Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review of "Hairs vs. Squares"

This is a baseball book that I had been eagerly anticipating since I had noticed that it was listed in the University of Nebraska Press catalog.  When it came in the mail, I couldn't tear it out of the box fast enough.  Then when I started reading, it wasn't going as well as I liked - but in the end, it was as good as I had hoped.  Here is my review of "Hairs vs. Squares."

“Hairs Vs. Squares: The Mustache Gang, the Big Red Machine and the Tumultuous Summer of ‘72” by Ed Gruver

Baseball, history, Athletics, Reds, Pirates, Tigers

Publish date:
May 1, 2016

408 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)

1972 was a year filled with many newsworthy events in sports, politics, culture and music. The baseball season that year mirrored the rest of the world with its unusual course. From the first player’s strike that wiped out the first two weeks of the season to an exciting postseason that was capped off by the closest World Series in history, the 1972 baseball season is captured in this book by Ed Gruver

The best analogy for the book is that reading this book is like watching a ball game that looks like it will be a good one because of the starting pitchers, it starts out to not live up to expectations, but gets better in the late innings, capped off by a great finish.

When I saw this book offered for review, the subject really excited me as this was the start of the dynasty of one of the best teams outside of New York in baseball history.  This was the year that the Oakland Athletics won the second of their five consecutive division titles and first of three consecutive World Series.

After a great opening chapter, the writing in the book felt choppy and hard to follow. For example, when the author was writing about the strike that delayed the start of the 1972 season, the topics jumped all over the place. At one point, there was more talk about the near-walkout by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946 than there was about the 1972 strike issues. Still, I kept reading as the research was good (although there was one notable error about Dick Allen and the Phillies) and there was still a lot of material to cover.  

As the season wore on, the baseball and the reading got better. Gruver’s account of that year’s all-star game was excellent. The excerpts from the broadcast of the game added to his text.  This was something Gruver did regularly throughout the book – a nice touch. Of course, most of the material covered the teams that ended up winning their respective divisions – Oakland, Detroit, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.  However, unlike many other books on baseball seasons that I have read, Gruver covered notable achievements by players on other teams that did not win the divisions. He mentions Nolan Ryan’s strikeouts for the Angels, Rod Carew winning the batting title without hitting a home run for the Twins, Steve Carlton winning 27 games for a last-place Phillies team, and even the Montreal Expos giving their fans some excitement when Bill Stoneman threw a no-hitter.

But the best writing of the book and best baseball of 1972 was the postseason. Both of the League Championship Series had great games and Gruver covered those in good detail, including the bat throwing incident of game two between the Athletics and Tigers. This part of the book and the season is capped off by a thrilling seven game World Series between the Athletics and Reds. That series featured six games decided by one run, including game seven. The stories of these games were just as exciting to read about 44 years later as they were to watch as an 11-year-old kid on TV that fall.  If there was any doubt about this book’s quality, that chapter alone made it worth the time to read. If a reader enjoys books that recap a season, this one on the 1972 season is one that comes recommended to add to the library.

I wish to thank the University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:

Buying links (pre-order at time of posting):

No comments:

Post a Comment