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Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  240 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Dan Epstein scored a cult hit with Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s. Now he returns with a riotous look at the most pivotal season of the decade.

America, 1976: colorful, complex, and combustible. It was a year of Bicentennial celebrations and presidential primaries, of Olympic glory and busing riots, of "killer bees
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Dr. Detroit
May 06, 2014 Dr. Detroit rated it really liked it
The 70’s. What a larf.

The summer of 1976 arrived like a biblical curse at my parents’ house as they tried to come to terms with their eldest’s last big campaign push to be voted “most likely to be found dead in his hotel room” in his high-school yearbook before starting college in the fall, one last kick at the cat before impending adulthood raised its ugly head in the rearview mirror. Except for rock and roll and sports, there wasn’t much going on in Detroit that really piqued my interest - at
Apr 06, 2015 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial summer of ’76, Dan Epstein, 2014. This was a fun book to read. It was lent to me by Johanna Rupprecht who said, “I need someone else old enough who followed baseball in 1976 to talk to me about this, besides my parents.” Nice to be in such company. This book is neither profound nor comprehensive. But it is worth reading for the anecdotes Epstein relates, and his monthly coverage of what was happening behind the scenes regarding the poli ...more
May 13, 2014 Spiros rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who find Biff Pocoroba, Fred "Rooster" Stanley, and "Blue Moon" Odom to be evocative names
Shelves: arc, beisbol
An entertaining visit back to the 1976 Baseball season, which was a whole different animal to the game as we know it now: as in "American Hustle", where congressmen were being bribed with $40,000, it's mildly shocking to see that Reggie Jackson's blockbuster free agent contract with the free-spending Yankees netted him $2.96 million for five years.
This book suffers in comparison with Tom Abelman's overview of the 1975 season The Long Ball: the Summer of '75, which, to be fair, had a much more co
May 12, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing
I read his last book, "Big Hair and Plastic Grass" and I figured this one would be just as good. I was right. If you love 1970's baseball then get this book. He goes through the season covering all the bases (groan, sorry) of not only the baseball season but also what was going on in America at the time (this was our bicentennial). There were many things I didn't know regarding this great era of baseball. I hope he continues to write more season recaps, he is a very entertaining writer.
Mark Taylor
Jul 02, 2014 Mark Taylor rated it it was amazing
One of the best baseball books I’ve read recently was Big Hair and Plastic Grass, by Dan Epstein, which tells the story of baseball during the tumultuous decade of the 1970’s. I was very pleased when I learned that Epstein was following up that book with this year’s Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76. Like Big Hair and Plastic Grass, Stars and Strikes is a highly entertaining read. As the title tells us, Stars and Strikes focuses on baseball in the Bicenten ...more
Don LaFountaine
Jun 15, 2014 Don LaFountaine rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book for a number of reasons. First, as a baseball fan, I love almost any book about baseball. Secondly, I love reading about history. This book combines both, specifically the 1976 baseball season and America's Bicentennial celebration.

Throughout this book, the reader will follow the baseball season, with all of the changes, owner & player fighting, cities fighting in court for a baseball team, and oh yeah, pennant races. It is wrapped around numerous preparations and celebrat
Tom Gase
Jul 23, 2014 Tom Gase rated it it was amazing
Another great book by Dan Epstein about baseball in the 1970's. His last book was about the whole decade and was so good that I didn't hesitate to pick up his book that just focuses on the year 1976. Not only is this book about the Reds, Yankees, Royals and Phillies that were dominant that year, but Epstein actually talks a little about every single team and brings up moments like Rick Monday and when he rescued the American Flag from being burned at Dodger Stadium, Mark "The Bird" Frydrich, Ran ...more
Kenn Staub
Jun 19, 2014 Kenn Staub rated it it was amazing
The author of one of my favorite baseball books, "Big Hair and Plastic Grass", returns with another tome about baseball in the 1970s. Unlike the previous book which covered the entire decade, he focuses exclusively on the 1976 season...when free agency was in its infancy, Veeck returned to baseball as the owner of the White Sox, The Bird towed the rubber in Detroit, and the Yankees began their rise to dominance after lackluster performances in the 60s/early 70s (you can tell I have an American L ...more
Scott Lake
Jun 01, 2014 Scott Lake rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: baseball fans
1976 was the year I started paying attention to baseball. I lived in Michigan, and there was The Bird: Mark Fidrych, who made the game of baseball entertaining to those that thought the game was boring. It was in the golden time of the Big Red Machine, and I remember watching Reds games with my great aunt Margie when we visited her in Ohio. The names of the players come alive in 1975 technicolor with Topps baseball card images floating before my eyes. This was also the year that free agency beca ...more
Jun 24, 2014 Fred rated it liked it
This is a four star book if you are like me and you grew up in the 70s loving baseball. I remember 1976 -- vividly - and I was so happy to stumble upon a book that centered on the Bicentennial season. I remember the Big Red Machine and how they swept the Yankees. I remember Mark "The Bird" Fidrytch and Randy Johnson going for 30 games for the Padres. I remember the ChiSox in bermuda shorts. But with all that remembering there is still so much Dan Epstein taught me. Billy Martin was crazy. Fans r ...more
Mike Kennedy
Jan 18, 2014 Mike Kennedy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
Best baseball book I have read in a while. I really enjoyed the way the author worked his way through the interesting 1976 baseball season. He spent time incorporating the big news of the day, but mostly concentrated on the baseball. 1976 was a pivotal year, because it was last year before full-fledged free agency was born. It was great to see him talk about the colorful players of the day. It was also kind a neat, how he titled each chapter after a popular song from the 70s. After reading this ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Thom rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Unlike Epstein's previous book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass, there is almost too much baseball in here. The rest of the book is an excellent survey of 1976, from politics to music to the Bicentennial, and generally well done.

