Tagged: Dan epstein

A Life Full of Changes and One Final Hurrah!


Every once in a while I wander out of my library on the blog and become just an everyday baseball fan.  Content with enjoying the baseball world around me and taking in the sites, sounds and smells of the game I love.  Tonight is one of those times there are no books involved with the post but still about the game I love.

Life is ever evolving and changing.  Nothing stays the same for long and part of life is adapting those changes.  Some changes are better than others, but this is easily one of the better ones that comes along.  My wife and I are expecting our first little future big leaguer or ball girl in August, and yes he or she will be rooting for the Phillies………no exceptions to that rule!

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We are very excited about this new chapter of our lives, honestly a little nervous and sometimes overwhelmed at the thought of it all.  But on the bright side, people have been doing these for a long time, so how bad can we screw it up?  We both decided we wanted to take a final vacation before our little Phanatic arrives and thought of all the usual spots, Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, but nothing was saying this is truly the last real vacation you will have for the next decade or two…………but then it hit us.

We could pull off the ultimate baseball vacation.  Eight days, six MLB stadiums and one Minor League morning game, mostly because I want to say I went to a baseball game and ate an egg mcmuffin while watching it.  We have an itinerary that is a little aggressive but I think we can pull this off, as long as the woman next to me who will be six months pregnant at the time keeps a sense of humor about this trip.

The plan is as follows:

Sat 5/21-Braves @ Phillies (Citizens Bank Park)

Sun 5/22-Rockies @ Pirates (PNC Field)

Mon 5/23-Indians @ White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

Tue 5/24-Off Day-Every team needs at least one

Wed 5/25-Phillies @ Tigers (Comerica Park)

Thur 5/26-Toledo Mud Hens-10:30 a.m. game (If you are going to a minor league game it just should be the Mud Hens.  Maybe Klinger will be there)

Fri 5/27-Phillies @ Cubs (Wrigley Field)

Sat 5/28-Orioles @ Indians (Progressive Field)

This is as of right now our trip, hopefully it will be fun and memorable.  Of course three Phillies games in one week was not by accident either. It is a lot of driving between cities, but nothing too over bearing I think.  Now if anyone who is reading this has stuck with me this far, I thank you for hanging in here, but I need your help.

If anyone out there has any ideas of something we shouldn’t miss in these cities on this trip, drop me a line.  If anyone has any ideas or lives in any of these towns and wants to meet the book blogging guy, let me know maybe we can meet up somewhere.  If anyone knows anyone who works for any of these teams that we are visiting and help us add to this experience and wants to reach out to them for us it would also  be appreciated.

I am going to do a daily blog on this trip to give everyone an update on each of the stadiums we are visiting.  Perhaps by doing this we can inspire some other fans to take the same journey.  Hey, if I can do this with a pregnant woman, you don’t have much of an excuse now do you.  This is our farewell journey in this part of our lives, so before we open the door to the next chapter we figured one last hurrah was in order.

If anyone has any ideas please don’t hesitate to drop me a line and thanks for the help folks.  Baseball is what brings us all together and hopefully makes our own worlds a little brighter.

Happy Reading……….or travelling

Gregg

 

 

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Swinging ’73-Baseball’s Wildest Season


Some baseball seasons seem to have their own personality.  It could be the antics happening on the field or the drama that unfolds behind the scenes that keep certain seasons alive in the minds of fans for decades.  The 70’s was a decade that was never short on excitement.  Pick any year in that decade and something monumental was happening that helped shape the future of the game.  1973 was no different.  The most historical feat was the introduction of the Designated Hitter.  So monumental was it, that 45 years later we are still fighting over whether it is a good thing or not.  Today’s book takes a look at year that gave use everything from the DH to a long goodbye to Willie Mays.

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By:Matthew Silverman-2013

In the past couple years a few authors have taken on the task of picking a season from the 70’s and dissecting it.  Silverman has no shortage of material to work with in 1973, that is for sure.  From the introduction to the DH, the closing of original Yankee Stadium, the Miracle Mets and the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson are just a few of the points that made 1973 a spectacular season.

