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Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s
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Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  777 ratings  ·  116 reviews
The Bronx Is Burning meets Chuck Klosterman in this wild pop-culture history of baseball's most colorful and controversial decade

The Major Leagues witnessed more dramatic stories and changes in the '70s than in any other era. The American popular culture and counterculture collided head-on with the national pastime, rocking the once-conservative sport to its very
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2010)
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Ed Wagemann
Aug 03, 2010 rated it liked it

I don’t know what happened during the 1980s that ruined the two great passions of my childhood life—major league baseball and classic rock—but somehow shortly after I blossomed into a teenager my passion for each of them slowly and sorrowfully fizzled. I had just turned 13 years old when the Major League’s players went on strike—1981—and I immediately had this very raw “screw them” epiphany. By 1984 I had no real interest in major league baseball what so e
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book reads like Epstein's research notes. Rather than do the author's task of finding an interesting STORY to tell and being selective about what he includes, he just dumps everything he can find in a big pile for you in chronological order. He doesn't identify a lot of themes, he doesn't focus too closely on any characters, he really doesn't cause you to care about anyone in the book, and at times you're just reading a list of stats and award winners and game results. This book drove me nu ...more
Hugh McBride
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed by "Big Hair & Plastic Grass." As a child of the 70s, and one whose earliest baseball memories involve the Cleveland Indians' "blood clot" uniforms, the hirsute Swingin' A's, & the Big Red Machine, I was prepared to really enjoy this walk through this bizarre decade. And Epstein does hit all the touchstones of 70's baseball (10-Cent Beer Night, the White Sox in short pants, the Bronx Zoo, Dock on acid, Bird Fidrych, etc.) But this book too often feels mo ...more
Tom Gase
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great read on baseball in the '70s! I knew I would probably like this book, but was suprised by how much. The writer has a perfect format, at least for me, and I loved reading this to the point where I probably read it too fast.
The author, Dan Epstein, has an introduction and then instead of going all over the place, divides his chapters into years of about 25-30 pages each. So 1970 had a whole chapter dedicated to it. 1971 had a whole chapter decided to it and so on and so on. There is about
Justin Tappan
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it

I cut my baseball teeth in the 1970's, so this was a no-brainer. Intertwining on and off-field happenings, this book paints a candid and often loopy portrait of a crazy time in America and in baseball.

A lot of memories came flooding back as I read this. Games I remembered seeing. On-field characters I'd forgotten. In addition, I learned a lot of things about the era that I hadn't known.

Guess what? Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson were huge a**holes. We all knew that. But I didn't know the
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Of all of Dan Epstein's credits listed on the dustjacket, the most apt one for this book is that he's penned liner notes for a several bands. This book is a relentless bunch of liner notes thrown together as a book. I wound up just skimming it looking for the fun anecdotes and skipping all of the history with which he bogs down the book. He needed a far better editor and structural idea. That said, I loved some of the little stories, like how Glenn Burke met Dusty Baker at home plate with both h ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A franchise moves halfway across the country after only one season in the Pacific Northwest. A controversial book describing the antics of baseball players off the field. Those are two of the events in baseball in 1970, setting the table for an entertaining and interesting decade for the sport. The book is broken into chapters for each year 1970-1979 with a few extras on topics such as hair styles and uniforms.

The baseball season recaps are quite informative and well researched. Not ever
Jim Kulhawy
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I first came upon this book one rainy Saturday in my local Borders. After thumbing through in the aisle, I knew that I would have to read it. Surprisingly, it was given to me as a present a few weeks later and I have loved every page. Baseball, prior to the 1970's, was a button down, lunch bucket game that always seemed to have a very wholesome, clean cut, "Cleaver family" quality. But, the 1970's ushered in a whole different scene that one had to live through to truely appreciate. Whether it wa ...more
L.C. Fiore
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
It's not that this book isn't a fun romp through the craziness that was 1970s baseball--I laughed out loud several times, and came across a few anecdotes I'd never heard before. Still, too much of this book is a blow-by-blow account of the decade as it happened. There's little analysis or background or anything you couldn't learn on

It's clear the author researched a ton, and there are some nice gems pulled from players' autobiographies, but in the end this book is really
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Every so often a book comes along that tells a story and brings back a rush of memories. This would be one of those books. I related to this book and author on so may levels. First, he's the same age I am so we grew up watching the same baseball. Second, he grew up and Michigan and talked about attending games at Tiger stadium and nailed the whole experience of Detroit baseball in the 70's.

