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