“Dynastic, Bombastic and Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s” by Jason Turbow
Baseball, professional, history, Athletics, championships
March 7, 2017
4 of 5 stars (Very Good)
The Oakland Athletics, or as their owner liked to call them, the “Swingin’ A’s”, were the best baseball team in the early and mid-1970’s. They won five straight division titles between 1971 and 1975, including three consecutive World Series titles from 1972 to 1974. With this type of success, one would think that the team would be a big draw, the players would want to continue their success in Oakland and the owner was very popular.
Those assumptions would be incorrect and the adventures of this team and its owner, Charles O. Finley (referred to throughout the book as the “Owner”) are chronicled in this entertaining book by Jason Turbow. The A’s of that time were not only talented with baseball skills on the field, but many were talented with their fists in the clubhouse, team plane or hotel as they were just as competitive in their fights in those locales as well as on the diamond. Turbow writes about both of these aspects of the team with equal parts knowledge and amazement as the fights kept on coming.
Whether the player was Reggie Jackson (fight with Billy North), Rollie Fingers (fight with John “Blue Moon” Odom) or Bert “Campy” Campanaris (threw a bat at a Detroit pitcher in the 1972 postseason), the stars of the team are covered in a manner that the reader will learn what made him a great player and a complex person. None of the stories outside of the diamond are written in great detail, but the reader will learn more about each of these players who all shared one thing in common: a strong dislike of the Owner.
The Owner draws much of the wrath of the author throughout the book as no matter what transpires on or off the field with the club, Turbow will find a negative connection to Finley in which the Owner’s action or inaction, depending on the type of transgression, ended up having negative consequences for the A’s. While none of this information is incorrect and the conclusions are backed with solid evidence, the reader will be left with the conclusion that the team won DESPITE Finley, not because of anything positive he did. To be fair, the book isn’t a completely critical account of his tenure as owner - and it bears repeating that all criticism of the Owner is backed up by solid research - but the question is raised about just how good this team would have been for a long time had Finley not made some questionable decisions. This consistent negativity toward Finley was the only blemish in the joy I had in reading about those A’s teams and the dominance they displayed on the field.
For fans of baseball in the 1970’s, this is a book that is highly recommended as it is one of the most complete books written about the best team of that decade.
I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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