There are certain seasons that stand out from others. Perhaps it is a historical event that happened during that particular year, a team that overcame great odds or even a year of monumental changes that may be hard to recognize without the use of hind sight. 1972 is one of those years that on the surface while it was happening, the participants really were not living it going this is something great we are doing here. It was a year that was plop in the middle of the time when the players union was starting to be a formidable force within the game, as well as a noticeable change in society’s values. Time where authority was being challenged, inflation was starting to run rampant and in the public’s eyes baseball would start moving from just a game to a business. Today’s book takes a look at the one pivotal year within this decade of change and shows some of the signs that people may have missed that the game was changing.
1972 offered some interesting things to baseball fans. Rosters were jammed full of future Hall of Famers, some at the beginnings of their careers and sadly other at the end, but when the bell would ring, still able to bring it. It was the first year the Player Union made enough noise to institute a strike and cost MLB owners some games, showing that Marvin Miller was not going to go away quietly as they had hoped. Salaries were on the move up and players were going from needing to have extra income in the off-season(second job) to living comfortably all year on their baseball earnings. On the field the most amazing thing happened was that the Oakland A’s run by the miserly Charlie Finley won the first of their three straight World Series titles. But at the time nobody realized what they were about to witness. Facing the straight laced Cincinnati Reds led by Pete Rose they knocked off their first title and showed the baseball world that the guys with their long hair and mustaches had finally arrived.
Ed Gruver’s new book takes the reader through the changing times in baseball during the 1972 season. Looking back on that year from our comfy couches in 2016, the big headlines that year was the 1972 World Series between the A’s and the Reds. Essentially a clash between old school baseball and new world values. On the field it was all old school baseball but off the field the Oakland A’s were a sight glass into the changing norms of society. Clothing, attitude and rules were all up for debate as far as the rowdy A’s were concerned.
The author also does a great job at covering at the different teams that made a splash during the 1972 season. The Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals all had seasons to remember on the field and some individuals made headlines as well. Willie Mays made triumphant return to the New York by joining the Mets, Hank Aaron was making headlines almost every day in his chase of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and Dick Allen was singlehandedly saving the Chicago White Sox franchise on the way to winning the American League MVP trophy. It gives the reader a good look of what was going on around baseball beyond just the World Series participants. It shows the up and downs of other teams that before the decade was out would create their own histories.
This book gives you a great feel of what being part of 1972 was all about and how to some degree it was the changing of the guard within baseball. Old school baseball thinking versus new school societal ways created some tumultuous times and 1972 was the tipping point. I always enjoy these books that pick a single year and dissect all the important events. We have seen this type of book in Dan Epstein’s book about the 1976 season, Stars & Strikes and TimWendel’s Summer of ’68. Those books like this one, segregate that one season and look at the effects that it may have had on other seasons down the line. These are great tools for fans who were not able to be there the first time around, but want to know the ins and outs of that season and what made it so special.
This book is published by the University of Nebraska press and the last book I recently did by them was in my opinion not up to their normal editing standards from a factual standpoint. I am glad to say this book has raised the bar back up to their normal standards for the most part, but did have one easily verifiable mistake that drove me crazy, and as a Phillies fan it made me even crazier. The book states that Dick Allen was the first black player ever on the Phillies when he debuted in 1963. That would be three years after the last team integrated in Major League Baseball. For the Phillies the first player of color was John Kennedy in 1957. Other than that there was nothing substantial in the error department.
If you are a fan of this era you should enjoy it. It does start out a little slow and does offer a bit too much game play by play in spots but the product as a whole reads well. You get a new appreciation for 1972, because this year is an integral part of a larger era and sometimes gets overlooked when examined as part of the greater time frame.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press