1981 was somewhat of a transition year for America. Disco was dead, the Phillies were after 97 years, reigning World Series Champions and old school baseball was changing. The recent advent of free agency in the second half of the last decade was making wholesale changes to the way the old school owners conducted business. Those same changes were leading to the selling of teams and making dollar signs bounce around like super balls. Some of it was for the betterment of the game, but it was driving the old guard nuts. After a few years of tumultuous relations between the players union and MLB, the season became fractured due to a players strike that would never leave baseball the same.
The events of 1981 have always needed some clarification for me. I have never quite understood what the basis of the strike was other than money. Now, I am totally clear as to what the issues were and why the issues at hand were worth fighting for.
Jeff Katz has created to me essentially the bible of the 1981 season. He takes an in-depth look at the labor issues leading up to the 1981 players strike and what the players felt needed to improve. He discusses the issues both on and off the field in 1981 and how the strike effected everyone and everything. He also paints an overall picture of the state of relations between players and owners after the advent of free agency.
A large portion of this book obviously centers on the strike itself. Katz takes the reader on a journey of all the events that happened in negotiations and you get to see the key players and negotiators at work. The authors account is a painstaking journey through the legal avenues traveled within Major League Baseball. It gives insight to the strike and negotiations that I have never seen before. It helps clarify to the reader that the players were not just a bunch of money hungry thieves that were looking for a big score. They had legitimate complaints that needed to be addressed by the owners in the changing ways in which MLB now needed to function. The book also shows the owners side of the table and in the end, the were fumbling bunch of idiots that harmed their own cause in the end.
Jeff Katz has created a great book that is a very enjoyable read that moves along quickly. Even though a large portion of the book is off-field events, it keeps the reader’s interest and makes you not want to put it down. All baseball fans should enjoy this book. You can see how your favorite team and a few star players fared during the strike and at the negotiation table.
You can pick up this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press