God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen
by Mitchell Nathanson
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016
One of the most polarizing players of the 1960s and 70s, Dick Allen never seemed to be happy. He had enormous talent, but he did not believe he received the respect he deserved. He faced racism, bad press, hecklers, and more during his career, and made plenty of enemies along the way. In this new biography by Mitchell Nathanson, those events are chronicled and put into historical context in the best possible way, using newspaper articles and archived interviews as the primary source for information, with newer interviews conducted to flesh things out when needed. Allen himself declined to participate in the interview process, but the quality of reporting throughout his career served to paint a portrait of the oft disgruntled star.
There is very little to criticize in this book as far as the writing goes; Nathanson deals with the material honestly and openly, not shying away from the negativity that always seemed to surround Allen. My primary criticism would be with the title, God Almighty Hisself. Not knowing the context, one might assume that Allen referred to himself in such a way. The quote from which the title is taken actually refers to the troublesome nature of dealing with the player, with a former manager quipping, “I believed God Almighty hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen.” As such, the book should have been titled differently.
Overall, however, this biography of Dick Allen is an enjoyable read, shedding light on the surly superstar who often held out for more money, was frequently traded, and was dismissed all too soon by the voters for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. It is impossible for us to realize the amount of pressure he was under that day, or that season. He persevered throughout his ten-year career, starting in five All-Star Games and helping the Dodgers to six World Series.
Most of us are familiar with Jack McDowell‘s exploits as a guitar player, or Bernie Williams‘ love for jazz and the guitar. And of course, Bronson Arroyo put out a CD of grunge covers. But before them all, Ron Cey released a single, “One Game at a Time.” I can’t even begin to describe this song. You just have to hear it for yourself…
The b-side was a song called “Playing the Third Base Bag.”
Opening Day is a week away. I can’t wait.
The 1988 World Series was an epic upset: the hobbled Kirk Gibson blasting a game-winning home run off future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 set the tone for the Series in which the Los Angeles Dodgers upset the highly-favored Oakland A’s. First Lady Nancy Reagan threw out the first pitch before Game One to Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia.
In 1989, O-Pee-Chee produced a set of highlights for the World Series. This would have been a spectacular subset to have included in the 1989 Topps base set; why Canada was graced with these cards I will never know. I was not even aware of their existence until Night Owl posted one on his blog several years ago. I have yet to acquire any as they fall outside of my collecting focus, but at some point when I become more organized I would like to add them to my collection.
In light of the First Lady’s passing yesterday, I thought a “fun card” commemorating her first pitch was appropriate. It was difficult finding a photo that worked well, but finally settled on this one featuring her hugging the Dodgers backstop after the ceremonial pitch.
The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees were announced last night, and neither name was a surprise. The legendary centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and slugging catcher Mike Piazza will be enshrined as baseball immortals this summer in Cooperstown, New York.
I decided to create a couple of “fun cards” to commemorate the newest legends, but I wanted to go back to their rookie years. Griffey, a #1 overall draft pick for the Mariners in 1987, debuted in the big leagues in 1989. He was included in all the major sets, either in the base set or the year-end updates: Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps, and Upper Deck. So I had to think outside the box, and decided to borrow a design from Fleer’s basketball release in 1989.
Piazza was a bit easier when it came to the design. While he was featured in the Bowman set, Fleer was the only other company that saw fit to include him in their year-end set. After all, what type of impact could a 62nd-round catcher possibly have in baseball? Topps and Upper Deck completely ignored Piazza, while Donruss saw fit to include him in an insert set, but not the base. As I am a bigger fan of Topps than any of the others (at least when it comes to the 1992 design), I decided to make a Topps card-that-should-have-been for him. However, in 1992, Piazza wore uniform #25 rather than #31, so it was a bit tricky tracking down an era-appropriate photo.
I’m happy with the way these turned out, and I’m happy to see these players getting their just due. Griffey, three votes short of a unanimous selection, and Piazza, who had to wait until his fourth year of eligibility, are true examples of baseball done right.
TWJ contributor Patrick started working on a “traded” card for Aroldis Chapman in the style of 1974 Topps soon after the deal to the Dodgers was announced. Then off-the-field problems came to light and caused the Dodgers to have second thoughts, and the trade fell through. So Chapman is still a Red for the time being, and we have a virtual “fun card” error. Sort of bring to mind the whole “Washington Nat’l League” fiasco of the 1974 base set, doesn’t it?
