The Hunt for a Reds October: Cincinnati in 1990
by Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb
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.
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Baseball Prodigies: Best Major League Seasons by Players Under 21
by Charles F. Faber
There have been 284 men who have played major league baseball as a regular before their 21st birthday; 192 of those players lasted five or more seasons in the big leagues. In Baseball Prodigies, the latest offering from baseball scholar Charles F. Faber, the top ten hitting seasons and top ten pitching seasons by players under the age of 21 are explored in depth, while brief profiles of the remaining 172 players are included.
Many of the hitters are a “who’s who” of baseball immortality: Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, and the like. There are a couple of nineteenth century guys and one current player, as well as a special “star of the future” tag applied to Mike Trout, who is not included in the top ten as he does not yet qualify to be ranked, though he will once he reaches five years of big league service.
On the pitching side, only two of the top ten are Hall of Famers: Bob Feller and Christy Mathewson. The tragedy of injury befell many of the others, such as Bret Saberhagen and Don Gullett, while drugs derailed Dwight Gooden‘s route to Cooperstown. There is one current pitcher ranked, CC Sabathia, who could one day join Feller and Mathewson. But Matt Kilroy, Icebox Chamberlain, and Willis Hudlin will only be rembered—if at all—as examples of “what could have been.”
The other prodigies who are discussed briefly include both Hall of Famers (Robin Yount, Jimmie Foxx, Roberto Alomar) and those who will never be seriously considered for baseball immortality (Rick Monday, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool).
Certainly an interesting study on youth in baseball, Faber does an excellent job of detailing each player’s career and life after baseball, recommending resources and biographies to learn more about them.
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