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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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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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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Two Thirds Of The Earth Is Covered By Water, all the Fun Parts of 1970's baseball are covered by this book. So protect your stray breakfast sausages and toast, go get a mint 1976 Topps Traded Oscar Gamble, then buy this book.
The decade begins with a generation of authentic sluggers, and also the first generation of fully integrated black ballplayers finishing their careers. Players like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew who made massive contributions to their teams and to baseball with their focused and yeoman work.
As the decade moves on, this type of ballplayer gets eclipsed by a new breed of player and a new breed of owner, as well. The staid bluebloods of baseball, such as Walter O'Malley and Calvin Griffith get nudged aside for the charlie O. Finley's and the George Steinbrennner's. Each bring their own vision to the game, but the game begins to change.
The baseball characters, the flakes, like Bill Lee, the wildmen, like Gorman Thomas, and the cro-magnon, like Pete Rose are all part of the lovable history of this decade.
But, by contrast, the ballplayers of this era are button down, monotone, and in a word, dull.
The 1970's were a tumultuous time of change in baseball. Free-agency brought the end of the reserve clause, and cities rarely could call a ball player one of their own anymore. The change in the society brought some unforgettable stories every year, none more than the Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich wife and life swap. There were others. The losses of Roberto Clemente, Lyman Bostock and Thurman Munson. The ascendancy and quick letdown of Richie (call me Dick) Allen's career. Henry Aaron's assault on Babe Ruth's record, and Lou Brock's running to immortality.
Dan Epstien nails the ethos and pathos of this remarkable decade in baseball. If there is one fault I find with the book, it is in its' title. The title leads the reader to believe this book will be an Animal House treatise of baseball. It is not. It is a captive read, but thorough, and both comprehensive and incredibly enjoyable.
Still, the colorful characters and crazy times are (rightfully) the stars of the book, their stories always entertaining. In writing a book about any 10 years of baseball history (especially these 10!) I imagine there is a large challenge in deciding what to leave out. In choosing the players, owners, and stories he did, the author described a sport and a country connecting two very different eras with a funky streak more than deserving of its own spotlight. Highly recommended.
Note: I purchased the kindle version before a long flight as my neighborhood's independent bookseller didn't have any copies. Please note the kindle version doesn't have any photos.