I hope Chapman is able to work out whatever issues he has, and that the Reds can find an acceptable deal for the closer. While I said a few days ago that we would miss him in Cincinnati—and we certainly will miss his talent—the team doesn’t need a personality like that in the clubhouse negatively influencing the younger players.
The Reds have reportedly traded “The Cuban Missile” Aroldis Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two prospects, pending a physical exam. We’ll miss the Missile in Cincinnati.
Baseball Stadiums 2016 Calendar
published by TF Publishing, 2015
Now that October has arrived, it is time to admit that Christmas is just around the corner. Yes, we have to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving first, but it is never too soon to start thinking about what gifts you will be buying for others. One small gift that is timeless is the calendar. Whether you go with the daily boxed variety, or the monthly hang-on-the-wall calendar, everyone needs to know what day it is at some point.
Perfect Timing publishes a wide variety of calendars, including this very nice Baseball Stadiums 2016 Calendar. Twelve ballparks are featured, including such vital statistics as home team, opening date, dimensions, capacity, and playing surface. The twelve parks are Busch (St. Louis), AT&T (San Francisco), Fenway (Boston), Citi (New York Mets), PNC (Pittsburgh), Great American (Cincinnati), Yankee (New York Yankees), Wrigley (Chicago Cubs), Chase (Arizona), Comerica (Detroit), Rogers (Toronto), and Dodger (Los Angeles). The calendar measures 11.8×23.4 when hung on the wall, showing the stadium of the month; the calendar portion has plenty of room to jot down appointment and meeting reminders in the blocks.
I was going to post my review of the new Bulletboys record, Elefanté, today, but still have some finishing touches to put on it. It might be up tomorrow, or possibly Thursday.
I am also working my way through Jeff Katz’s Split Season: 1981. It’s a very heady book, detailing the negotiations between the players and owners while examining the events of the season, including Fernando Valenzuela‘s sensational rookie campaign. That review should be posted either Thursday or Friday, depending on how much time I have to devote to reading over the next couple of days.
You can view all of the cards posted over the past several years of your favorite team by typing http://twjcards.tumblr.com/tagged/los-angeles-dodgers into your browser window, replacing “los-angeles-dodgers” with your favorite team name (dashes where spaces should be).
Rookie of the Year in 1949. Four times an All-Star. Cy Young and MVP Award winner in 1956. 149 wins. But Don Newcombe was more than just a good pitcher. He was a good hitter, too.
Often used as a pinch hitter during his career, Newk racked up 15 homers and 108 RBI in his 10-year career. In 1955 alone, he knocked the ball out of the park seven times on his way to a 2.5 oWAR score for the season. His batting average was .271, with 238 hits in 878 at-bats.
The Dodgers foolishly traded Newcombe during the 1958 season to the Redlegs for four players: Steve Bilko, Johnny Klippstein, Art Fowler, and Charlie Rabe. He continued his hitting display during three seasons with the Reds, pounding out 58 hits in 201 at-bats. That’s a .289 average!
The Reds sure could use a bat like Newcombe’s on the bench this year…or any year. He was an underrated player during his career, and while the Dodgers do a good job of recognizing his greatness, he is still overlooked by many fans.
He will be entering his first professional season outside of the Cincinnati Reds organization in 2015. The question is, will he be with the Dodgers or in the minor leagues? Chris Heisey is only batting .074 this spring—that’s 2 hits in 27 at-bats. One of those hits was a home run, but that really doesn’t do much to help his cause in an already crowded Los Angeles outfield. I was disappointed when the Reds let Heisey walk away; he was a valuable bench player over the past five seasons in Cincinnati. I hope he is able to get out of this slump and succeed with LA…as long as he doesn’t hit the Reds’ pitchers too hard.
A picture is worth one thousand words, so here are ten thousand nineteen (including these words, but not the title)…
Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.
Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.
The Dodgers needed a pinch-hitter/sixth-string outfielder, and the Reds needed another pitcher that likes to allow the other team to score (6.51 ERA in six major league starts). Matt Magill was roughed up in the bigs, but he didn’t fare much better in the minors, posting a 5.21 ERA at AAA Albuquerque. Of course, Chris Heisey‘s .222 batting average isn’t much to get excited about either, regardless of how nice a guy he is.
TWJ contributor Patrick e-mailed these 1974 Topps “Traded” cards to me last night to post on the blog today. They look great, though I would like to learn how to airbrush the logos rather than Photoshop to make it more faithful to the original style. They are great cards though, and I wish Heisey the best of luck in Los Angeles.
