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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Catfish, Yaz, And Hammerin' Hank: The Unforgettable Era that Transformed Baseball » User review

Oral history of the MLB '70s Show

  • Feb 15, 2011
Phil Pepe has written and ghostwritten many sports books, and in this outing he puts together a fast moving oral history of the 1970s on and off the diamond.  

The decade started with the game-changing off-the-field salvo of Curt Flood's challenge to the reserve clause, and ended with the on-the-field triumph of the 1979 "We are Fam-a-lee" Pittsburgh Pirates in the bold gold stretch double-knit and stovepipe hats.  Pepe weaves together short recaps of key events with long quotes from key participants like
  • Marvin Miller, the union lawyer who made the MLB Players Association a real union with power to change the game.
  • Billy Martin, the flamboyant and lamented late manager who helped remake the Yankee legacy in between sparring rounds with the Boss.
  • Reggie Jackson, the loud and powerful slugger and helped the two dynasties of the decade (the Oakland A's and the Yankees) keep a hammerlock on the World Series.
  • Tommy John, the pitching master who gave his name to the surgery that remade the careers of every pitcher thereafter.  
The stories between the lines, at the negotiating table, and in the locker room help explain the eternal draw of America's game during a decade of transition while it was still at the peak of its cultural, entertainment, and athletic influence.  It was (and may be the last) decade when baseball's superstars outshone those on the basketball court or football field.  Pete, Hank, Reggie, Nolan, were some of the first one-name superstars everybody knew.

The book comes with a DVD with a 45-minute documentary which is more of a history of labor problems fighting the reserve clause than it is of the decade.  The best part of the DVD are the interviews with Catfish Hunter, whose North Carolina drawl and knack for storytelling should have earned him his own hour.  The DVD material was not up to the quality of the book.

If you are are of an age to remember baseball in the glory days of the 1970s you will love this book and wish there was more.

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February 15, 2011

Sounds like a terrific read!  I will certainly be on the lookout for his one.  If you enjoyed this book might I recommend "A Well Paid Slave:  Curt Flood's Fight For Free Agency in Professional Sports"  which I have reviewed here on Lunch and is the best sports book I have ever read. 

About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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FormerNew York Daily Newsbeat reporter Pepe considers the 1970s to be the decade that changed baseball, and he makes a strong case. In the seventies, the reserve clause was replaced by free agency (1975), leading to the first -million-dollar contract (Nolan Ryan, Houston, 1979); the designated hitter was established (Ron Blomberg, Yankees, 1973); and the first players' strike occurred (1972). These are among hundreds of examples sited in this impressive, well-illustrated compendium, which is accompanied by a DVD,Baseball Comes of Age.Chapters are called "innings," one for each year of the decade, and feature excerpts from conversations with notable sluggers, pitchers, base stealers, and managers, all held together by Pepe's own lively prose. Whether describing Reggie Jackson's amazing feat of hitting three back-to-back home runs in the 1977 World Series or recounting the poignant day when Frank Robinson became the first black manager in the majors (for the Indians in 1974), Pepe delivers an enticing piece of baseball history. A must for any sports collection.Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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ISBN-10: 1572438398
ISBN-13: 978-1572438392
Author: Phil Pepe
Publisher: Triumph Books

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