This book explains how baseball transformed from the 60's into the 80's. The stolen base was important, the
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I discovered this book at the same time I discovered author Dan Epstein. Journalist, pop-culture historian and baseball fan, his style and enjoyment of both the game of baseball and the characters who play it are evident in his Twitter feed. I saw this title at the library, took one look at the stunning afro Oscar Gamble was sporting and said "Let's go!"

I enjoyed this book a lot. Some great stories about players I vaguely remember or have heard in historical context. Short anecdotes blending nic
Jun 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like a little flavor with their Baseball
Shelves: new, beisbol
Yes, I absolutely hate Astroturf, especially in cookie-cutter, multi-use stadiums. Sure, brightly hued doubleknit Softball uniforms offend my innermost aesthetic sensibilities. And it goes without saying that a grown man wearing a bizarre, oversized costume, engaging the crowd in fevered antics (the wiener race at Milwaukee Brewers' games notwithstanding) arouse all my baser instincts. Despite all this, I unreservedly love '70's Major League Baseball. Mainly, it's the outsized characters that po ...more
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
A swing and a miss. Probably should be rated a one star for the poor quality writing, but it was fun to reminisce about the 70s when my biggest passion was baseball. Epstein delivers names, dates, stats and scandal. However, he cannot tell a story (or is too lazy to try). It is obvious that he sat down with a decade's worth of Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Time and Newsweek; took copious notes and then rearranged those notes into a book. It just falls flat. Epstein also relies completely on ...more
Tommy Carlson
Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it
This is really two books in one. Unfortunately, I only liked one of the two books.

It's supposed to be about all the weird and wonderful things that happened in baseball in the 70s. And that describes about half the book. And it is, indeed, fascinating reading. I loved this aspect of the book

Alas, the other half is all boring statistics. And then this team won the pennant behind so-and-so hitting something-something-something. I found myself skimming the stats, slowing down when I saw actual desc
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Made the 2012 baseball season bearable and made a great gift. This is not only an outstanding baseball book, this is, as advertised, a funky ride through America in the swinging '70s. For those of us who loved baseball and came of age during that decade, it all seemed normal. I ranged from 1st grade to freshman year of high school in that decade. Only through time, social and personal perspective, do I have a sense of the sheer freakiness of that time: Vietnam and race riot angst, the hairs vs. ...more
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have to give this four stars with a caveat: if you grew up loving baseball in the 70s you will love most everything about this book. If you do not care about either baseball or the 70s, well, don't read this. It will bore you to tears. But I loved it. All the main characters are here: the Oakland Swinging A's, the Big Red Machine, The Bronx Zoo, the "We Are Family" Pirates. Each year is chronicled in a separate chapter with a few extras thrown in on uniforms, stadiums and impending free-agency ...more
Oliver Bateman
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
A clever, interesting book that promises far more than it delivers. Epstein's interstitial sections about afros, astroturf, and uniforms are excellent, but his season summaries (which constitute the bulk of the book) are uneven. Although thoroughly readable, these parts dwell too much on results, scores, and gameplay--subject matter covered more eloquently in Roger Angell's summaries of those same years. When Epstein does choose to highlight interesting seasonal anecdotes, such as Dodgers OF Gle ...more
John Nellis
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
This book brought back a lot of memories and many of the great plays and players of the 70's came back to life. I thought Dan Epstein did a very good job telling the stories and recalling the times of baseball during the 1970's. I felt his summaries of key games and events to be very good. I liked reading about the heroes and villains of baseball I knew growing up. I attended my first baseball games in 1976. One of which Mark "the bird" Fidrych pitched. This decade and the 80's are my favorite e ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-america
This book is a bit stat heavy for the average baseball fan. Epstein has a tendency to read as though he is listing stats rather than telling the story of baseball in the 1970s. As an avid baseball fan, though, statistics are necessary as baseball clings to them like no other sport.

