain’s demise on the radio in 1994; though I was not a fan of the grunge scene, the significance of the singer’s age was not lost on me.

Sounes does a great job profiling each of the rockers, without offering a solution for future superstars to avoid death, other than perhaps to steer clear of intoxicants and surround yourself with positive people that can help combat bouts of depression. 27: A History of the 27 Club is a worthy addition to the library of classic rock bookworms.

Learn more about Da Capo Press.

Purchase 27: A History of the 27 Club by Howard Sounes.

The Making of Major League by Jonathan Knight (2015)

Major League

The Making of Major League:
A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy

by Jonathan Knight
Gray & Company, 2015
255 pages

One of the most enduring comedies of the late 1980s—at least for sports nuts—is Major League. There is perhaps no other baseball film as widely quoted and embraced both by fans and players in the history of Hollywood. In his latest book, Ohio sportswriter Jonathan Knight takes readers behind the scenes of the movie, showing how difficult it was for writer/director David S. Ward to initially get the green light. Knight weaves together information gathered from interviews with Ward and the stars of the show, including Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes, telling the story of how the film came to be made and the excitement on the set while filming.

Those familiar with the movie are well aware of the raunchy language, and Knight does not hesitate to quote both lines from the movie and interviews without censorship. Readers who are able to look past the salty language will enjoy reliving the first time they saw Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Sheen) strike out Clu Haywood (played by major leaguer Pete Vukovich). Knight also touches on the ill-fated sequels, and the proposed fourth installment that has failed to gain any traction so far.

I love Major League, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the highlights and hijinks of making the movie that ranks up near the top of my all-time favorite baseball flicks.

Learn more about Gray & Company.

Purchase The Making of Major League by Jonathan Knight.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore (Images of America) by David F. Gaylin (2015)

Edgar Allan Poe Baltimore book

Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore (Images of America)
by David F. Gaylin
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
128 pages

Many cities can stake a claim to a major part of Edgar Allan Poe’s life—Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and Richmond, Virginia, among them. In Baltimore, the city of the author’s death and burial, Poe has attained cult-like status. Fans from all over the world visit Baltimore to see the Edgar Allan Poe house on North Amity Street and his gravesite at the Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery. The professional football team even uses Poe’s most well-known character—the Raven—as its mascot. But what was the city like during the writer’s life? David F. Gaylin answers that question in Arcadia Publishing’s latest pictorial history, Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore, with fascinating photographs and artwork of the people and places contemporary with one of America’s premiere mystery authors.

In addition to the images that depict Baltimore in the 1800s, several modern-day photographs of the locations are also featured in the book. Perhaps the most interesting pictures, however, are those of Poe himself. While there are some that feature his trademark mustache and disheveled hair, including the most recognizable photo of the author, Gaylin also includes a daguerreotype from 1842 with muttonchop sideburns and no mustache.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore is thorough, with approximately two hundred images reprinted in its pages, and those interested in Poe’s life and death while in Mob City will find it quite educational.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Balitmore, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing and The History Press at or (888) 313-2665.

Learn more about Arcadia Publishing.

Purchase Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore (Images of America) by David F. Gaylin.

Random Awesomeness (part 194)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase Music from the Original Soundtrack and More: Woodstock.

What Does The Bible Really Say About Homosexuality?

A lot of things are happening in our nation. Today, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on homosexual marriage. I’m not going to get political on this blog, but I will say that this is not really a political issue. It is a spiritual issue.

I would like to direct you to an article on the website, Plain Simple Faith. The article is, What Does The Bible Really Say About Homosexuality? I encourage you to consider the points made by the author, and examine the Scriptures. Realize that whatever decisions the government makes, God is still God.

(Note: Ben’s website is experiencing a lot of traffic today. If you get an error trying to load the page, try again in a few minutes.)

I’ve been a little busy lately

I have just taken a new part-time job, which is a very good thing. I will still have time to read and draw and obsess over baseball cards and hair metal, but will be doing so to a lesser extent because of my new position. So the posts may be a little less frequent here.

I do have some book reviews on the horizon, The Making of Major League, 27, Tony Oliva, and The League of Regrettable Superheroes among them. And I still have several “fun cards” to post, as well as original sketches, like the one below.

