Bookshelf review: Big Hair and Plastic Grass

May 11, 2010

A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s, by Dan Epstein. Thomas Dunne, 2010.

For many fans of a certain age, the 7os are too quickly becoming “the good old days. ”

Man, that sounds strange. But as the fan base changes in demographics, books like Big Hair and Plastic Grass will probably become the rage, cashing in on the new nostalgia.

Dan Epstein captures the spirit of this strange, transitional decade in this quirky chronicle with a mix of humor and cynicism. He employs a year-by-year approach, highlighting the personalities and events that moved baseball from a “slave mentality” through the “what hath God wrought” of the nascent free agency years.

The country as a whole was going through some heavy changes: youth and racial rebellion against the Establishment is mirrored in Big Hair. Tune in, turn on (talkin’ to you here, Dock Ellis), and drop out (maybe not that so much, although fans have been “dropping out” over the past several years). In between the time-capsule reportage, Epstein comments as irreverently as one would expect on the “who thought this was a good idea” quirks of polyester uniforms, cookie cutter stadiums, and artificial turf, as well as the introduction of the designated hitter, the explosion of facial hair (now there’s an image), and the myriad little milestones and millstones that helped the decade stand out from the boring flannel of previous generations.

Enjoy the seventies, friends; the eighties were one big snoozefest by comparison.

Look for an audio interview with the author later this week.

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