With its large amount of statistics, the book lacks in actual stories of the 70s. When Epstein tells stories of quirky players and their off field antics, he barely traces it back to America, which the title suggests.
Theo Logos
A fun book about my favorite baseball decade - the decade I became a fan. It hits all the high/low/freaky points of baseball in the '70s, a decade that saw the first World Series night game, the rise of the relief pitcher, the DH rule in the American League, and the beginning of free agency. If you aren't a baseball fan, or have no interest in the funky '70s, you can probably take a pass on this book. But if you were a kid who grew up to love the game with the Mustache Gang A's, the Big Red Mach ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
As a baseball fan born in the mid-70's, who came back to it later in life (fan as a child and now I'm back) I found this to be an enjoyable book with some great history about the game in the 70's. Baseball, like the world, was going through some major changes and many of these came to a head in this era. The book is largely split between anecdote style chapters and recap chapters. Personally, I liked the anecdote chapters much better. The recap chapters were great from an historical perspective ...more
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Entertaining pop history (don't expect Roger Angell meditations here) of baseball in the 70's. The book generally alternates between two kinds of chapters -- one recounting a particular year, the other a topical chapter. Needless to say, the recaps are a little drier (stats are thrown about). My favorite chapter recounted the crazy promotions during that era, including 10 cent beer night (Indians) and Disco Demolition (Chisox).My own recollection of that era of baseball is dim (I rarely lived ne ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've seen reviews marking this down because it's merely a pretty straightforward rehash of baseball from 1970 to 1979 with only marginal comment on baseball's effect (or the effect on baseball) of the culture at large. With that assessment I basically agree, thus my 4-stars is probably biased by the fact that I love baseball, I started paying attention to it during the last 2 seasons of the Seventies (the 1978 World Series is the first that I have recollections of watching), and I'm familiar wit ...more
Michael Terry
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Although a quick and generally enjoyable read, the accounting for each team for every year covered and listing of statistics is pretty cumbersome after a while. The more enjoyable sections are specialized chapters such as "Ashtrays and Astroturf" and "Rows, 'Fros, Anything Goes" which discuss the evolution of a specific topic (uniforms, stadiums, etc.) throughout baseball in the 1970's. The yearly summaries (and they read much like summaries, unfortunately) provide some good anecdotes awash in t ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
fun but formulaic. there are some great bits here and there -- like i had no idea the tigers had a centerfielder named ron leflore who was actually a real-life ricky vaughn (discovered playing in a prison league) who stole 450+ bases in his career, or that a star astros pitcher died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, or that luis tiant had a custom made afro toupee. but for every good tidbit there is 10 pages of paint-by-numbers season recap and rote quotation of statistics with no inter ...more
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it

A raucous, excellent read that not only touches on the fun stylistic flourishes (iris-incinerating, double-knit uniforms, Astroturf, Afros, etc.) but also the serious aspects / social turmoil (free agency, the belated arrival of '60s political consciousness, the DH) that made the 70s such a pivotal epoch in the history of baseball. Epstein is fun-loving and astute--definitely someone you'd like to sit next to at the ballpark for an afternoon.

Plus, it really made me wish I had been present for b
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports, history, baseball
When Spring Training rolls around each year, I head to the local library and pick up a baseball book. Usually I'm not disappointed in my selection. Not that I was disappointed this time, but I was certainly underwhelmed with what I though to be a promising read. A few interesting anecdotes sprinkled throughout, but quite a few stories I've heard before. Neatly packaged rundowns of each season. Well-researched, but distinctly missing the primary sources that would inject this book with a little m ...more
Matthew Silverman
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A great tour of a great time we won't see again. Players had style and something to prove in an era where free agency was coming in and the staid baseball mentality was coming apart. The uniforms were fun, the stadiums gargantuan, the pitchers threw inside, and speed was still a big part of the game. Epstein hits the right combination of stories about teams and individuals, along with plenty of tangents on everyone from Dock Ellis to Tommy John. Was a little sad when the book--and the 1970s--cam ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a must read for any baseball fan of the seventies. The author breaks up the decade into chapters tackling the stories and changes in the world of major league baseball and sprinkling it with social and cultural changes. Each year's season is rundown from opening day to the world series with the highlights, both on and off the field, giving one a sense of living (or reliving) baseball at its funkiest. Additional chapters are interspersed some covering the use of astro-turf, changes in uni ...more
Mike McPadden
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Too trippy and colorful a topic to completely botched but, in spots, it feels like Epstein's going to give it the old screw-up try.

I loved the players, loved the era, groaned when the author hopped the guard rail and hurled himself onto the narrative field and forces the action through the "Don't forget I'm a liberal big-time BOOK author" sieve.

Case in point: at the end, Epstein thanks Dock Ellis for teaching him how to "let my freak flag fly." Yeah—super-freaky, no doubt.

Still: this is the f
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