Customer Reviews: Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s
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on June 7, 2010
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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on June 22, 2011
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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on September 6, 2014
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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on June 2, 2010
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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on April 10, 2015
This book brought back many fun memories and taught me a lot that I never would have known. I would recommend it for a teenage fan who would enjoy learning about the insanity and fun of the decade. I have two gripes with the book. One is that it that there are often too many statistics (for me, that's possible). The other problem I had is that Epstein makes the Reagan eighties sound like the Hitler thirties. It's as if the election of Reagan meant that not only were the fun aspects of the 70's over, but a black pall descended over the United States, in general. I don't know what Epstein was doing during the 70's, but even as a child I remember the Nixon/Ford/Carter administrations as being miserable! The eighties allowed us to leave all of that behind and to start fresh. And, believe it or not, baseball was still fun in the 80's!
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on January 26, 2014
Great trip down memory lane! I as 5 years old when the 70's started and 15 at the end . I was a HUGE baseball fan so these were my Prime Baseball Years so to speak. I loved he bock and didn't want to finish it. Any baseball fan from that area should read it now.
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on July 6, 2014
It's basically a season by season account of the decade, with not as many in depth stories I would have liked. However, it's still a very good read and takes you back to a time when the game was a lot looser than it is today. There aren't the characters in the game anymore like they had back then.
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on February 8, 2014
This is a really great book and is presented in a fun and funny style of writing. I wanted a book that would chronicle the decade and man did this book do the job. It is the best book on the era that I have read and really hits the nail on the head. I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down but did not either want it to end. Excellently researched and recall by Mr. Epstein it is a joy to read. What a great decade with so many characters and events to absorb. This one was fun - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT TO BASEBALL FANS.
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on April 1, 2011
This takes you back to your childhood baseball memories if you are in your early 40's. Some of the stuff I remember and some not so much. This guy quotes from Mike Shropshire's book "Seasons In Hell" The story of the 1973,74 Texas Rangers.

Anybody who breaks that book and Ball Four by Jim Bouton out, is well worth reading! This was one of the best books on baseball I have read in a while. That and I love that 1970's era in general anyway.
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on August 18, 2013
Obviously, these stories have been around for decades. They've been told in many other places. Mr. Epstein's perspective on them, however, is both unique and fascinating. The author's keen eye for both how baseball shaped and was shaped-by American culture before and during the 70's has produced a rewarding read with a narrative arc encompassing much more than afros and astroturf (although, I'm glad to say, plenty of both of those!) The political, social, economic, theatrical, and musical landscapes of the era all underwent large changes, and "Big Hair and Plastic Grass" does the task of highlighting those changes within the context of our then rapidly changing national pastime. Simultaneously, the decade on-field is given a thorough breakdown and the stats laid out bare remind the reader of what a unique era this was. Just looking at the ERAs and complete game numbers alone show how much the game has changed.

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.
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