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No Runs, No Drips, No Errors

The first athlete’s autograph I ever acquired was Johnny Bench’s. He signed a little scrap of paper from my notebook when I was about 6 years old. I had that scrap for years, until our basement flooded and destroyed most of my collection. Sad day.

Johnny played for the Reds from 1967 to 1983 and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was voted into the All-Star game 14 times, and twice won the National League’s MVP award. Bench and the legendary Big Red Machine of the ’70s won six division titles, four National League pennants, and two consecutive World Series championships. ESPN has even called him the greatest catcher in baseball history. I couldn’t agree more.

This design came together pretty quickly. I knew I wanted to do something with that square pattern once I saw it, and I haven’t given Johnny enough attention on these cards yet.

A little retro

These two legendary Reds were both playing in the first major league game I ever attended. Unfortunately, Seaver was pitching for the Mets that day, and the Reds lost. The Reds went on to win the World Series, though, so it all worked out.

Morgan has always been one of my favorite players from those Big Red Machine days. He was an on-base monster – for a guy whose average was .271, his OBP was .392. That’s a LOT of walks.

These cards are a bit different from anything else I’ve designed. I’m trying to push myself in different directions and do a wider variety of designs. I don’t really like the font used for the last names, but it seems to work in this design. I might keep trying some different ones, though.

The 1919 Project (preview)

In 1919, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series. For some reason, though, that series is best remembered as the series the White Sox lost. (You can Google “1919 World Series” if you don’t already know why.)

People seem to forget that the Reds had a better record than the Sox in 1919. The Reds were 96-44 that year, while the Sox were just 88-52. The White Sox were favored in the series because the American League was viewed as the stronger league, having won 8 of the 9 previous championships.

But I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Reds couldn’t have won it without the whole Black Sox affair.

So…to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Reds’ 1919 World Series victory, I’m creating a card for each member of the team (plus one for manager Pat Moran).

I’ll be writing up the cards with a few details about the players and 1919 Series, which is going to take a while, but I’m posting a few of the cards here as a sneak preview.

The Struggle is Real

The Reds recently traded for two players who were expected to help the team. Things have not worked out that way, unfortunately.

Trevor Bauer’s ERA has been somewhere around 9.00 since joining the Reds, and Galvis is in the midst of a 1-for-43 slump.

I think Galvis needs a 10-day trip to the DL to refocus or clear his head or whatever. We have too many promising young middle infielders to continue giving him playing time right now. I think Galvis will be OK eventually, and next year he’ll return to what we expected from him — a decent middle infielder.

Bauer is the real disappointment here, though. We was 9-8 with a 3.79 ERA in the American League. You would naturally expect slightly better numbers in the National League, since he’d be facing a pitcher instead of a DH pretty often. Alas…it didn’t work out that way. Bauer’s currently 1-4 with an 8.23 ERA.

I’m sure no one is as upset about this as Bauer. He’s a fantastic pitcher and a competitive guy. I have no doubt that he will turn things around and become our 3rd best starter (behind Castillo & Gray), giving us a strong rotation in 2020. With the Reds’ 2019 season in the dumpster, I would vote to let Bauer also take a trip to “Club DL” for 10 days.

Here’s hoping things get better for both of these players. If 2020 is going to be a big improvement over 2019, we’ll need them both to be solid contributors.

Mikey Biceps & the Babe

The Reds’ Michael Lorenzen joined an elite, exclusive club Wednesday night. The club is so small, it only has two members – Lorenzen and Babe Ruth.

Lorenzen pitched and got credited with the win, hit a homer, and played in the field. He was the first player to do all three in one game since 1921 when The Babe did it.

To honor the occasion, I made a replica of the Babe’s 1933 Goudey card for Mikey Biceps. I kept most of the original design – even the little Goudey logo. I also threw in another custom design for Lorenzen that I put together last night. This card shows Lorenzen as “SP/CF” because Reds’ Manager David Bell actually named Lorenzen as the team’s starting centerfielder last night.