Rick Vaughn

Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, star pitcher for the 1988 alternative reality Cleveland Indians in the Major League universe. This is the first non-Reds card I’ve drawn in several years, and I think the first fictional baseball player I have ever attempted. I’m kind of stuck on 1938 Goudey right now.

Major League is definitely one of my favorite baseball movies, along with The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, Field of Dreams, 42, and Eight Men Out. I need to watch Bull Durham again, because I didn’t like it the first time I watched it over twenty years ago and have not seen it since.

What are some other baseball movies I should watch when I have the time?

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Burke Badenhop


It looked like a good signing at the time. Coming off a year in which he kept his ERA at 2.29 over 70 appearances, Burke Badenhop seemed to be a perfect fix for the struggling Cincinnati bullpen. When he got here, however, he couldn’t keep the runs from scoring. Currently holding a 6.12 ERA over 23 games, Badenhop is more of a perfect fit than a perfect fix. He was able to hold the Tigers scoreless in the 13th inning last night, and was gifted the victory when Todd Frazier launched his walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the inning. But overall, Badenhop has been a major disappointment in Cincinnati so far.

Concert review: Dawes & Hozier (June 16, 2015 @ Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, Columbus OH)

01 LC PavilionIt was a warm night in Columbus, Ohio, as Los Angeles band Dawes took the stage, opening for Irish singer/songwriter Hozier. The openers played for about 45 minutes to an enthusiastic, mostly young crowd at the LC Pavilion. Their folksy brand of rock was competent, but in the end mostly forgettable. New to the band was Duane Betts, the son of legendary southern rock guitarist Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers. He joined Dawes as a touring member last month, and his warm Les Paul sound is very reminiscent of his father’s.

Dawes has been active for several years, and the group is currently touring to support All Your Favorite Bands, released two weeks ago on Hub Records. The band ended their set with the title track from that album, a nice tune full of nostalgia: “I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be / I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever / I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me / and may all your favorite bands stay together.”

02 Dawes

Learn more about Dawes.

Purchase music by Dawes.

After Dawes finished, it was time for the main attraction. The popular blues musician Hozier took the stage at 9:20 p.m. to a thunderous response from the Columbus crowd, launching into “Angel of Small Death & The Codeine Scene” to start the show.

03 Hozier

Highlights from the show included “To Be Alone,” which featured great crowd participation, “Jackie and Wilson,” “In A Week,” a duet he sings with Alana Henderson in concert (the studio version features Karen Cowley), and the hit “Take Me To Church.” Following a short break in which the crowd worked itself into a frenzy, Hozier returned to the stage and performed three more songs, including a cover of Ariana Grande‘s “Problem.”

04 HozierI was not sure what to expect going into this show. I was not very familiar with Hozier past “Take Me To Church,” and honestly I was a bit tired of that song. I listened to his album twice on the way to the show, and was not expecting the energy level to be very high. To my surprise, the live show was grittier and more energetic than the studio recording, and made the trip well worth it. If I have the opportunity to see Hozier again, I definitely will. He puts on a great show, and even the slower numbers were full of intensity.

My only complaint: the length of the show. Hozier was finished at 10:40 p.m., only an hour and twenty minutes after his show began. With only one album under his belt so far, I know it must be difficult to stretch that into a two-hour set even with a couple of cover songs thrown in, but I could not help but be disappointed that it was over when he left the stage. Hozier definitely left me wanting more.

Learn more about Hozier.

Learn more about LC Pavilion in Columbus, OH.

Purchase music by Hozier.

2015 Reds, 1990 Score (Traded) style: Ryan Mattheus

Ryan Mattheus

The first of the orange-bordered Score Traded cards this year (other than Will Ferrell, which doesn’t really count), Ryan Mattheus was picked up from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County California the home of Disneyland Resort (because the actual name of the team isn’t already ridiculously long enough).

Sorry about that.

Mattheus was selected off waivers in May, and has pitched somewhat effectively in 13 games. Better than Kevin Gregg at least, who somehow actually got singed by another team (who were obviously not paying attention at all to how he “performed” in Cincinnati).