Too much baseball, you ask? Instead of a few anecdotes about a team, Dan digs into many of the teams each month, highlighting a few games and providing quotes from the players and sports writers involved. Most have a certain repetitiveness to them, each reading like a press r
victor harris
Mar 22, 2015 victor harris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
A delightful review of the 1976 season with great anecdotes and commentary on baseball's inner-workings. The season was played in the cultural setting of the Bi-Centennial celebration which of course emphasized America's independence from Britain. Meanwhile baseball was beset with turmoil as it was the early stages of free agency with players asserting their independence from tight-fisted owners. Among them the eccentric Charlie Finley of the Oakland A's, who built, then was forced to dismantle ...more
Chris Dean
May 18, 2015 Chris Dean rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but not as much for the baseball content (which was abundant). What I particularly enjoyed was how the author truly took me back into the year and described what life was life in 1976 against a baseball backdrop. There were things mentioned that I had forgotten (like painted fire hydrants) and the thrill of hearing a song, watching a show or movie and of course, the Farrah poster. Often we look back at something, especially a baseball event, as a isolated, but the ...more
Drew Zagorski
Jun 19, 2014 Drew Zagorski rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, history
A one... a two... a three... Take me out to the ballgame! What a great ride back in time this book was. The 70s was the decade I fell in love with baseball as a kid, so this was a real trip down memory lane. My first memories were of course the White Sox, having grown up just blocks from Comiskey Park, and Epstein offered several bits from the Sox '76 season, Veeck's first on his last run as owner. It also provided many other memories - the most fun for me was seeing all the names of my first ba ...more
Oct 01, 2016 Murray rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
Dan Epstein focus of this book is the 1976 major league baseball season. It was the first season that Ted Turner was an owner. Bill Veeck bought the White Sox and Charley Finley was trying to sell off his star Oakland A's players. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was a rookie who groomed the mound and talked to the ball before he pitched it. The Reds were still a power, but the Yankees, Royals, and Phillies were becoming contenders again. Mixed in with all this ball playing were all the historic events i ...more
Oct 02, 2015 Seth rated it liked it
A thoroughly researched and well-written account of the 1976 season. Usually I have plenty of opinions when I'm done reading a book, but I'm just not coming up with anything to say about this one. It's not one that I would go back and read again. Maybe it's because I was just a wee baby in the summer of 1976, so there isn't really anything to relive. A lot of the major characters of the book were at the tail end of their careers by the time I started paying attention to baseball in the mid-eight ...more
Jan 08, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
Anecdotal and funky, Epstein captures an era of baseball in the midst of turmoil and change with humorous skill and electric drive.