(November 3, 1956 – June 9, 2014)
Two-time All Star and 1990 Cy Young Award winner, Bob Welch has died at the age of 57. No pitcher has won more than 25 games since Welch’s 27 in 1990. In 17 major league seasons, he compiled a 211-146 record with a 3.47 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics.
(January 17, 1931 – June 4, 2014)
An infielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Senators, Mets, Reds and Toei Flyers in the 1950s and 1960s, Don Zimmer passed away Wednesday at the age of 83. Zimmer also managed for several years and led the Chicago Cubs to a 1st place finish in 1989.
The first no-hitter of the 2014 season was thrown by Josh Beckett, who shut down the Philadelphia Phillies on May 25 in Philadelphia. The Dodgers won the game 6-0. Beckett walked three and struck out six batters; this is the fifth time a Dodgers pitcher has no-hit the Phillies.
Congratulations, Josh Beckett.
Special card, unnumbered, Josh Beckett “NO-HITTER”
See more at TWJ cards on tumblr.
Sadly, I haven’t been writing much lately. I don’t just mean for the blog, I mean in general. I’ve been going through the motions for the past several weeks, and can’t seem to get out of this funk that I’m in.
Today I turned my attention towards baseball again. Inspired by a 1996 Chicago Cubs team issued card posted by Wrigley Wax earlier today, I retooled the design a bit and came up with my own 2014 TWJ cards. Different fonts, and my players don’t jump out of the borders, but the basic elements are there. Here is my Jay Bruce card:
And to make the comparison more direct, here’s Travis Wood of the Chicago Cubs:
I suppose I’ll fire up the old TWJ cards on tumblr pretty soon. It has been dormant since July. Be sure to follow or subscribe or whatever you’re supposed to do on tumblr (I can’t keep them all straight anymore). In the meantime, here’s one more…2013 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw:
Today is Steve Garvey‘s 65th birthday, and in a shameless attempt to see his cards posted on baseball card blogs everywhere, the Garvey Cey Russell Lopes blog is giving away a 1952 Topps card to someone at random. So of course I’m going to post a card, because I don’t have any 1952 Topps cards yet.
The Garvey card pictured above is from the 1986 Donruss All-Stars set. These big cards (3.5 x 5) first appeared in 1983, and lasted in this oversize variety through 1987. In 1988 the company decided to shrink them to “normal” baseball card size (2.5 x 3.5). 1986 Donruss doesn’t get much love these days, but I loved them as a kid. It was difficult to keep your cards looking mint with those non-white borders. but I loved them anyway. The main difference between the regular set and the All-Stars (other than the ginormosity of them) was the stripes. Instead of horizontal, the blue and black went from top to bottom.
Flipping to the back, we see that Garvey had a fairly impressive All-Star career. 1985 was his tenth and final All-Star game and he managed to belt out a .393 average in those contests. His 1974 campaign was especially impressive, being elected as a write-in and winning the MVP. In 1970, Rico Carty became the first player ever elected as a write-in; Garvey followed him in 1974. Has there been another since?
Of his ten All-Star appearances, Garvey started in nine games. In 1981, Pete Rose of the Phillies received more votes. Rose also won the fan vote in 1982, while Al Oliver won in 1983; Garvey was not selected as a reserve either of those years. In 1984, however, the former Dodgers first baseman rose back to the top and was selected to start over Keith Hernandez. In 1985, Rose and Jack Clark sat on the bench while Garvey took the field for the first four and a half innings.
I always thought Steve Garvey would be inducted into the Hall of Fame when his playing days are over, and while I would still like to see him get a plaque in Cooperstown, the truth is the numbers just don’t add up. He wouldn’t be the worst player in the Hall, but his selection would probably be seen by rabid baseball fans and historians as a mistake. Regardless, he was a great baseball player.
Happy birthday Steve Garvey.
Now go visit Garvey Cey Russell Lopes.
I do! Our good friend over at Garvey Cey Russell Lopes wants to see as many Steve Garvey cards on the blogosphere as possible on Sunday in honor of the Garv’s 65th birthday, and is bribing all of his friends with 1952 cards to make that happen. One person will be randomly selected to choose from fifteen possible cards to add to his collection. Of course, if I win, I’ll take the Cincinnati Reds card.
What is GCRL going to do with the rest of the cards? Who knows…maybe more contests are coming down the pipe, or maybe he’ll offer them up for trade, or maybe he’ll charter a boat and dump them in the ocean. But as for the current contest, click here to see the rules and regulations.
I will be posting a card or two on Sunday, but in the meantime, here’s a “fun card” of Steven Patrick Garvey in the style of 1952 Topps.