Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Big Hair and Plastic Grass

(Thomas Dunne)In Dan Epstein’s new book the former Chicago rocker summarizes the 70s, the most eventful decade in baseball history, when the DH, Free Agency, and Astroturf turned America’s pastime upside down. While the book covers the glories of the Big Red Machine and the ‘77 Yankees-Dodgers Series (as well as  and Pete Rose’s racist rants in Playboy) and really glorifies Epstein's heroes Mark "Bird" Fidrych and Dock "LSD-assisted no-hitter" Ellis, my fave revelations are about despised A's owner Charlie Finley. In the book we learn that despite being an evil, prejudiced, anti-labor dick, FInley is actually responsible for the decade's magic! His cheapness (refusing to pay his players their value, most notably Vida Blue who would have had a 30 win season if he didn't decide halfway through that he hated playing for his team) made Free Agency happen. After Blue refused to follow the team's no mustache rule Finley paid a small bonus (out of spite) to any other player who grew one, leading to not only the decade's hairiness, but Catfish Hunter's glorious 1870s 'stache. Not to mention Catfish, Blue Moon, and others were Finley-forced into having funny nicknames (he actually wanted to give Vida Blue a nickname...he thought he could improve on Vida Blue!). Plus, had Reggie Jackson had a better human being as a boss maybe his ego would not have been fueled by ire and we wouldn't have had the Yankees 70s absurdity/greatness. Plus Finley won championships -- Chicago great Dick Allen thought his '72 team had a chance against the superior A's for most of the season because of Oakland's disfunction, but he realized the Sox season was doomed when the A's hatred of Finley! So thanks to Epstein I now have a new baseball hero. I didn't mention all the drugs, afros, and polyester int he book, but my brother, you'll have to get your own. The only thing that could make this book better is if it came with  a piece of brittle Topps baseball card gum.

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