Epstein tends to follow a half dozen teams and two dozen or so players through each month of 1976, giving his book a kind of ensemble-cast feel; there is a large enough cast here to keep the stories lively, but not too many that the reader gets lost in who did what to whom. Payers who figure especially prominenty throughout include: Reggie Jackson, Mark Fidrych, Dick
Robert James
Jun 06, 2015 Robert James rated it really liked it
I love these kind of books. I was 14 in 1976 and remember some of the stories told by the author. Baseball in 1976 was a completely different game than how it is played today. For instance, the author says Mark Fidrych was lit up in the 11th inning. The 11th inning?? Today they call it a quality start if a guy goes 6 innings. Catfish Hunter had thrown 178 innings by the All-Star break. Today a pitcher is called a workhorse if he throws 200 innings in a season. Great read if you are a beaseball f ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Stu rated it really liked it
Dan Epstein first came to prominence with Big Hair and Plastic Grass, a rollicking history of baseball in the '70's. Stars and Strikes is his follow-up, focusing on the 1976 season. It is a well done history of the season, with the behind the season stories and anecdotes to liven everything up. It even has a running kinda state of the country thing going, with a look at the bicentennial build up and celebration and the 1976 Presidential election. A really well done baseball book that I highly re ...more
Michael Barker
Jun 07, 2014 Michael Barker rated it it was amazing
1976 was one of my favorite summers. Between the Olympics and the political conventions there was just so much going on every night. The resurgence of the Yankees made it great. It was the first time that they were truly relevant during my baseball fan life. I listened to them on the radio at night and their victory in the ACLS was so memorable. Best of all my Big Red Machine had one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. The REDS had one of the best seasons ever and the greatest post season ev ...more
John Tucci
May 29, 2015 John Tucci rated it really liked it
If you are a real baseball, an informative look back at a pivotal year in baseball history. If you think you are a baseball fan, but have that common ailment of Cardinal myopia, you probably will not like this book because the St. Louis Cardinals were not very good in the 1970's. The only significant (passing) references to the Cardinals in this book are the dreadful Reggie Smith deal that sent him to the Dodgers and the Lynn McGlothen brawl.
Apr 01, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
An interesting chronicle of the Bicentennial year in America through the tumultuous baseball season. I enjoyed reading it and remembering the year the Phillies got really good and began to be a perennial contender. The author spends a good deal of time and effort hitting the highlights of the season, and placing it in the context of the cultural milieu. Lots of good stuff here, well researched and chock full of insider information. I enjoyed this one.
Apr 14, 2014 Robert rated it it was amazing
Epstein hits a home run! 1976 was right in the sweet spot of my formative baseball years - bringing my baseball cards back to life. Epstein not only captured the sights, sounds, and smells of that season, but also surrounded it with the country's cultural context. The book was a wonderful trip down memory lane!
Jul 09, 2015 Adamdaigle rated it really liked it
I found this well-written and well-researched. Yet I got bogged down in the rehash of it all. I found myself looking for what a subject would say now about all the craziness of that season -- although many of the main characters (Munson, Martin, Ellis, Fidrych, Finley, Veeck) are dead. If you lived through that season, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
Oct 06, 2014 Joe rated it liked it
I'm a lapsed baseball fan at this point but this was the kind of book I would have snapped up in a second in the '80s and '90s. Happened to hear an interview with the author on WFMU and decided to check out a reading at our local indie bookstore. Fun book, plenty of colorful characters. The Bicentennial goings-on are interesting parallel with the baseball action.
John Rosengren
Jun 11, 2014 John Rosengren rated it really liked it
Epstein's account is a fun ride back through the Bicentennial year, reliving everything from the folly of the AMC Pacer to the power of the Big Red Machine. For those who missed it, this book is a great history lesson about the events of 1976 and their significance. Stars & Strikes is great for baseball fans, sure, but also a pleasant compendium of Americana at its most patriotic.
Paul Miller
Jan 25, 2016 Paul Miller rated it liked it
This book recounts what happened in 1976 on the field (which I remembered) but also what was happening OFF the field, which I was totally oblivious to: most significantly, the introduction of free agency plus controversial league expansion to Seattle and Toronto. If like me, you were a baseball fan and a kid in 1976, you'll enjoy this book. Otherwise, not so much.
Jan 19, 2015 Brigid rated it really liked it
I have to admit, I'm slow-skimming the baseball stuff to get to the cultural references, which are very detailed and so well described. If you are a baseball fan, especially of a certain age (40-50-ish), this book will be a 5 for you.
Dec 28, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
A wonderful social history of baseball in its pivotal year of 1976. Dan Epstein integrates the outside world with the newly-cracked (by Marvin Miller, Andy Messersmith, Peter Seitz et al) cocoon of Major League Baseball with warmth, insight and humor.
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“In the two weeks following the All-Star Game, baseball was largely upstaged by the events of the XXI Olympiad in Montreal, including Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s seven perfect 10.0 scores, Bruce Jenner’s record-setting decathlon triumph, and the five gold medals won by U.S. boxers Howard Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard, Leo Randolph, and brothers Leon and Michael Spinks—the mightiest performance of any American boxing team in Olympic history.” 0 likes
“With his bushy mustache and caterpillar eyebrows, Buckner was a dead-ringer for Harry Reems, the porn actor who’d just been convicted in Tennessee in April for conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines, thanks to his appearance in 1972’s massively popular Deep Throat; and just like Reems, Buckner felt he was being prevented from making full professional use of his stick.” 0 likes
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