“Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s” by Dan Epstein
Baseball, history, politics, society
4 ½ of 5 stars (Very good)
A franchise moves halfway across the country after only one season in the Pacific Northwest. A controversial book describing the antics of baseball players off the field. Those are two of the events in baseball in 1970, setting the table for an entertaining and interesting decade for the sport. The book is broken into chapters for each year 1970-1979 with a few extras on topics such as hair styles and uniforms.
The baseball season recaps are quite informative and well researched. Not every detail is included, such as you don’t see the listing of individual award winners listed each year, but there are recaps of the season for each of the four division winners, other teams that played significant roles in the season and then brief recaps of the League Championship Series followed by a detailed account of that year’s World Series.
None of these are written in great detail, but with enough so that the reader will get a good feel of what it was like to be watching that championship series. Whether it was the 1971 Series that introduced night games and saw the Pirates become the first team to come back from being down three games to one, or the 1977 Series in which Reggie Jackson hit three homers on three pitches, it is all covered in this book.
If there was a problem with the baseball coverage with this book, I thought that some of the best moments or performances were ignored or omitted in favor of giving more information on only the teams that were contenders. As an example, there is no mention of Rod Carew at all in the 1977 chapter when he had one of the best individual seasons of the decade with a .388 average, the highest at that time in over 30 years and was the American League MVP. Another omission was when Mike Marshall became the first player in to lead both the American and National Leagues in pitching appearances. His record 106 appearances with the Dodgers in 1974 is mentioned in that chapter, but his 90 appearances for the Twins in 1979 to set the record in that league is not mentioned.
However, there is more than just baseball covered in this book. Using the game as a background, many political and social issues of that time are discussed as well. As an example, to illustrate the “sexual revolution” of the times, a story of two pitchers who swapped wives is included in the book. The fashion tastes of the decade are covered in a chapter about the uniforms worn by various teams. As a personal note, I must admit that one of my favorite jerseys of all time is called hideous, among other terms, by the author. That jersey is the “rainbow” jersey of the Houston Astros. Ah, well, guess I can’t agree with him on everything, right?
As a whole, this book was very entertaining and great stroll down memory lane as I recalled many of the stories and games described. Some of the social commentary was informative for me as well, especially in the early part of the decade as I was a kid at the time and didn’t fully understand the significance. Whether you were a fan at the time or just would like to learn more about that interesting decade, this book is a good read.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
Excellent. I moved quickly through each chapter, whether it was a baseball chapter or one on a different topic.
Do I recommend?
Yes. All baseball fans, regardless of age, will enjoy this look back at that decade. Fans who followed the game will love remembering the stories and those who were not around then will be entertained at the comparison between the eras in both baseball and American society as a whole.
Book Format Read: