Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review- Big Hair and Plastic Grass:


In late January I started a new blog on another host. Frustrations with this current one led me to experiment with Word Press. I haven't fully committed to a change, but I have posted a few entries over the past two months-one of which I am reprinting here.


What defines a decade? Is it the events that take place? Maybe it’s the ideas that shape the culture, or the people and leaders who are a part of the narrative. Some might even include in this list fashion and art, innovation, and/or fads. I would say yes to all of the above- and author Dan Epstein uses a similar paradigm in writing his witty look at pop-culture and Major League Baseball in the ’70s.

Perhaps no other decade (save the 50′s, with racial integration having taken place) has seen as big of a cosmic shift in the game of, as well as the culture of, Major League Baseball as did the 1970s. And it’s no surprise, really, as the game is often just a microcosm of the culture. ‘Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s’ is a fun look at a time in the history of the game where we saw changes in the playing surface, stadium architecture, uniform design, and how the counter-culture crept in- challenging the conservative establishment as players no longer represented the clean-cut image that the league had worked so hard to promote. But the biggest changes to take place in the 70′s, and ones that still affects the game today, was the abolishment of the reserve clause in 1975, resulting in free-agency being established, as well as the first work stoppage in professional sports (the 1972 season lost the first 13 days of the regular season due to the players strike). These changes, on and off the field, are woven into Epstein’s tale of a decade dominated by teams such as the A’s, Reds, and Yankees, and individuals who dominated the headlines, such as Bowie Kuhn, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Dock Ellis, and Hank Aaron.

Epstein uses each chapter to focus on a particular year from the decade. And while the hardcore baseball fan may not learn anything new (especially those of us who are over forty), it is a fun stroll down memory lane.

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