2020 Prospects

For the Reds, 2019 has been a pretty major disappointment. I won’t even try to sugarcoat it. But there have been some highlights. You have to start with the homerun hitting, record-breaking rookie Aristides Aquino, of course. We also had All-Star performances from Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. We acquired Trevor Bauer (give him time…he’ll come around). Amir Garrett fought the entire Pirates dugout.

The Reds’ farm system has delivered some gems this year, too. Aquino, Senzel, VanMeter, and Ervin have all proven themselves to be solid everyday players. The minor league system has also sent up a few guys who should be give some time to adjust to the majors – like Blandino and O’Grady.

So…who’s next? Who are the players Reds fans should expect to see in 2020? Here are my thoughts:
> Jonathan India might be the most probable candidate, but his path to 3B is blocked by Eugenio Suarez.
> Jose Siri should see some opportunities in the majors next year.
> Vladimir Gutierrez has a ton of potential, but he’s been shaky at best in the minors this year.
> Hunter Greene is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
> Taylor Trammell was a top prospect, but he’s with the Padres now (insert tears).
> Tony Santillan has a shot at joining next year’s pitching lineup, but that depends on the team’s off-season moves.
> Tyler Stephenson could get some time behind the plate.
> Mike Siani isn’t lighting it up in the minors just yet.
> Jose Garcia has been decent in the minors, but we’ve got a huge logjam in the middle infield. That will block his path unless he cranks up the offense.
> Lyon Richardson still needs more time to develop his arm in the minors.

So…to honor some of these 2020 prospects, I’ve created a new design for them. Here’s the first set of 3 cards.

Welcome Back, Blandino

I just wanted to wish a warm welcome back to the big leagues for Alex Blandino. The Reds have quite a logjam in the middle infield, but I hope Alex gets a shot at some quality playing time.

Blandino technically isn’t a rookie (he played in 69 games last season), but what good is a Donruss design without that great “Rated Rookie” logo?

This design is a clear tribute to some of the old Donruss designs from 1985 to 1990. The truth is, I saw a poster for the band Tame Impala, and it immediately reminded me of some of those cards.

I spent approximately 10 whole minutes cranking out this design, so it’s far from finished. I’ll probably play around with it later and try to make some improvements. If you have any ideas, feel free to add a comment.

White Out

The Reds wore all-white uniforms for “Players’ Weekend” 2019. These uniforms were pretty much hated by everyone. One MLB manager even said he wouldn’t go to the mound to make a pitching change because he was too embarrassed to be seen in the all-white uniforms.

But these are the first alternate uniforms the Reds have worn during my time blogging alternate cards, so I kind felt obligated to make a card for them.

I keep telling myself to quit posting Aquino cards, but the guy is just too good right now. Also, he hit a homer in the all-white uniform and pumped his signature “Punisher” pose while rounding the bases, so…

More Customs

Aquino hit number 14 last night. Unreal. I’ve posted a ton of Aquino cards already, though, so today’s cards are a new set of customs featuring Joey Votto and Amir Garrett.

Votto has already locked up his place in the Reds’ Hall of Fame, of course, and Garrett became a fan favorite this year when he charged in to fight the entire Pittsburgh Pirates’ bench.

The Votto cards are brand new custom designs of mine, and the Garrett card is a bit of a tribute to the 1956 Topps design.


I’m a few days into this card blogging thing, and just realized that I haven’t posted any cards of the legend himself, Joey Votto. So let’s fix that.

Here are two new custom Votto cards based on the 1977 Topps design. Votto is a great player on the field and an even better guy off the field. He’s everything you want your star player to be.

Also…to honor the fact that Aristides Aquino hit ANOTHER record-breaking homer last night (his 13th in only 100 at bats) I’ve thrown in another Aquino design for the Topps ’77 set. Once I saw this pic of him in that classic throwback uniform, I knew I had to put it on a card. To be honest, this might be my favorite card design so far.

