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.
Ladies and gentlemen, your starting shortstop for the National League All-Stars, Zack Cozart…
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)
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.
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.
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.
July 5, 1934
Gordy Coleman spent eight seasons with the Reds, becoming a very popular personality in the city. Statistically, Coleman was solid with 98 home runs and 387 RBI. Following his playing career, he worked in public relations for the Reds and made many appearances in Cincinnati to promote the club. In 1990, he color commentated Reds’ television broadcasts. Coleman passed in 1994, suffering a heart attack at the age of 59.
July 4, 1948
Ed Armbrister will likely always be best remembered for the controversial play in Game Three of the 1975 World Series. When Armbrister laid down a bunt in the 10th inning, he collided with Carlton Fisk as he tried to field the ball. Fisk then threw wild to second; Cesar Geronimo ended up on third and Armbrister on second. Three batters later, Joe Morgan drove Geronimo home to win the game for the Reds. Many Boston fans believe Armbrister should have been called out for interference.
Other July 4 Reds birthdays:
Joe Henderson (1946)
July 3, 1983
Edinson Volquez made the All-Star team in his first season with the Reds, and nearly won the Rookie of the Year in 2008, in spite of the fact that he was not a rookie. Three Reds players received votes for Rookie of the Year: Joey Votto, Volquez, and Jay Bruce. Volquez had already spent three seasons with the Rangers, and his rookie status expired in 2007.
July 2, 1974
Sean Casey, affectionately known as “The Mayor” in Cincinnati, was a hitting machine. In eight seasons with the Reds, Casey collected 1223 hits and a .305 average. He made three All-Star games but failed to collect a hit in two at-bats.
Other July 2 Reds birthdays:
Wladimir Balentien (1984)