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Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s Hardcover – May 25, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1970s were largely defined by clashes between the establishment and the counterculture, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the ballpark; baseball accepted integration only to experience other upheavals, such as free agency, Astroturf, the designated hitter, drugs, and the sexual revolution. The consolidation of team ownership under wealthy moguls like Ted Turner, and the focus on TV revenues, shaped the sport into what we know today. The idea of the gentleman player went the way of the dinosaur as fans discovered the fallibility of their heroes. Epstein, an enthusiastic sports fan who wants to recapture the idyllic tumult of his youth, meticulously documents dozens of plays. He guides readers carefully through the decade to illustrate the changes to the sport, the teams, and America. Epstein is a thorough researcher, a devoted fan of the game, and an entertaining writer, but readers who don't come to his book with a serious love of America's pastime may find themselves bogged down in minutiae; fans, on the other hand, will pour over every page. Photos.
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From Booklist

Epstein fires up the time machine for a journey back to 1970s baseball, out of which came the designated hitter, the free agent, Astroturf, cookie-cutter stadiums, World Series night games, and such ill-fated experiments as the three-ball walk (oof!), orange baseballs (look out!), and the swapping of wives between Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich (don't ask). Still, in the midst of such a kooky decade thrived many of the game's immortal talents, including Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Jim Palmer, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and many more. Wisely taking the decade year by year—and describing the pennant races and concurrent cultural events therein—Epstein gives both the game and the era that produced it their due. --Alan Moores
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312607547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312607548
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #833,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Epstein is an award-winning journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, MOJO, the LA Times, Guitar World, Revolver, eMusic, the Jewish Daily Forward and dozens of other print and online outlets. Epstein has worked as a producer at VH-1, an editor at Revolver magazine and the now-defunct ShockHound.com, and is the author of "Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76," "Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s," "Honky-Tonk Tourist: The Night Buck Owens Almost Got Me Killed," and "20th Century Pop Culture". An avid historian of music, baseball and pop culture, Epstein has been dubbed "The Bangs-ian Herodotus of 70s Baseball" by "Cardboard Gods" author Josh Wilker. A Detroit Tigers fan since the mid-70s, he adopted the Chicago Cubs as his National League team in 1980, for better and (mostly) worse. Epstein lives in Los Angeles, and is available for public speaking engagements.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm Allen on June 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was born in 1970 and became a cetfified baseball fanatic by the end of the decade. Thanks to my Oriole-loving parents, I even attended two games of the 1979 World Series. Now, as a SABR-member and voracious student of baseball history, I feel pretty well versed in baseball happenings during my lifetime.

There aren't that many baseball books I can honestly say I enjoy, because an awful lot of them only go as far as things I'd committed to memory by my teens. However, Dan Epstein's Big Hair and Plastic Grass drew me in quickly and held my attention so steadfastly that I finished it in less than three days despite working overtime hours and having a toddler vying for my attention.

The author writes very well and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the events he describes both in their own time and with historical hindsight. Though he mentioned something about being more interested in hairstyles and uniforms that statistics, it's obvious that he's as well-versed in both from reading his descriptions of the players and games themselves, plus the funky, freaky and weird occurences he skillfully highlights throughout the book.

The highest compliment I can honestly pay this book is to say you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. If you have a sense of humor, curiousity about the bizarre, a longing for the 1970's or just the desire to learn more about a period of tremendous change in American life -- this book is for you. And, if you ARE a baseball fan --whether you lived through the 1970's or not-- this is one you owe it to yourself to pick up. I'm sure glad I did.

A tip of my cartoon bird Orioles cap and pull tab can of Schlitz to you, Dan. Keep up the good work!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By G. Gray on June 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Was really looking forward to reading this. The topic has lots of potential--Disco Demolition night, the Big Red Machine, Reggie--there was a lot happening in the 70s in MLB. But this book is largely a swing and miss. For one thing, there is no narrative. The anecdotes are fragmented and far between and most chapters (years) end up being lust a litany of disjointed facts and summaries that culminate in mentioning who was in the World Series. Also, the characterizations of the main players is very sparse. If you didn't know much about a particular guy before reading this book, you won't afterwards either.

Somewhere there is a really good book to be written on this topic. This is not that book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Evan D. on June 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When I heard about this book a few months ago my first thought was, "Did I commission this in my sleep?!" And when I finished reading this book a few days ago, my first thought was "When is the sequel coming out?!"

Big Hair & Plastic Grass is a stone gas from start to finish. Author Dan Epstein breaks down baseball's most transformational (and entertaining) decade year by year, interspersing separate chapters along the way dedicated to garishly colored uniforms, drab concrete multi-use stadiums, Afros that could barely be contained by a baseball cap and other 70s-specific phenomena.

This is not a dry look at the progression of the decade, and for me that's the book's biggest strength; there are other places to turn for a monotoned history of the game. Big Hair & Plastic Grass gives you the personalities that ran wild as Major League Baseball's resistance to the cultural revolutions of the '60s and '70s began to erode. Each of the Year chapters recaps what happened on the field that season, and along the way Epstein brings out details that otherwise would exist only on microfiche (if even there!) to give the full story of the powerhouse teams of the era (A's, Pirates, Reds, Orioles, etc.) as well as the also-rans.

I can't recommend this book enough for anyone from the most die-hard to the most casual baseball fan. It's a wonderfully entertaining read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tim Williams on September 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At it's best, "Big Hair and Plastic Grass" is a stimulating, succinct summary of the seventies. At it's worst, it's a salacious, slanted screed of same. The best parts make the book worthwhile, but they also display how good the book could have been. Some of my favorite parts were the chapter on uniforms, the account of the Bull's big heart and the description of Al Hrabosky stomping around like a bull. Unfortunately, that isn't all of the bull in the book. For example, we learn that the Reagans were responsible for the fading away of the afro, greed in baseball and PED's. This lack of balance is evident with the book's handling of many of the controversies it discusses like: Curt Flood vs. Judge Irving Ben Cooper, Pete Rose's hustle vs. egomania, Billy Martin vs. Jim Campbell (by the way, Campbell is sometimes incorrectly referred to as John Campbell), 1970's riots vs. 1980's riots, Faith Days vs. wet t-shirt contests and baseball played on mod sod in ashtrays vs. baseball played in Camden Yards. The author and I agree on The Bird, but, like the Bird, the book's bias leaves me longing for what might have been.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P Magnum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Dan Epstein's Big Hair & Plastic Grass is a fun and breezy read about baseball in the 70's. The book is broken down in chapters about each year in the decade as well as other chapters that detail the rise of cookie cutter stadiums and the proliferation of Astro Turf, mascots, the mind blowing colors and variety of uniforms, hair (both facial and head)& crazy promotions some owners tried. Each year not only contains what occured in the baseball season, but also some of the major events in America as well. While Mr. Epstein writes with a nice wit and style, big baseball fans already know most of the information contained in the book and it has been written about many times before. When Mr. Epstein breaks away from detailing each year, he really shines as with his chapter on baseball uniforms.
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