’87 Topps Alternates

These were actually the first 2 alternate cards I created, but I’m only getting around to posting them now. JT already posted them on his fantastic blog The Writer’s Journey, so I was holding onto them until I had run out of other cards to post.

I’ve got a lot of ideas for custom cards that I want to create, but it’s a really busy week at work, so…those will have to wait.

’89 Upper Deck Reds

The Upper Deck 1989 set will always be known as the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie set. When I first bought some of those cards, they blew me away with the quality of the photos and the overall quality of the cards.

Here are a couple of Reds rookie cards I’ve created with the Upper Deck ’89 template. My favorite part of this baseball season has been watching Aquino shatter all of the rookie homerun records. He’s also got one of the best arms of any outfielder in the game today. As a Reds fan, I’m really looking forward to watching this guy’s career progress.

I’d also like to send a big “thank you” out to the amazing “bobw” and his Cards That Never Were blog. His site is full of amazing content, and he also shared some sage advice with this card designing newbie.

First set of custom cards

Lately I’ve been working on my own custom designs instead of using old templates from real cards.

I’m not totally thrilled with any of these designs, but it’s been good practice. I’ve got a lot of ideas that I want to try, so I’m sure I’ll be posting more custom cards in the future.

If you have any feedback on these designs – positive or negative – I’d love to hear it. You could even go down in history as the very first person to leave a comment on this new blog. (Note to self: gotta work on site promotion sometime.)

Where were you in ’77?

Here are the rest of the cards I created with the Topps 1977 template. I’ll definitely be making more of these in the future, but right now I’m focusing on making a few of my own custom card designs.

(Also, my sincere apologies go out to Brian O’Grady. Yesterday, I posted a rookie card for him…and then he got sent back to the minors. I’m a jinx.)

The Suarez card below reminds me of a card Topps made in ’76 for Kurt Bevacqua – the league’s bubblegum bubble-blowing champ.

The future of the Reds

While the Reds’ 2019 season has been a bit of a disappointment, the team’s outlook for 2020 is really shaping up. Trevor Bauer adds another top-tier arm to an already strong pitching lineup, and Freddy Galvis has been a solid infielder so far.

But the main reason for my 2020 optimism is the 5 guys shown below. Aristides Aquino has gone on a home run spree like the majors have never seen before, Senzel is a star in the making, VanMeter should be an everyday player, Ervin has been reliable since getting called up, and O’Grady is our future at first base.

Also…how awesome is that Topps rookie trophy? Always loved seeing that on a card.

Hey now…you’re an All-Star

Sorry to get that Smash Mouth song stuck in your head. Today, I’m posting a couple of cards I made to honor the two Reds pitchers who were appeared in the 2019 All-Star game: Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Castillo should have been the starter, but…it wasn’t my decision.

These cards are based on the 1975 Topps design, but with some significant redesigns. (To be totally transparent, I first saw one of these redesigned ’75 cards on some other blog a loooong time ago. I wish I could remember where so I could give the original designer credit. If it was you…let me know!)

Lastly, I’d like to give a shout-out to Jason Carter and his blog, The Writer’s Journey. Some of the Reds cards I saw on his site are what inspired me to start this blog, and he was even kind enough to share some of my designs on his site.

It all started with Pete

Pete freakin’ Rose. What more could I say about the guy than what thousands of others have already said? For me, Rose was my first hero. He was the hardest working player on the field – a guy who took his talent and became a superstar through the sheer force of will.

When I was in first grade, I even got our school to host a “Pete Rose Day.” People wore their Reds hats and t-shirts…and not much else happened.

Years later, Pete Rose managed to add the dreaded asterisk next to all of his accomplishments on the field.

My baseball fandom will always be tied to Pete Rose in some form, though. He was the star of the team that first introduced me to the game. And no matter what has happened over the years, I’ll always have a bit of fondness for the guy. So, when I started making these cards, I knew I had to make some with Pete.

I decided to use my favorite card template (the 1977 Topps design) for these alternate Pete Rose cards.