Category Archives: baseball

Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue: Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Rivalry by Tom Van Riper (2017)

Cincinnati Reds Los Angeles Dodgers Tom Van Riper book

Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue: Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Rivalry
by Tom Van Riper
Rowman & Littlefield, 2017

Ask any baseball fan about rivalries, and you will likely hear about the Yankees and Red Sox, or the Giants and Dodgers, or the Cubs and Cardinals. But four decades ago, the answer may have included the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. Both teams played in the National League West, and consistently battled for a postseason spot. From 1970 to 1979, with the exception of 1971, these teams finished first and second in the division; seven out of ten years, one of these teams made it all the way to the World Series. If you were a Reds fan, you hated the Dodgers, and vice versa.

Author Tom Van Riper goes back in time in Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue, revisiting the rivalry of these 1970s powerhouses, taking a particularly close look at a game in late September when the Reds visited Dodger Stadium. Cincinnati won that game in extra innings, and refused to relinquish first place the rest of the year. Van Riper spotlights all of the major names from each team: the Hall of Famers (Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Don Sutton), the superstars (Pete Rose, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey), the executives (Al Campanis and Bob Howsam), and even the announcers (Vin Scully and Al Michaels).

Van Riper also touches on some of the off-the-field history revolving around these teams, including the surgery named after Los Angeles pitcher Tommy John, the free agency fiasco involving Andy Messersmith, and the late-‘80s gambling woes of the Hit King.

Covering so many players from two teams, Van Riper is unable to go into much depth in this relatively short volume, just over 200 pages. As such, some of the anecdotes seem disjointed and forced, even if they are relevant to the rivalry. There are better historical accounts of the Big Red Machine out there, and I’m sure the ‘70s Dodgers have had similar superior treatments as well. Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue is a good primer on both teams, but I would not consider it a must-have if your library already boasts other Cincinnati or Los Angeles team histories.

Learn more about Rowman & Littlefield.

Purchase Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue: Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Rivalry by Tom Van Riper.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Bob Walk

Bob Walk Pittsburgh Pirates 1988 All-Star Topps

The three best pitchers in the National League in 1988 were Orel Hershiser, Danny Jackson, and David Cone. No ifs, ands, or buts. But at the break, it was not so clear-cut. Pittsburgh pitcher Bob Walk had ten victories at the break along with a 2.47 ERA, while Hershiser sat at 13 wins/2.62 ERA, Jackson at 10/3.28, and Cone at 9/2.52. However, the latter three ended the season with at least 20 wins, while Walk was only able to muster two more victories in 1988.

Bob Walk Pittsburgh Pirates 1988 All-Star Topps

Still, at the break, Walk was in the mix for best pitcher in the National League. and he was rewarded with a trip to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco 1988 Topps All-Star

Jose Canseco was on top of the baseball world in 1988, on his way to the first ever 40-40 season. He led the American League in homers, RBI, slugging, and OPS+, along with a .307 batting average. He was practically unstoppable at the plate.

Jose Canseco 1988 Topps All-Star

In the late 1980s, Canseco was simply the epitome of cool.

Jose Canseco 1988 Topps All-Star

While 1988 was long before variant chase cards were common, wouldn’t this have been a cool card to pull in a pack?

Fun Cards: 1985 Topps All-Star Zack Cozart

Ladies and gentlemen, your starting shortstop for the National League All-Stars, Zack Cozart

Cozart

Trying to keep it fun

Collecting baseball cards is supposed to be fun. I have no intention of selling cards for a profit. While I respect the abilities of Aaron Judge and Mike Trout, and don’t mind having a card or two in my collection, they are not my focus and I won’t be chasing their rookie or other high-priced cards. Even among my team (the Reds, in case you didn’t know), I don’t chase the high-priced parallels, autographs, relics, or whatever newfangled collectible Topps throws out there. For me, if it’s not fun, I don’t care.

This blog is also supposed to be fun. And most of the time it is. But then I get an idea for a big project and in the beginning, it is fun. But over time, it becomes more work, and the fun is sucked away. And so I abandon the project. That’s the case with the Reds birthdays. Until Sunday, I posted a “happy birthday” every day this year. And I had a subject for every day this year. But it’s not fun anymore, so I won’t be continuing those posts.

I have other projects going on that are not related to the blog. At the moment, those projects are still fun. I’m still here, and I will continue posting book reviews and “fun cards” and other things that interest me. Posts will not be daily here, but I am still always reachable via e-mail and Twitter.

Happy Reds birthday, Ivey Wingo!

Wingo

July 8, 1890

Ivey Wingo was the catcher for the 1919 World Champion Cincinnati Reds. When he retired in 1929, Wingo was the all-time National League leader in games caught. To this day, he holds the record for most errors committed by a catcher, post-1900.

Other July 8 Reds birthdays:
Rosario Rodriguez (1969)
Bobby Ayala (1969)
Jerome Walton (1965)
George Culver (1943)
Glen Gorbous (1930)
John Powers (1929)
Jim Bluejacket (1887)
Johnny Siegle (1874)
Hank O’Day (1859)

Happy Reds birthday, Jeff Shaw!

Shaw

July 7, 1966

Jeff Shaw is one of six Reds relievers to lead the National League in saves since it became an official statistic in 1969. The others were Wayne Granger, Clay Carroll, John Franco, and Jeff Brantley.

Other July 7 Reds birthdays:
Dave Burba (1966)
George Suggs (1882)

Happy Reds birthday, Jay Avrea!

Avrea

July 6, 1920

Jay Avrea’s pitching career last only two games; in 1950 he pitched in two games for a total of 5.1 innings.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Chris Sabo

Sabo

I had writer’s cramp from writing Chris Sabo‘s name in on All-Star ballots in 1988. Back in the day of printed ballots, teams had to submit their players to the league far in advance. Buddy Bell was expected to be the Reds’ starting third baseman, but his spring injury and Sabo’s unexpected success changed things.

Sabo

The fans at the All-Star game in Cincinnati began chanting Sabo’s name, and National League manager Whitey Herzog wisely inserted the rookie third baseman as a pinch runner in the seventh inning. He promptly stole second base off Jeff Russell and Tim Laudner.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Carney Lansford

Lansford

The Oakland A’s were a powerhouse in the late 1980s, with Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire sending baseballs into the stands. Meanwhile, third baseman Carney Lansford put the ball into play on his way to a half-season .331 batting average. Unfortunately, he forgot how to hit in the second half and his average plummeted to .279.

Lansford

Lansford was often an underrated player during his career, with only one All-Star appearance to his name, but that’s what happens when you play third base in the same league as Wade Boggs and George Brett. He led the AL with a .336 average in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and ended with a very respectable .290 average.

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