The author has done a nice job at looking at some of the important subjects of 1973, as mentioned above the implementation of the Designated Hitter, the painful farewell of Willie Mays and the Miracle Mets, the closing of original Yankee Stadium for remodeling, the Oakland A’s and their repeat winning of the division and of course last but not least new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his wife swapping pitchers.  Silverman covered them all with accuracy and great detail, he has presented a story that was interesting and engaging and a good read for the average fan on these subjects.

The problem I has with this book is that there was more going on in 1973 than just these few subjects mentioned above.  Hank Aaron was hot on the trail of Babe Ruth at that point.  You were right in the middle of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine.  Roberto Clemente was killed right before the season started in a plane crash.  So there was no shortage of big stories that were a factor in 1973.  The author has mentioned some of these events in passing throughout the book, but nothing of any substantial merit, so I think he missed the boat there.

I understand the reasoning of why you would not want to spend any great amount of time talking about teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, who were perennial bottom feeders in that era, but I think you would still want to address the full state of baseball if you were writing about one single season.  There were so many different things going on that it would have enable the reader to get a much broader picture of what was truly happening in the game of baseball during 1973.

By far this is not a bad book.  It covers the subjects it chooses to, very well.  Silverman is thorough and puts a fun spin on the events of 73.  He has created a good product that is definitely worth reading, just readers should be aware that it covers a few subjects very heavily, while passing over some of the events of that year of particular importance.

Perhaps I am just spoiled by books like Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes that covered the 1976 season, and now I hold all season books to that standard.  I don’t think any fan with an interest in 1973 will be disappointed, I just think the author missed his chance to paint a much broader picture of the magic that was 1973.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press

Swinging ’73

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

The Bird-The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych


It seems like every generation in baseball has a phenomenon all their own.  Something that takes the game by storm and regardless of who your team is that you root for and want to be part of it.  Things that come to mind are Roger Maris in 1961, McGwire and Sosa in 1998 and even the Bash Brothers in the 80’s.  But the 1970’s were a unique decade.  We have seen in the past from some of the other books we reviewed like Stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein, how the 70’s were a decade of change both on a social level and on the ball field.  The 70’s can lay claim to a few different memorable events, but one stands out above the rest.  Mark Fidrych of the Detroit Tigers was about to take the baseball world by storm, and they didn’t even see it coming.

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By:Doug Wilson-2013

Mark Fidrych was the product of a small Massachusetts town, coming from a modest background.  Never groomed to be a star athlete, he just played because he wanted to do so.  But Mark Fidrych’s antics on the pitching mound, a big head of unmanageable hair and blazing fastball made him the talk of the country in 1976.  Nicknamed The Bird due to his resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, Fidrych had brief but magical career that to this day makes fans wonder what could have been.

Doug Wilson has written a book that explores the man behind the legend.  Everyone is familiar with all the on-field antics that were part of Fidrych’s quirky personality, but unless you lived in Detroit at the time, you may have not been all that familiar with the real Mark.  Wilson’s book gives a nice, detailed look at the man himself.  From his roots in Massachusetts, through the minor leagues, his gig as “The Bird” and finally life after baseball, it paints a very detailed picture of what a nice guy he was.  You always hear old players saying that they played for the love of the game, but I actually believe it with this one.  He just seemed to have fun with everything he did and baseball was no exception.  Many of the first hand accounts of Mark are taken from interviews with friends and family so they are really nice remembrances of a man who was taken from this world too soon.

Of course, what baseball book would be complete without taking a look at the on field activities of The Bird.  You see his minor and major league career, his attempts at rehabbing his bad arm and finally his life after baseball.   Most times the reporting on Mark Fidrych does not get beyond the on-field antics.  It was nice to see someone finally put something together that showed the complete picture.

All baseball fans should like this one.  If you were around during that magical summer that he took the game by storm, it will be fun re-living it.  If The Bird was before your time, it will be another fun ride seeing what made the 70’s so groovy.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books

http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250048455

Happy Reading

Gregg

Stars and Strikes-Baseball in the Bicentennial Summer of 76


If you listen very closely you can hear it coming.  It has become something that true baseball book fans really enjoy.  What is it I am talking about you ask?  It’s the baseball book version of the Soul Train.  Led by none other than Grand Master Funk Dan Epstein.  This trip around, Dan is leading us through the bicentennial year 1976 and all its patriotic glory.