Random Awesomeness (part 193)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface.

Split Season: 1981 by Jeff Katz (2015)

Split Season 1981

Split Season: 1981
by Jeff Katz
Thomas Dunne Books, 2015
336 pages

I graduated high school and started college in 1994. There was also no World Series that year. To a baseball fan, it was the highest crime that could be committed, and the owners and players were equally at fault. Both groups were greedy, manipulative, and unappreciative of the high status they were given in society. At that time, I knew little about baseball history. I was aware there had been a strike in 1981, but did not know the issues that caused it, the people involved in the negotiations, or the ramifications it had on the season. I was just a little boy in 1981, and had never even been to a major league baseball game. I was blissfully unaware of the great players that were nearly within walking distance of my house.

Labor issues are never a pleasant subject to think about. Both sides of such disagreements have valid points, but neither are willing to budge or compromise too much. In 1981, over the issue of compensation for players lost to free agency, the owners forced the players to strike. Jeff Katz, the mayor of Cooperstown, relives the events of that year—both on the field and at the negotiation table—in Split Season: 1981. Fernando Valenzuela, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and Billy Martin were some of the most memorable characters on the diamond; Doug DeCinces, Bob Boone, Mark Belanger, and Steve Rogers (along with Marvin Miller) were the major players that went up against Ray Gerbey, Bowie Kuhn, and the owners behind the scenes.

Split Season: 1981 is a very detailed account, nearly to a fault. The sections dealing with the strike negotiations are tedious at times, and I found it difficult to stay focused on the words on the page. The chapters are long; the 336-page book is divided into ten chapters. Had it been broken up a bit more, it could have made some of the negotiation passages more palatable. Overall, though, Split Season: 1981 is a good historical account (though certainly written in favor of the players) of one of the most controversial and unique years in baseball history.

Learn more about Thomas Dunne Books.

Purchase Split Season: 1981 by Jeff Katz.

Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder by Steven K. Wagner (2015)


Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek,
Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder

by Steven K. Wagner
Breakaway Books, 2015
240 pages

[Review by TWJ contributor Jim.]

Can you imagine having the chance to play in the Major Leagues for just one day? Could you imagine being perfect at the plate and in the field for that one game? No one has…except John Paciorek (pronounced puh-SHORE-ick). He was a low A ball minor leaguer for the Houston Colt .45’s who was called up on the last day of the 1963 season and went 3 for 3, with 3 R.B.I and scored four times. He also was perfect in the field as well, never misplaying a ball hit to him.

So now that I have given away part of the ending, why should you read this book? Perfect is a well written, easy to read account of Paciorek and his life, and also why he only played in one game in his big league career. It was an unforgettable performance that had been forgotten by so many, but thanks to Steven K. Wagner, sports fans everywhere can hear the remarkable story of John Paciorek.

Learn more about Breakaway Books.

Purchase Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder by Steven K. Wagner.

R.I.P. Dusty Rhodes

(October 12, 1945 – June 11, 2015)

WWE and WCW Hall of Fame wrestler Dusty Rhodes passed away today from kidney failure.

R.I.P. Christopher Lee

(May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015)

Before he was Count Dooku, he was Count Dracula. Iconic horror film actor Christopher Lee passed away on Sunday at the age of 93.

And the first no-hitter of 2015 belongs to…

Chris Heston

Chris Heston of the San Francisco Giants became the first rookie since Clay Buchholz in 2007 to toss a no-hitter when he mowed down the New York Mets last night at Citi Field. Heston’s gem was the first no-hitter of 2015, after five were thrown in 2014 (including one by Giants teammate Tim Lincecum).

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Tyler Stephenson (1st Round Pick)

Tyler Stephenson catcher Kennesaw Mountain High School Georgia 1st Round Draft Pick Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds drafted Kennesaw Mountain High School (Georgia) catcher Tyler Stephenson with the eleventh pick of the first round in the Major League draft last night. Stephenson promptly changed his Twitter biography from “Committed to Georgia Tech” to “Professional baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds,” and then posted the following…


I can’t wait to see this kid in Cincinnati. Hope his hand doesn’t hurt too badly after meeting the Cuban Missile.

