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.
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
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.
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