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The Oakland A’s of the early 1970s: Never before had an entire organization so collectively traumatized baseball’s establishment with its outlandish behavior and business decisions. The high drama that played out on the field—five straight division titles and three straight championships—was exceeded only by the drama in the clubhouse and front office.
Under the visionary leadership of owner Charles O. Finley, the team assembled such luminary figures as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Vida Blue, and with garish uniforms and revolutionary facial hair, knocked baseball into the modern age. Finley’s insatiable need for control—he was his own general manager and dictated everything from the ballpark organist’s playlist to the menu for the media lounge—made him ill-suited for the advent of free agency. Within two years, his dynasty was lost.
A sprawling, brawling history of one of the game’s most unforgettable teams, Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic is a paean to the sport’s most turbulent, magical team, during one of major league baseball’s most turbulent, magical times.
In the Halberstam tradition of capturing a season through its unforgettable figures, They Bled Blue is a sprawling, mad tale of excess and exuberance, the likes of which could only have occurred in that place, at that time.
That it culminated in an unlikely World Series win—during a campaign split by the longest player strike in baseball history—is not even the most interesting thing about this team. The Dodgers were led by the garrulous Tommy Lasorda—part manager, part cheerleader—who unyieldingly proclaimed devotion to the franchise through monologues about bleeding Dodger blue and worshiping the “Big Dodger in the Sky,” and whose office hosted a regular stream of Hollywood celebrities. Steve Garvey, the All-American, All-Star first baseman, had anchored the most durable infield in major league history, and, along with Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey, was glaringly aware that 1981 would represent the end of their run together. The season’s real story, however, was one that nobody expected at the outset: a chubby lefthander nearly straight out of Mexico, twenty years old with a wild delivery and a screwball as his flippin’ out pitch. The Dodgers had been trying for decades to find a Hispanic star to activate the local Mexican population; Fernando Valenzuela was the first to succeed, and it didn’t take long for Fernandomania to sweep far beyond the boundaries of Chavez Ravine.
They Bled Blue is the rollicking yarn of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ crazy 1981 season.
Everyone knows that baseball is a game of intricate regulations, but it turns out to be even more complicated than we realize. All aspects of baseball—hitting, pitching, and baserunning—are affected by the Code, a set of unwritten rules that governs the Major League game. Some of these rules are openly discussed (don’t steal a base with a big lead late in the game), while others are known only to a minority of players (don’t cross between the catcher and the pitcher on the way to the batter’s box). In The Baseball Codes, old-timers and all-time greats share their insights into the game’s most hallowed—and least known—traditions. For the learned and the casual baseball fan alike, the result is illuminating and thoroughly entertaining.
At the heart of this book are incredible and often hilarious stories involving national heroes (like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays) and notorious headhunters (like Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale) in a century-long series of confrontations over respect, honor, and the soul of the game. With The Baseball Codes, we see for the first time the game as it’s actually played, through the eyes of the players on the field.
With rollicking stories from the past and new perspectives on baseball’s informal rulebook, The Baseball Codes is a must for every fan.