“Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue: Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Rivalry” by Tom Van Riper
Baseball, professional, Reds, Dodgers, rivalry
April 13, 2017
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)
If one asks a baseball fan today which is the biggest rivalry in the game today, the answer would most likely be one of the following three possibilities: Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-Cardinals or Dodgers-Giants. However, if this same question was asked in the 1970’s there would be only one answer: Reds-Dodgers. The intensity of that rivalry in the old National League West division is relieved in this book by Tom Van Riper.
The two teams combined for 9 division titles in the 1970’s, with the Giants in 1971 being the only other team to do so. The star players were numerous – Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez for the Reds, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Don Sutton and Bill Buckner for the Dodgers. The rivalry really took off in the 1973 season, when the two teams battled in a terrific pennant race, one in which the Reds made a big comeback in the second half of the season.
That the author concentrates on the 1973 season was part of what made the book not live up to the expectations for which I had hoped. There is plenty of information on the teams for that year, as well as some of the players for both sides. There are even multiple pages of information on the general managers (Al Campanis and Bob Howsman for the Dodgers and Reds respectively) and even the broadcasters (Vin Scully and a young Al Michaels). Therefore, if one wants to read about these two teams in the 1973 season, this is a very good source.
However, there is little information on the rivalry for subsequent years and that does a disservice to readers who remember how the rivalry sustained itself into the early 1980’s. There is very little mention of any players who appeared for the teams after 1973, such as Tom Seaver who was acquired by the Reds in a trade from the Mets in 1977. Also, the book shares very little interesting stories of the players as their write-ups are factual and statistical with few anecdotes. This format is fine for readers who wish to simply learn this aspect of the players but it lacks the comfort of making the reader feel like he or she is talking to that player. Also, like many other books with a narrow topic, this one will venture off into unrelated topics such as sabermetrics. However, many of these do help the reader get a complete picture of that snapshot of this rivalry.
Overall, this book does get a passing grade for the sheer volume of information written about these two great teams from that decade. However, the very factual style of writing makes it a slow read at times and more of a task than a simple pleasurable read. Baseball historians and fans of one of these teams will enjoy the book and will want to pick up a copy.
I wish to thank Rowman & Littlefield Publishers for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Book Format Read: