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Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76 Hardcover – April 29, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A knuckleball ride through the wonderful and wacky year the nation celebrated its 200th birthday--and the national pastime changed forever… A must for everyone who still remembers when the White Sox wore shorts.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Epstein found so much fun stuff to talk about in the 1976 season while researching his book on baseball in the 1970s (Big Hair & Plastic Grass) that he carved out this breezily written chronological look back at a year and a season more complicated (teams nearly moved, free agency exploded, Hank Aaron retired, etc.) than even those who lived through it will recall.” ―Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Summer Reading Recommendations

“Dan Epstein's Stars and Strikes is an irreverent, swinging, tome with an attitude that bemuses and amuses. Carefully researched, written with all kinds of style, featuring the Big Red machine, the bird Mark Fidrych mighty Mike Schmidt, the "Junkman" (not Eddie Lopat but Randy Jones, owners Steinbrenner, George, Veeck, Bill, Turner, Ted and Finley, Charles, the work is a roller coaster ride of baseball and America in the Bicentennial summer of '76 as the book's sub-title proclaims.” ―Harvey Frommer

“Baseball baby boomers will appreciate the nostalgia Epstein dishes out with some small helpings of contemporary pop culture; each chapter bears the title of a popular song. Never too serious and always fun, Stars and Strikes is what baseball--and all sports--should be about.” ―Book Reporter

“It's clear that 1970s baseball is dear to Epstein's heart, as this book meshes baseball, politics, music and cultural trends into a very entertaining, readable book… Epstein's research is thorough and his writing is irreverent, funny and at times even as cheesy as the trends he describes. Stars and Strikes is a fine nostalgic trip, but it's also a solid read for the current generation of baseball fans.” ―The Tampa Tribune

“I'll buy any book with Dan Epstein's name on the cover.” ―Bill Morris, The Millions

“Dan Epstein's grand slam of a book catches how baseball changed – and changed everything -- in 1976.” ―The Modern

“The year 1976 was one of epic change, on and off the baseball field. Dan Epstein reminds us why. He excels at blending 1970s pop culture and baseball into an informative, nostalgic, and, above all, fun read. Nobody does it better.” ―Doug Wilson, author of Brooks

“At the heart of the book are the stars and events that made 1976 a year to remember…It's easy to see why 1976 captivates Epstein.” ―Chicago Tribune Printers Row

“Dan Epstein captures the spirit of '76 in his new book, Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76. The book is the sequel to Epstein's 2010 '70s show, "Big Hair and Plastic Grass," in which each year of the polyester decade had its own chapter -- not nearly enough room to capture the on and off the field fireworks of the Bicentennial.” ―NY Daily News

“Dan Epstein (Big Hair and Plastic Grass) contrives a baseball micro history in Stars and Strikes… [and] lend[s] itself to amusing narratives and bouts of nostalgia.” ―The Daily Beast

“Dan Epstein gives this storied year the book it deserves in Stars and Strikes, detailing the characters, events, and cultural forces behind the Spirit of '76.” ―Pasadena Now

“There is a trove of nuggets many of us either never knew or forgot...savor the good parts, which are plentiful.” ―The New York Times on BIG HAIR AND PLASTIC GRASS

“Dan Epstein and baseball in the '70s go together like Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon.” ―Wall Street Journal on BIG HAIR AND PLASTIC GRASS

“What the 1960s were to America, the 1970s were to baseball, and Dan Epstein has finally given us the swinging book the '70s deserve.” ―ESPN.com on BIG HAIR AND PLASTIC GRASS

“Dan Epstein--the leading chronicler of 70s baseball.” ―Deadspin on BIG HAIR AND PLASTIC GRASS

“Epstein's book waves its freak flag high.” ―The Onion A.V. Club on BIG HAIR AND PLASTIC GRASS

About the Author

DAN EPSTEIN is an award-winning journalist, pop culture historian, and avid baseball fan who has written for Rolling Stone, SPIN, Men's Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, MOJO, Guitar World, Revolver, LA Weekly and dozens of other publications. He is the author of the acclaimed Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1St Edition edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250034388
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250034380
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Dan Epstein turns his considerable talents toward the swinging 70s again, this time focusing on 1976. And from what I've read in "Stars and Strikes"--as exciting a baseball tale as you're going to find this year (or any other)--what a year it was.