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Stars and Strikes-Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of 1976

By Dan Epstein-2014 St. Martins Press

1976 was just one crazy summer.  With America embarking on the celebration of its 200th birthday, the country was embraced in full-blown Bicentennial frenzy.  What better thing to tie into celebrating America than seeing how its national pastime played out.  Much like Epstein’s last ride through the seventies, this one did not disappoint.

Dan takes a look at 1976 on a month by month journey.  He shows you what was going on in the world around us in each particular month and then gets to the meat and potatoes of his story.  He visits on an informal basis every team in baseball in each chapter and tells you what happened within their ranks in that given month.  It gives a very complete picture of the state of baseball during the year.  It talks about injuries, transactions and any other weird and wacky story that may have arisen within that team.  It does not just center on the players though.  He also touches on the managers and owners that were newsworthy during the year.

1976 was the dawn of free agency and several big names were playing out their options.  Epstein shows you how the fact these guys were “playing out” effected the game on the field.  It also shows what the impending free agency bonanza looming on the horizon, was generating within the players and owners minds.

In his last book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass, Dan Epstein did a great job of portraying the 1970’s  The book was thorough and painted a clear concise and almost nostalgic look at the decade.  The disco era is hard for many people to love but Epstein creates that warm and fuzzy feeling with his books.  Stars and Strikes is no different in that aspect.  You feel good as you are reading the book and find yourself almost wanting to cruise Ebay to see if you can find any cool Bicentennial leftovers.

The thing between Epstein’s’ two books that I think is important to remember, is that while similar they are very different.  I think it would be much harder to dissect a single year (Stars & Strikes) than an entire decade(Big Hair & Plastic Grass).  You have to have more detailed information about each team and what went on off the field as well.  I think doing a single year is a more herculean task and Dan Epstein should be commended for doing a really great job on it.  Plus the 70’s brought us Oscar Gamble’s hair……what more could we as fans want!

Everyone should give this book a read and let the good times roll!

You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books

http://www.thomasdunnebooks.com

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Big Hair and Plastic Grass – A Funky Ride Through the 70’s


We all have a decade in baseball that we relate to the most.  Maybe it’s because it’s where our personal knowledge base is the strongest. Perhaps it is the first decade we remember growing up, or it could be countless other reasons.  For me the 1970’s is my favorite decade in recent past.  It’s the first decade I remember growing up and it’s also the decade my Phillies had any measurable success.  Because I like the 70’s so much I had a lot of hope for today’s book……..and it did not dissapoint!!!

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Big Hair and Plastic Grass-A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swingin’ 70’s

By Dan Epstein 2010-Thomas Dunne Books

I know there have been other reviews of this book in the last few years on the internet.  Usually, when there are a lot of good reviews I find they don’t actually live up to the hype  but this book is different.  It is actually as good as all the reviews say it is.  It is a detailed and comprehensive overview of a turbulent decade in baseball.

The book dedicates a chapter to each year in this glorious decade, which you would figure it would do in a book dedicated to a single decade.  What makes it more interesting, is in between years, the author drops in a topic that happened in the 70’s that changed the face of the game for more than one year.  Things like the mass introduction of astro-turf, cookie cutter stadiums, afro’s,  polyester uniforms and mascots.  These things sometimes get overlooked in regards to when they began. Dan Epstein does a great job of  bringing all these things into perspective as to when they did burst on to our scene.

Dan Epstein, from what I have read, has a very diverse background as far as what he writes.  He did a great job of bringing baseball history to life.  He also did a great job of analyzing how society fits into the baseball lure.  I think he has a personal appreciation of this decade and it comes through in his writing.  I almost feel he likes the 70’s so much that he would enjoy riding around in Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine.  He seems like a fun guy.

Overall if you enjoy the 70’s,this is a great book.  You will really enjoy re-living each year and seeing how much changed in only ten short years.  Dan Epstein did a really great job with this book and his since published Stars and Strikes about just the 1976 season.  I am really looking forward to that book to see how he follows this one up.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books and I believe you can get autographed copies direct from the author as well.

http://www.bighairplasticgrass.com

http://www.thomasdunnebooks.com

Groovy Reading

Gregg