It’s no secret that Cincinnatians attach a certain level of earnestness to their love of baseball. For all those fans who have long compared the Big Red Machine to a work of art—a masterpiece daubed on a dirt-and-grass canvas—now at last there is a book that shares this sentiment.Cincinnati Reds Legends (The Kent State University Press) celebrates 40 of the greatest Reds in the franchise’s century-and-a-half history, pairing an original portrait painting of each player with a short biography. The press originally applied the same format to a book on the Cleveland Indians, inspiring local author Mike Shannon to give a more storied franchise the same treatment, despite the difficulty in narrowing down his list. “No matter what number of players you pick and how you arrange it, it’s inevitable that you’re going to leave out someone’s favorite,” says Shannon, editor-in-chief of Spitball Magazine and the author of more than a dozen baseball books. “I think we did a pretty darn good job of picking 40 guys.”
The selection focused on players who excelled statistically for the ball club, but also those who resonated with the fanbase. “The level of fame the player achieved was part of the process,” notes Shannon. “Joe Nuxhall wasn’t the greatest pitcher in the world, but he’s certainly a legend to Reds fans in any way you want to define it.” The paintings were divided among three baseball-versed artists—Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard—all of whom either live in town or have in years past. “It’s the artwork that sets this book apart,” says Shannon, who hopes that the uniqueness of the visual aspect will help readers draw a deeper connection to players both past and present. “It’s a gorgeous book, and we think it’s something that Reds fans are going to treasure. There’s nothing like it.”
Originally published in the April 2015 issue.