"Stars and Strikes" opens with a restless crowd in beleaguered New York City going beserk: it's the last game of the American League Championship Series. Like some kind of Robert Altman of the page, Epstein takes the reader around the ballpark, into the dugout, over to Telly Savalas in the stands, up into the broadcast booth, to the fans of the Yanks and the Royals and what this one game means to the both of them… an incredible opening. And the book just sails on from there, an exciting ride.

Epstein's prose is clean and concise, not a wasted word, not a wasted scene. I'm impressed with how he weaves baseball, politics, the pop culture scene and especially music into this story--you really feel like you can hear Peter Frampton while you're reading (whether that's good or bad depends upon your love of Frampton--there's a ton of other songs in there as well.)

In his last book, "Big Hair and Plastic Grass", Epstein took us through that crazy decade. I really enjoyed that book, but "Stars and Strikes" is better, only because he's now allowed to focus on one year, to take that narrative and expand upon all the events from that amazing season. Even more impressive, Epstein took what appears on its surface to be a dull year and show how brilliant it really was--three of the four division races were over by early September (only the Royals were close), and the World Series was a sweep.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dan Epstein does another fantastic job with baseball in the 1970's. This time he details the 1976 season & life in America during that time. How I miss when baseball wasn't as corporate & sterile like today. Players weren't as image conscious as they are today. Dan has another winner of a book in my opinion. I hope he continues writing about baseball because he takes the reader down memory lane.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dan Epstein has been one of my favorite baseball writers for a few years now. He's one of the most responsive authors ever to grace social media, and entertains his online followers with a constant stream of '70s awesomeness. Like his previous tome "Big Hair and Plastic Grass", a year-by-year bus tour of baseball in the 1970s, "Stars & Strikes" is a funky overview of he 1976 season -- and what was going on in music, politics and film, in addition to baseball. In short, this is the only book to treat Legionnaire's Disease, Gerald Ford's failed re-election bid, and Oscar Gamble's 10-inch Afro with equal dignity.

"Stars & Strikes" does not feature much groundbreaking scholarly research -- the author relies heavily on old baseball books and contemporaneous news articles, and doesn't appear to have, say, interviewed 150 old-time ballplayers with an eye toward committing their rapidly-fading memories to paper. However, you'd be hard pressed to find a book more FUN than this one. With an eye towards '70s kitsch and the more bizarre happenings on the baseball field, Epstein manages to convey the real spirit of what living in 1976 was like (it helps that the author himself looks like a walking billboard for the '70s Preservation Society). This book is literal time travel to the '70s, minus all the misty splendor and false nostalgia for a bygone age than you got with those "When It Was A Game" videos. I could smell the trash on a hot September night in the Bronx just by reading the e-book edition of "Stars and Strikes". What's a bigger compliment than that?

What was great about the 1976 season is how clearly it separates The Past from Modern Day Baseball.
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Dan Epstein loves two things profoundly American: baseball and pop culture. When he marries those two iconic subjects, the result is magic. Epstein is not a stodgy academic boring people with his self-congratulatory knowledge and a funereal tone. He is a ringmaster. He knows we love rock music and baseball because they rejuvenate our souls--because the games and the songs are fun! Readers who were lucky enough to discover Epstein's first book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass, have a new and even better gem to read: Stars and Strikes. The book is a clown car of 70s pop culture at its apex. America, after many years of unpopular wars and divisive political battles, goes on a year-long love fest, and Epstein takes readers on a giddy ride through our bicentennial year. His research is very good--he digs up the unique (and sometimes kitschy) ways that American companies sold products specifically geared towards a marketplace hungering for a patriotic embrace of their wonderful country. And he tells the story of the 1976 baseball season with great drama and high octane prose--readers who lived through that season (and those too young to remember) will laugh and cry at the exploits of Billy Martin, George Brett and especially Mark Fidrych. 1976 was a glorious year, and Dan Epstein has memorialized it with his fast-reading, insightful and thoroughly entertaining book. It will be a great gift for any music and baseball lover.
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