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.
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).