Many books have been written identifying the mid-1970's as a turning point in baseball history. Marvin Miller and free agency turned the blue blood aristocracy on its' ear. The generation of authentic sluggers began to retire, and the pitching rules that took away some of the advantages to the defense were legislated out of the game.
Tom Adelman addresses this theme from a whole different perspective. Although the title "The Long Ball" seems, at first glance to be a misnomer, the author focusses on the the two teams that will be fated to share the World Series in 1975.
The Big Red Machine will move on to become a dynasty, with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion. But the Red Sox are a more interesting team. With "El Tiante", Luis Tiant, the Cuban born ace of the the staff, who would and could take a post game shower with a lit cigar in his mouth, Pudge Fisk, and Bill Lee, maybe the most quotably hilarious ballplayer to ever lace up the spikes, this group lends itself to reams of readable material.
But Tom Adelman does not stop here. He plumbs the history of the Yankees, and pulls Casy Stengel into this fine story, Billy Martin, as his disciple, and Yogi Berra, as another of his minions. No story about baseball in the 1970's can be complete without Charlie Finley. Love him or hate him, and there are those who move in either direction, he was a force to be reckoned with.
But it is the World Series, arguably the greatest ever, that comes to dominate this story. The drama, the personalities, and the strategy are a story that begged to be told.
Adelman often inserts subtle whimsical narrative into the baseball retelling. "Dave Chalk, the Angels second baseman was erased in the double play." I am sure newspapers have reported it this way numerous times, but it still made me chuckle.
An enjoyable, breezy, and somewhat profound take on baseball of a couple generations ago.