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When the Game Changed: An Oral History of Baseball's True Golden Age: 1969--1979 Hardcover – October 5, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“I pitched throughout the era, not knowing the ongoing history of the game as well as I should, but George Castle was on top of his game during that time. George knows baseball history as well as any journalist or author in today’s game and will certainly bring this era to life in this book.”

—Ferguson Jenkins, Hall of Famer and 1971 NL Cy Young Award winner


“I have read all of George Castle’s books, and I can say without hesitation that he is one of those rare individuals who is extremely gifted both as a reporter and a writer. I have also seen George work the Cubs’ clubhouse, and it is clear that he has a rapport with team personnel that no other reporter in Chicago can touch. They trust him and they respect him, which means they will also tell him things they will never dare tell anyone else.”

—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August


“I had the wonderful opportunity to play professional baseball over fifteen seasons, and of all the characters in this great game, no one stood out like George Castle. He has always shown to have the most knowledge of anyone when it comes to baseball history. I spent a full season with him on his radio show, Diamond Gems, and his wealth of information on baseball is mindboggling. For those who take the time to read this gem, be prepared to learn more than you ever have about the game.”

 —Doug Glanville, former Phillies and Cubs outfielder and now a NYTimes.com baseball columnist

“From uniforms to facial hair to Afros to strike zones, this decade saw it all. . . .If you’re a baseball fan, and especially one who grew up idolizing the players of the ’70s, this is a must read.”

—Chicago Examiner

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Acclaimed baseball writer George Castle recreates the sport’s most revolutionary decade via the memories of those who played, managed, and covered baseball from 1969 to 1979. During these ten years, baseball arose from a sport perceived as slow and old-fashioned (playing second fiddle to the booming NFL) to become faster-paced, more inclusive, and progressive. In addition to a remarkable array of Hall of Famers and budding stars, the era saw rules tweaked to promote offense, free agency, arbitration, the first players’ strike, the designated hitter, the first African-American manager, the first all-black and Latin starting lineup, baseball’s first $1 million annual salary, the rise of the closer and bullpen specialization, Tommy John surgery—and much, much more.
Contributors include: A-list players and managers such as Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Gaylord Perry, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Bruce Sutter, Brooks Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Jim Rice, Jim Palmer, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Lou Piniella, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, Earl Weaver, and Sparky Anderson; as well as “everyday” players; coaches; front-office staff; announcers; and sportswriters.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599219336
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599219332
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,167,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a couple of other reviewers have noted, this book is heavy with Chicago-based stories. So, it's not balanced in any way. For example, Rod Carew and Robin Yount are mentioned only one time in the entire book. Gary Carter and Andre Dawson aren't even mentioned. Neither is Steve Garvey. But Sandy Koufax, who didn't pitch at all during this time frame, is mentioned multiple times.

It's also not particularly deep in that if you are familiar with baseball history in the 1970s, there isn't much new here. But overall, this is a fine book by George Castle. He takes a categorical - rather than chronological - approach to document a variety of changes that happened during the 1970s. Things like Tommy John surgery, free agency, the early stages of modern bullpen construction, etc. A big disappointment is the section on baseball characters because it only contains the usual suspects like Al Hrabosky and Mark Fidrych. Certainly there had to be a flake that isn't well known by baseball nuts, but Castle doesn't reveal any. My favorite part of the book is a brief discussion of women sportswriters gaining access to the clubhouse. I was also intrigued by Castle's recapping of teams that collapsed during seasons in which they started out strongly.

The book is broken up into smaller sub-sections within each chapter, making it easy to read for brief periods of time.

Recommended to baseball fans who came of age before the 1970s and those fans who remember the 1970s but want a Chicago-centric trip down memory lane.
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Format: Hardcover
George Castle will be known to many fans from his time covering the Cubs, and for his long career as a baseball journalist. This book is not perfect, but it's definitely one that shows the author's love for the game and I'm sure any fan will enjoy this read.

The book combines Castle's review of the decade with an oral history including comments by players, announcers, journalists, managers, owners and fans. Frankly much of the territory Castle covers in discussing the decade will seem like rehash to many fans, so it's the oral history piece that lifts this book above many other pedestrian titles. Some of the insights are funny, some are surprising, and almost all of them provide a perspective that we can't get from simply reading a straightforward history of the period. Castle does a fair job in his writing, making obvious his soft spot for the Cubs but doing his best to cover a very colorful decade in a little over 300 pages.

The title may be overstating things a little, as there are many who would argue for other periods as being baseball's "golden age," but it's tough to fault the author for giving that term to a period of the game he obviously loved. The only real complaint I have is that it would have been nice to hear more player voices from the decade, but again the author likely wasn't trying to create an 800-page opus.

Overall, this is a fine effort and one that I'd recommend to any baseball fan. These oral histories of the game are an excellent complement to the number of great histories of the game.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading this book is like a time-travel back into the 70's. The author shows good evidences that it can be argue that the 70's were baseball true golden age. I would not go so far as to rate "When the game changed" as high as "The Glory of their Times", but reading about the recollections of Fergie Jenkins, Al Oliver, Luis Tiant, entering the Oakland A's clubhouse, walking accros the diamond during "Disco Demolition Night" was a real treat.

The book points out how relief pitching was so different back then, it explains that integration was not as spread as we'd like to think. No, baseball wasn't perfect, but it was evolving more rapidly than we originally thought. Reading the book, I realized that Bowie Kuhn was the right man at the right time.

The book's content however would have been enriched had the author invest more space to the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres, who's arrivals changed the National League.

In conclusion, if you were a baseball fan already in the 70's, this book will make you relive a wonderful time.
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Format: Hardcover
Author George Castle writes that more radical changes that shaped baseball into what it is today took place in the 1970s than any other decade in history. Baseball's typical glacial-like speed of change accelerated from 1969-1979 (which Castle dubs Baseball's True Golden Age).

Developments included free agency, the first $1 million contract, the designated hitter, arbitration, the first night World Series game, league divisions, league playoffs, specialization of the bullpen, first black manager and general manager and national cable television coverage.

Castle talks to many players from that era, which Brooks Robinson said was "the greatest time in baseball, the most talent."

Players recall the era's superstars such as Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Thurman Munson, Billy Williams, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins and others.

Through player interviews and his own experience covering baseball, Castle writes about the era's best teams, would-be dynasties, team pennant collapses, the game's most colorful characters and changes in the game.

Castle is a Chicago-based writer, so you get a lot of Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox player interviews and stories, but most of them are interesting. The Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates are also heavily represented, probably due to the excellent cooperation of the alumni relations officials from those clubs.

Anyone who lived through this era will relish recalling these players and events, while those who don't remember the era will wish they had lived through it. This is an interesting read for any baseball fan.
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