Tyler Stephenson 1st Round Draft Pick Cincinnati Reds

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Kristopher Negron

Kristopher Negron

Short on time this week, so I’m not sure if I’ll be here to post every day or not. Here’s utility man Kristopher Negron who is able to play just about every position on the field and give the regulars a day off from time to time. He has played at least nine innings at every position this year except catcher and pitcher. Negron was drafted by the Red Sox in 2006, acquired by the Reds in 2009 for Alex Gonzalez and cash.

2015 ex-Reds, 1990 Score style: Jake Elmore (Tampa Bay Rays), Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto Blue Jays), Yonder Alonso (San Diego Padres)

The Reds are absolutely horrible right now. After leading the Padres 7-3 yesterday, Tony Cingrani gave up a grand slam and then Jumbo Diaz allowed a couple more runs to score…and another loss went in the books. Seriously, if your offense scores seven runs, you oughtta be able to win a few games!!! My frustration level is beyond belief right now. So let’s look at a couple of guys that used to be Redlegs…

Jake Elmore

First we have Jake Elmore, who is currently employed by the Tampa Bay Rays. Elmore was drafted by the Marlins in 2007, but did not sign. He was then drafted in 2008 by the Diamondbacks, and he made his big league debut with Arizona in 2012. After that season, he was selected off waivers by the Astros, and played the 2013 campaign in Houston. He was then selected off waivers by the White Sox, who sold him to Oakland. But he did not make a big league appearance in 2014 until September with the Reds, who had selected him off waivers from the A’s. Granted free agency on November 4, 2014, the Reds signed him on November 5, but then on November 7 he was selected off waivers by the Pirates. Elmore was again granted free agency in February—why the Pirates took him in the first place no one will ever know—and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

This is not Elmore’s only custom card in the world. He is also featured in the very cool TSR set, as a SuperStar Special card no less.

Edwin Encarnacion

Continuing with guys whose last name starts with the letter “E,” we have Toronto superstar Edwin Encarnacion. His stats are down a bit this year, but he’s still driving the ball far and flipping his bat like a pro.

And I have just realized that I skipped over three other ex-Reds that I already made cards for but haven’t posted yet, including Yonder Alonso, who hit that grand slam yesterday to tie the game against the Reds. GRRRRRRRR…

Yonder Alonso

2015 Reds, 1990 Score style: Jon Moscot

Jon Moscot

Filling in for the injured Raisel Iglesias, Jon Moscot made his major league debut for the Reds tonight. An inauspicious start to his career, Moscot lasted five innings, giving up four earned runs on four hits and striking out three Padres. Moscot was 7-1 for the Louisville Bats this year before getting the call up to the bigs.

Fun Cards: 1938 Goudey Chris Sabo and Todd Frazier (original artwork)

Chris Sabo 1938 Goudey

Todd Frazier might be my favorite active third baseman, but he has quite a bit of catching up to do if he wants to replace Chris Sabo at the top of my favorites list. In 1988, when I was in sixth grade, I interviewed Sabo (via telephone) for a school homework assignment. Mrs. Gracey wanted us to write about someone we admired, and most of the other kids chose their dads or grandpas. And it’s not that I don’t love my dad, I do! He instilled in me a love for baseball that, though it has waned from time to time, I still cherish. But I wanted to be different from the other kids, so I called the Reds’ general offices after school and asked to speak to the rookie third baseman.

The operator was very kind, took my name and number and the reason for my call. I hung up the phone and headed out back to shoot some hoops. Not much later, my mom started rapping on the kitchen window, motioning for me to come inside for a telephone call. I came in, and Chris Sabo was on the other end.

I asked him about his favorite team growing up (the Tigers), his favorite player (Al Kaline), and what kind of car he drove (Ford Escort). He was extremely polite, very humble, and even left two tickets for a game a couple of weeks out for my dad and I. We got to sit in the “blue seats” (the good seats back then) with other players’ wives and girlfriends. That was pretty cool.

So, Mr. Frazier, though I will vote for you every year for the All-Star Game, and I will call you my favorite current third baseman, unless you come over for dinner and drop a couple of All-Star tickets off, Mr. Sabo will remain at the top of my list.

Todd Frazier


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